On August 6 2009, Human Rights Watch (HRW) belatedly released their report (“Rockets From Gaza”) on Hamas’ rocket barrages aimed at Israel’s civilian population. HRW accuses Hamas members of war crimes and acknowledges the “psychological toll of years of rocket attacks” on Israelis. This publication, which largely repeats the International Crisis Group’s report of April 2009, would have made an impact if HRW had published it six months ago. While the condemnation of Hamas is a step in the right direction for HRW, some claims made by HRW were illogical or incorrect, and other moral issues that required attention were ignored. For example:
- There was no effort to uncover details of weapons smuggling into Gaza, and no mention of the central Iranian role. In contrast, the US-Israel security links were emphasized in HRW’s speculative allegations about Israel’s use of drones and white phosphorous.
- The report falsifies history, blaming Israel for ending the undeclared ceasefire on November 4th 2008. In HRW’s version, the Hamas rocket “attacks virtually stopped…but resumed after Israeli forces killed six Palestinian fighters.” In reality, the IDF responded to the exposure of tunnels (used for cross-border terror attacks such as the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit in June 2006) and intelligence suggesting more planned kidnappings.
- HRW distorts the human shields issue, blaming Israel for Hamas’s use of civilian areas to launch rockets. According to this publication Hamas fighters were “redeployed from more open and outlying regions -many of which were…controlled by Israeli ground forces…into densely populated urban areas.” To make this claim, HRW had to ignore the thousands of attacks from these same urban areas that occurred long before the Gaza war.
- HRW failed to condemn Hamas for extensive use of human shields, using the excuse that they were unable “to determine whether or not militants launched rockets from close to civilian areas with the intention of deterring Israeli forces from counter attacking.” Since the evidence was abundant and obvious, HRW must have been influenced by other factors.