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Human Rights Watch Publication, Lacking Methodology and Credibility, Lays the Foundations for BDS
- On January 19, 2016, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published “Occupation, Inc.,” alleging that “the context of human rights abuse to which settlement business activity contributes is so pervasive and severe that businesses should cease carrying out activities inside or for the benefit of settlements.”
- This publication lacks a research methodology or comparative framework. As a result, the authors have no basis for factual and legal claims regarding human rights and international legal issues, and terms like “pervasive” and “severe” are meaningless. In many instances, including the report in question, anonymous, emotive interviews and claims from other NGOs and Palestinian advocates take the place of verifiable evidence and conclusive facts.
- Although HRW claims it “is not calling for a consumer boycott of settlement companies,” the political (as opposed to legally mandated) recommendation that states “not recognize or rely on any certification (such as organic or health and safety) of settlement goods by Israeli government authorities…” constitutes a de facto boycott call. In addition, the publication and timing are clearly coordinated with BDS campaigns: The case studies in the report correspond to activities of pro-BDS groups (see below). HRW’s demand that companies leave the West Bank is likely a precursor for a formal call for boycotts down the road.
- Coinciding with HRW’s publication, Kathleen Peratis, co-chair of HRW’s Middle East North Africa Advisory Committee and emerita Board of Trustees member (and New Israel Fund International Council member), penned an opinion piece in Ha’aretz under the headline “The New Frontier for BDS: Settler Businesses Must Shut Up Shop.” In it, she exploits the legacy of Martin Luther King Day and Shabbat Tzedek to encourage Jews to support BDS.
- HRW’s publication also explicitly bolsters NGO-driven initiatives in Europe pushing for “require[d] and enforce[d] clear origin labeling on settlement goods.”
- There is no rule whatsoever in international law prohibiting doing business in occupied territory and no court addressing this issue, most recently the European Court of Justice, has ruled otherwise. In addition, many courts have ruled that boycott campaigns similar to that promoted by HRW in this publication amount to illegal national origin discrimination.
- HRW advocates punishing residents of settlements and denying their right to health, such as the demand that companies stop “providing waste removal” services in settlements. Similar NGO campaigns have sought to block sewage treatment facilities used by Palestinians and Israelis.
- The case studies in “Occupation, Inc.” correspond to some of the more visible anti-Israel BDS campaigns: HRW joins Code Pink’s BDS attacks against the REMAX real estate firm, using materials that were not previously published in full and were apparently obtained directly from Code Pink, as well as the campaign targeting Heidelberg Cement; it also echoes the United Methodists Church decision, after years of NGO pressure, to divest from Israeli banks; and focuses on the obscure case of Royalife linens, suggesting that HRW’s “field research for three weeks in December 2014” was inspired by a November 2014 boycott announcement by the United Methodist Kairos Response group.
- REMAX has a franchise in North Cyprus, which is occupied territory. Reflecting the double standards and obsessive focus on Israel, HRW has not written about or campaigned on this or other businesses in North Cyprus.
- The timing of the publication, immediately after the murder of an Israeli woman in front of her children and the attempted murder of a pregnant woman, highlights HRW’s bias, skewed human rights priorities, and disregard for violations against Israelis.