1. Claim: HRW does not single out Israel for excessive and disproportionate criticism, and remains focused on universal human rights norms.
NGO Monitor’s Response
- NGO Monitor’s examinations of HRW’s activities since 2001 show a consistently disproportionate level of resources devoted to condemnations of Israel. During the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, the organization issued nearly 30 publications (almost one per day), with a great majority, including the only major report published during the war, devoted to Israel. This obsessive focus is particularly evident when comparing HRW’s activities on the conflict in Sri Lanka. Between July 12 and August 14, 2006, hundreds died in the fighting in Sri Lanka, but HRW issued only two minor press releases, while at the same time using major resources to condemn Israel.
- HRW’s language and selective use of international legal terminology also reflects the lack of universality and inconsistency in reporting on Israel. For example, the terms “violation of international humanitarian law” and “violation of international human rights law” were utilized 30 times regarding Israel during 2006, while only 19 such phrases were found in the case of Iraq. In addition, Israel was cited 21 times in 2006 for “grave/serious Human Rights violations/abuses” as opposed to4 for Egypt and 0 each for Libya and Syria.
2. Claim: HRW’s criticism of the Israeli government’s "indiscriminate" bombing attacks (and similar statements regarding Israeli responses to Palestinian terror) are legitimate and constructive, and not "demonization" or "Israel bashing".
NGO Monitor’s Response
- HRW’s condemnation of Israel for “indiscriminate” bombing ignores Hezbollah’s use of human shields. In the August 3, 2006 report “Fatal Strikes: Israel’s Indiscriminate Attacks against Civilians in Lebanon”, HRW claimed that it found “no cases” of Hezbollah’s deliberate use of human shields, despite the evidence available from the international media. Peter Bouckaert even dubbed Israel’s charges against Hezbollah “a convenient excuse”. After the war, the Intelligence and Terrorism Center at the Israeli Center for Special Studies (CSS) issued a detailed report on these events. CSS published extensive documentation including images showing “Hezbollah’s consistent pattern of intentionally placing its fighters and weapons among civilians,” demonstrating that Hezbollah was “well aware of the civilian casualties that would ensue” from this activity. Nevertheless, Roth and HRW have maintained their previous claims, calling Israel’s accusation a “comfortable assumption.” This is a continuation of HRW’s active role in the NGO Forum of the 2001 UN Durban Conference on Racism, which declared Israel to be an "apartheid state", as documented in detail on www.ngo-monitor.org.
3. Claim:HRWand Roth claim that international law does not distinguish between aggressor (Hezbollah) and defender (Israel)
NGO Monitor’s Response:
- HRW’s portrayal of international law in the report "Civilians under Assault: Hezbollah’s Rocket Attacks on Israel in the 2006 War," is selective, incomplete, and self-serving. Under international law, the only legitimate uses of force are for purposes of self-defense or pursuant to Security Council authorization under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Article 51 of the UN Charter, for instance, states: "Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security." Under Article 2(4) of the Charter, states are prohibited from engaging in illegitimate use of force. In other words, there is both a moral and legal basis for distinguishing between aggressor and defender under the laws of war. HRW and Roth selectively choose to ignore these aspects in promoting their political agenda.
4. Claim: HRW’s reports and condemnations of Israel are based on credible evidence.
NGO Monitor’s Response:
- On August 1, during the Israel-Hezbollah war, after an Israeli strike against Qana in southern Lebanon, HRW immediately issued a press release based entirely on unverifiable "eyewitness claims," labeling the bombing “indiscriminate” and a “war crime” before any such determination could be reasonably made, and declaring that “at least 54 civilians have been killed.” HRW issued this statement even though its own “official on the scene”  and a Red Cross statement put the death toll at 28. In fact, Lucy Mair, HRW’s researcher at the time, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times stating that HRW disregarded the Red Cross estimate in favor of the higher estimate of 54 provided by an alleged “survivor”. There are still conflicting reports on many of the details. HRW belatedly acknowledged the correct casualty figure, and repeated the allegations of “war crimes” and the absence of Hezbollah elements (rockets, fighters, etc.), based on claims made by people possibly connected to Hezbollah. Indeed, on December 5, the Center for Special Studies in Israel (C.S.S.) issued a detailed report on "the extensive military infrastructure positioned and hidden by Hezbollah in populated areas." The report documented a significant Hezbollah presence in and around Qana: 3 rockets were fired from within civilian houses, 36 within a 200 meter radius, and 106 within a 500 meter radius of the village. The report also showed an aerial photograph of a weapons storehouse located next to a mosque in Qana. Roth ignores these facts and the enormous impact of such false reports. As a study published by Harvard University notes, “Most reporters used the higher of the two [casualty] estimates, some describing the scene as a massacre. It made for more sensational copy.”
- In a July 31 op-ed published in The Guardian (UK), Peter Bouckaert, HRW’s Emergencies Director, dismissed Israel’s statement that Hezbollah used human shields based on testimony from “villagers”, labeling the IDF’s assertion “a convenient excuse.” In HRW’s August 3 report entitled “Fatal Strikes: Israel’s Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon”, Hashem Kazan, an HRW witness interviewed regarding a July 15 attack on Bint Jbeil, claimed that “there was no fighting taking place in the village—there was no one but civilians.” In contrast, the CSS report included an aerial photograph of 20 bases and 5 weapons storehouses in the village, also documenting 87 rockets fired from within village houses, 109 from within a 200 meter radius, and 136 within a 500 meter radius.
- Furthermore, when credible evidence is available, HRW often ignores it if it does not support the dominant political position. On May 27, 2006 in a television interview, Hassan Nasaralah boasted ‘[Hezbollah fighters] live in their houses, in their schools, in their churches, in their fields, in their farms and in their factories…You can’t destroy them in the same way you would destroy an army.
5. Claim: HRW could not possibly be accused of being anti-Israel, as Ken Roth’s father (as well as Reed Brody’s ) suffered from German persecution.
NGO Monitor’s Response
- This particular interpretation of their fathers’ experiences under the Nazis before leaving Germany in no way explains or justifies HRW’s bias and exploitation of human rights in support of a hostile ideological agenda.
1.Tikkun magazine, March 3, 2007
2.Marvin Kalb and Carol Saivetz, "The Israeli-Hezbollah War of 2006: The Media As A Weapon in Asymmetrical Conflict", Research Paper Series, Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, February 2007.
5.Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Center for Special Studies, "Hezbollah’s use of Lebanese civilians as human shields" 5 December 2006
6. Marvin Kalb and Carol Saivetz, "The Israeli-Hezbollah War of 2006: The Media As A Weapon in Asymmetrical Conflict", Research Paper Series, Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, February 2007
7. "Whose War Crimes?” The Wall Street Journal, December 11, 2006 [Hassan Nasrallah (Al-Manar Television, May 27, 2006), cited in Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Center for Special Studies, "Hezbollah’s use of Lebanese civilians as human shields" December 2006, p. 34]