(Human Rights Watch World Report 2008 – ‘Democracy Charade Undermines Rights — Human Rights Watch Highlights Abuses in Pakistan, Kenya, China, Somalia‘ (Jan. 31, 2008)

In keeping with NGO Monitor’s mandate, we have reviewed the section headed ‘Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT)‘ (pp.484-91). This chapter includes a sketchy summary of the main events of 2007, including the violent Hamas takeover of Gaza, and acknowledges that “In 2007, for the first time since Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, more Palestinians died as a result of internal Palestinian fighting than from Israeli attacks.” This is an important change in HRW’s approach, which had generally ignored internal Palestinian violence, and focused primarily on allegations against Israel.  

Nevertheless, much of this chapter (and the brief statement on the summary page) consists of a repetition of HRW’s exaggerated blame of Israel for the "intensified humanitarian crisis in Gaza”, and a "blockade" that constitutes "collective punishment" and "violates international law". The use of such terms in this context is inconsistent with customary usage and common sense.[1] (The same words are used in HRW’s January 26, 2008 statement on Gaza and in statements on this issue by many other NGOs.)   Subsections headlined “Palestinian Deaths and Israeli Impunity”, “The Wall and Settlements”, and “Discriminatory Legislation” use the Palestinian narrative and vocabulary. The various claims are not supported by evidence or sources, and are not reliable – as in the case of the "670 Palestinian university students trapped in Gaza, unable to continue their higher education” – a claim copied from another NGO report which has been shown to include fabricated evidence.

This chapter also continues HRW’s pattern of failing to hold Palestinian leaders responsible for the terrorist and rocket attacks against Israeli civilians. In the period between the Hamas takeover of Gaza in June and December 2007, 475 missiles and 631 mortar bombs were launched — each one a clear violation of international law and human rights. However, HRW simply refers to unnamed “Palestinian armed groups” and “militants” who are involved in these “indiscriminate rocket attacks on populated areas of Israel in violation of international law.”  HRW’s litany also alleges that "heightened Israeli restrictions on freedom of movement in the West Bank contributed to a serious human rights and humanitarian crisis", while failing to connect these policies and the continued attacks against Israelis. This chapter briefly mentions Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped in June 2006, “Palestinian armed groups” are blamed, although Hamas officials head the negotiations for the release of Palestinian terrorists in exchange for Shalit.  

In contrast, in the section on the "Palestinian Authority and Hamas (pp.488-91), HRW explicitly condemns Hamas for "reportedly engaged in torture and inhumane and degrading treatment of detainees during interrogation". If there is a reason for this inconsistency in holding Hamas responsible for internal violence but not for attacks against Israelis, it is not provided in this chapter.

Human Rights Watch statement condemns Israeli "collective punishment" – ‘Israel/Gaza: Israeli Blockade Unlawful Despite Gaza Border Breach‘ (Jan. 26, 2008). Joe Stork of HRW, author of statement, claims "Indiscriminate Palestinian Rocket Attacks Violate International Law"; Of the 34 paragraphs, Stork only mentions the hundreds of rocket attacks against Israel in two sentences, demonstrating the double standards in this invective. As well, HRW’s claim that Gaza remains "occupied" is a politically based fiction designed to negate Israel’s legal and moral right to self-defense. For NGO Monitor’s detailed analysis of the statement, see: HRW’s Gaza Statement: Moral Muddle and False Allegations (Jan. 29, 2008).