The U.S. State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights are among the most widely read and important documents on the status of human rights, particularly in the Middle East.

However, the statistics and analysis in these reports are often based on information provided by NGOs such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, and B’tselem. NGO Monitor has been tracking these groups for the past four years and found a number of critical problems.

Most have no independent research capabilities and often do not provide the evidence for their claims. Their facts and figures (such as casualty totals) are disputed and cannot be verified. These NGOs repeat anecdotal allegations from groups or individuals that reflect strong political agendas, and discriminate between sources based on these agendas. There is a continuous tendency to erase the context of terror, and to ignore the universality of human rights norms. These deficiencies are exacerbated in the absence of any mechanism of NGO accountability. There are no internal "public auditors" and no independent individuals or groups responsible for verifying the accuracy of their reports.

As a result, these groups cannot be considered "reputable international organizations" and "credible NGOs", as claimed in the State Department’s report for 2004. By citing these NGOs and their claims, this report also incorporates the inaccuracies and gives credence to their distorted reports and political campaigns. 

In the attached document, we have listed and analyzed some of the examples of unverified claims from NGOs, as published in the State Department’s 2004 report on Israel and the Occupied Territories. We also provide information to substantiate the conclusion that these NGOs lack the independent research capabilities to verify claims by "eyewitnesses" and journalists. As a result, their reports (based largely on such sources) are consistently biased in favor of a particular political agenda, and do not reflect universal human rights norms.

1) The following section is a partial list of examples in the report for 2004 (published February 2005 — of assertions made in NGO reports which were not backed by credible evidence or documentation – or, occasionally, without citing any source whatsoever.

The 2004 report repeats a claim by Amnesty International attributing the death of two Palestinian children in Rafah in 2004 to Israeli snipers. This claim is not based on independent research. As evidence, Amnesty cites only "several [unnamed] foreign journalists."

Amnesty also reaches forensic conclusions, based on "photos taken by them [the unnamed journalists]." There is nothing in the Amnesty report to indicate that the journalists or authors of this report are competent to reach such conclusions.

The 2004 State Department report also cites information provided by Human Rights Watch (HRW) regarding "Operation Rainbow" in Rafah, including HRW’s claim that the IDF destroyed over fifty percent of Rafah’s roads. As has been noted by NGO Monitor and other analysts, this claim is not based on independent research. The only sourced cited is the "Rafah Municipality," which is part of the Palestinian Authority. No further identification of the source is provided, nor is there any verification of the claim.

The State Department report further cites claims provided by B’Tselem regarding house demolitions. The B’Tselem report is not sourced, and the definitions therein are ambiguous, making the report unverifiable.

Similar problems are found in the publication of anecdotal evidence supplied by Machsom Watch and the citation of uncorroborated single sources, such as Palestine Red Crescent Society claims regarding Palestinian fatalities in 2004.

2) Examples demonstrating the systematic lack of independent research capability among the NGOs cited in the State Department’s report for 2004.

Amnesty International

  1. Amnesty International released a report on 31 March 2005 headlined "Israel and the Occupied Territories: Conflict, occupation and patriarchy – Women carry the burden". This Amnesty report quotes the highly politicized Physicians for Human Rights-Israel which claims that "the rate of survival of breast cancer patients in the Gaza Strip is only 30-40%, compared to 70-75% in Israel". (This claim ignores differences between the advanced medical facilities of Israel and those of the Palestinian Authority, which are not the result of Israeli policies or the conflict). Many of the claims in the Amnesty report cite anonymous Palestinians without providing any independent verification; photos and quotes are provided by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and Palestine Monitor, neither of which can be considered credible. (see detailed NGO Monitor analysis of this Amnesty report)

Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-I)

  1. In many of its publications, PHR-I relies on Palestinian sources without providing any independent verification. For example, a 31 August 2004 press statement ("Soldiers fire at ambulance in Gaza; doctor and driver wounded") claims that "According to information given…by Palestinian medical organizations in Gaza…the soldiers suddenly, and with no prior warning, opened fire."

Human Rights Watch

  1. Much of the evidence presented by HRW comes from Palestinian "eyewitnesses," politicized NGOs such as the Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI), the Palestinian Red Crescent, B’Tselem, and others. In footnote 8 of its June 2005 report "Promoting Impunity: The Israeli Military’s Failure to Investigate Wrongdoing," HRW bases claims of civilian Palestinian casualties on unverified assertions by these groups, ignoring the obstacles to accurate assessments and the potential for political manipulation of these assertions.

  2. An unsourced footnote on p. 65-66 of that report asserts that the "largest military operation since the 1982 invasion of Lebanon…included indiscriminate and excessive use of force, unlawful killing of civilians, use of Palestinians as human shields, and detention of at least 4,500 Palestinian men and boys, many of whom reported ill treatment during arrest and interrogation." In this and other examples, there is no attempt to source such broad claims. (see NGO Monitor report)

  3. HRW’s report "Razing Rafah" contains many unsubstantiated claims and is based almost entirely on "Palestinian eyewitnesses", journalistic accounts, and unverified allegations put forward by other NGOs. (see NGO Monitor report)

Christian Aid

  1. Christian Aid released a press statement on 6 October, 2004, regarding an Israeli anti-terror operation ("Israeli assault on Gaza leaves scores dead and many homeless"). Christian Aid relied entirely on B’Tselem for its information (see below -D).


