Human Rights Watch (HRW) is scheduled to release a publication, “Born Without Civil Rights,” on Tuesday morning, December 17. NGO Monitor obtained an advance copy, and our researchers have read it closely, analyzed its contents, and note the following:

  • The main thrust of the publication — that “Israeli authorities also rely on broad provisions of military law to ban associations as ‘hostile organizations’” — is bewildering: HRW’s primary examples are individuals who are members of internationally recognized terrorist organizations  and/or groups closely linked to these organizations and who have been convicted of incitement, terror financing, and membership in terrorist organizations. These include Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
  • In order to whitewash these individuals’ involvement in terrorism, HRW misleadingly truncates quotes and withholds vital information. See below for examples.
  • Bizarrely, HRW appears to be calling for the de facto annexation of the West Bank by Israel. HRW points to “occupied East Jerusalem” to show that “less restrictive measures are available.” In 1980, Israel annexed areas of Jerusalem that were located beyond the 1949 armistice lines and thus, these areas are now part of Israel and governed by Israeli law. Were Israel to extend its domestic law to the West Bank, as HRW apparently recommends, it would constitute annexation of the territory and the supplanting of Palestinian Authority law, which governs more than 98% of the Palestinian population.
  • The “lead researcher and author of this report” is Omar Shakir, the BDS activist, who left Israel on November 25, 2019, following a nearly two-year legal challenge to force the government to extend his work visa. Our detailed research clearly demonstrates that he was spearheading BDS campaigns against Israel; apparently, he was also engaging in unprofessional research, minimizing terrorism and whitewashing terrorists, and recycling false and discriminatory arguments made by other NGOs (such as Amnesty International).
  • As with many other HRW campaigns, the publication exposes HRW’s legal creativity. Some of the measures criticized by HRW are required under international law (i.e. UN Security Council Resolution 1701) to combat terrorism.  Moreover, and contrary to HRW’s intention, many of the examples discussed in the publication demonstrate the urgent necessity of certain restrictions to prevent violence against civilians and material support for terrorist organizations.

Examples of whitewashing terrorism:

In order to whitewash the terrorism links of the individuals discussed in its report, HRW misleadingly truncates quotes and withholds vital information.

  • Hezbollah: HRW claims Hafez Omar was indicted primarily for “peaceful activities” and “the only charge of a non-peaceful nature” was throwing stones at soldiers. HRW quotes a Jerusalem Post article about the Al-Harak Al-Shababi (Movement of Youths), to which he belonged, which was banned by Israel  because it “acted under the instructions and funding of [the Lebanese party and military group] Hezbollah and Iran” (brackets added by HRW; emphasis added by NGO Monitor). Except, HRW deliberately ignores the crucial continuation of the article: “In the past two years, [two organizational operatives] transferred hundreds of thousands of shekels to promote the organization’s goals and fund terror activities” (emphasis added). Elsewhere in the article, we learn that Al-Harak Al-Shababi “acted under Hezbollah and Iranian instructions to carry out terrorist attacks against Israelis and set off a wave of violence targeting Israel and the Palestinian Authority” (emphasis added).
  • HRW refers to Hafez Omar as an “artist,” and according to the publication “His brother Mohammad told Human Rights Watch that Hafez designed posters on Palestinian rights issues, especially as they relate to prisoners, which he posted on Facebook.”  The link provided by HRW of Omar’s art includes posters promoting terrorist leaders and featuring the logos of terror groups and weapons. Some of the images also specifically refer to terror attacks that killed numerous Israelis.
  • HRW repeatedly describes Hezbollah as a “Lebanese Shi’ite Islamist group.” With regards to the Jerusalem Post article mentioned above, HRW inserts an extraneous description into a quote, which appears to be aimed at denying Israel’s insistence that Hezbollah is a terror group.
  • Hamas: HRW cites the case of Najwan Odeh, Qatar Charity’s “head of administration, [who] received an 18-month sentence for affiliation with an ‘unlawful association,’ namely with Qatar Charity, under the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945, and a one-year prohibition on ‘commit[ing] the offense of which she was convicted,’ effectively a ban on returning to her job.” HRW blindly and without corroboration repeats her claim that “Qatar Charity’s money did not go to Hamas or the Hamas-led government in Gaza, but rather to administrative costs related to Qatar Charity’s office there and to private companies to carry out development projects.” However, a publicly available indictment of a senior Qatar Charity official describes how the charity provided funds to two banned organizations in Gaza, one of which has ties to Hamas.
  • PFLP: The PFLP is consistently labelled “a group that includes both a political party and an armed wing that has attacked Israeli soldiers and civilians”; this distinction regarding the PFLP is arbitrary and irrelevant, and is rejected by the US, EU, Canada, and Israel, which treat the PFLP in its entirety as a proscribed terrorist group.