Summary: The reports of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), which is affiliated with the International Commission of Jurists, are highly anecdotal and sensationalist. Its March 31 press release falsely alleged that Israeli forces destroyed a Palestinian university campus in Gaza.

On 31 March 2003, NGO Monitor published an examination of the activities of Palestinian affiliates of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) that included an examination of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR). NGO Monitor noted that PCHR’s press releases undermine the organization’s credibility by highlighting anecdotal and sensationalist claims without explaining the complexity of the issues, particularly in terms of the need for Israeli responses to terrorism.

PCHR has continued in this vein with a press release issued on 16 March 2004 entitled “Israel Occupying Forces Destroy a Branch Campus of al-Aqsa University in Gaza”. PCHR itself has admitted that the serious charges levelled against Israeli forces are based upon “preliminary investigations” and the unconfirmed evidence of “a number of residents of the area” who claim that “Israeli soldiers forced them out of their homes and planted explosives inside the campus of al-Aqsa University, destroying it.”

The use of misleading language and the image of a “campus” in the press release would suggest that an act of wholesale destruction of a complete educational institution and its entire infrastructure had taken place. Indeed, PCHR relies on Dr. Nihad al-Yazaji, Deputy Head of Administrative Affairs at al-Aqsa University for statistics regarding the size and layout of the campus in question, but he does not comment on the alleged destruction. All of the reporting alleging destruction, are, according to the PCHR press release, based on ‘preliminary estimates’ garnered from unnamed “university sources”.

The press release accuses Israel of “continuous belligerent military attacks on Palestinian educational institutions”. PCHR, however, notes that the Israeli military operation took place in an area inside the al-Zaytoun neighborhood in Gaza, and was not a direct attack on the al-Aqsa University itself. While PCHR calls upon international bodies to prevent what it calls “gross violations of international humanitarian and human rights law… including the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War”, nowhere is there a recognition of the deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians by Palestinian acts of terrorism, which have led to ongoing Israeli military operations in order to prevent such acts. PCHR, in its uncorroborated allegations, has failed to link the cause – in this case Palestinian terrorism – to the effect – ongoing Israeli preventative military operations in Gaza. As a result, PCHR has again demonstrated that its primary objective is the political and ideological demonization of Israel, in sharp contrast to its claims to promote universal human rights.