  1. B’Tselem in turn, did not obtain or verify this information independently, relying instead on another organization — the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC), together with "Daud Asliya, a 33-year-old resident of Jabalya refugee camp". PARC is a highly politicized NGO, which has made unsubstantiated and inflammatory claims about Israeli policy, including the claim that Israel has invented a security threat to its people in order to "spread out its control over the whole region."

3) Examples demonstrating the anti-Israel political bias among the NGOs cited in the State Department’s report for 2004.

Human Rights Watch

  1. Following the publication of its "Razing Rafah" report, HRW continued to make unsubstantiated security judgments, claiming that the IDF had destroyed Palestinian property "without regard to military necessity… [T]he barrier seems intended to encourage Palestinians to leave for other areas of the West Bank, or even other countries." (see NGO Monitor report)

  2. A May 2002 report on the combat in Jenin issued by Human Rights Watch, states: "…in the Hawashin district, the destruction extended well beyond any conceivable purpose of gaining access to fighters, and was vastly disproportionate to the military objectives pursued."  (see NGO Monitor report). This highly subjective language reflects the propaganda campaign of the Palestinian leadership. Additionally, rather than examining the policy of terror and its impact on human rights, the report focuses exclusively on condemning the Israeli response to terror.

  3. In November, 2005, HRW published a public letter by Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa Division, to US Senator Hillary Rodham-Clinton (D-NY,) which repeated HRW’s allegations regarding the security barrier. (see NGO Monitor report).
    The letter severely distorted the Israeli Supreme Court’s finding confirming the moral and legal basis for the barrier. Whitson also condemned Senator Clinton’s observation that the barrier "is not against the Palestinian people…This is against the terrorists. The Palestinian people have to help to prevent terrorism. They have to change the attitudes about terrorism". Whitson repeated the standard Palestinian political claim that "the function of the wall is less for security than for facilitating the eventual annexation of territory."

  4. In March 2005, Human Rights Watch employed Lucy Mair as a researcher in Israel/Occupied Territories. Ms. Mair’s experience included writing for the pro-Palestinian "Electronic Intifada" website and employment with Grassroots International, a radical pro-Palestinian political organization. (see NGO Monitor report)


  1. In its May 2004 Newsletter, Adalah drew false parallels between Israel and apartheid South African. The text referred to "massive human rights violations in the Occupied Territories…and the construction of the Apartheid Wall and Bantustans."

  2. In an article titled "The Racist Separation Wall in the West Bank" in their July 2004 Newsletter, Adalah called Israel’s protective security fence "the most comprehensive, colonial and racist project undertaken since the occupation of the West Bank in 1967."

Amnesty International

  1. Amnesty repeats the Palestinian narrative regarding Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin as "paralysed and wheelchair-bound". The fact that Yassin was the leader of Hamas, arguably the most extreme and murderous terrorist faction operating in the  Middle East, and was responsible for planning the deaths of hundreds of Israeli civilians, is completely sanitized from Amnesty’s reports. (see NGO Monitor report)

  2. In a report released in March 2005, Amnesty blamed Israeli actions for contributing to "the increase in violence against women, including sexual abuse, within the family," as well as for the lack of legal protection for Palestinian women and the inability of Palestinian law enforcement agencies to uphold the rule of law. The chronic failure of the PA’s leadership to carry out reform of the security services is entirely ignored, and rape, family violence and ‘honor killings’ are simply blamed on Israeli actions.

4) Information demonstrating the practice among the NGOs cited in the State Department’s report for 2004, of erasing the context of terror.

Amnesty International

  1. In 2004, indiscriminate rocket attacks launched by Palestinian groups in Gaza took an increasing toll against Israeli civilians. On 30 September, 2004, two Israeli children in the town of Sderot were killed, leading to a major military operation in the northern Gaza Strip designed to end these attacks. In a 5 October press statement, Amnesty International condemned Israel’s "excessive use of force" but failed to mention the murders of the Israeli children. The last paragraph of the statement contained a vague acknowledgement of the Palestinian terror that prompted the military operation. (see NGO Monitor report)

  2. Amnesty International refers to "…80 individuals killed in targeted state assassinations." Amnesty make no mention of the fact that such targeted "individuals" were known terrorists who had taken part in planning or carrying out murderous acts. (see NGO Monitor report)

Physicians for Human Rights – Israel

  1. A May 2004 PHR-I joint report with Machsom Watch, "The Bureaucracy of Occupation", focuses on District Coordination Offices (DCOs) responsible for issuing travel permits to the Palestinian population. Without even mentioning terrorism or Israel’s basic right to self-defense, the report states that "The denial of freedom of movement is a human rights violation". (see NGO Monitor report)

5) Information demonstrating the practice among the NGOs cited in the State Department’s report for 2004, of promoting a political agenda.

Human Rights Watch

  1. In a 23 November 2004 press release, HRW called upon Caterpillar to suspend sales of its D9 bulldozer to Israel. (see NGO Monitor report)

  2. In letters to Yasser Arafat, Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton on 22 December 2000, Human Rights Watch Director Kenneth Roth took an overtly political stance regarding the "right of return" of "Palestinians in exile." He stated that "a peace agreement between the two sides should allow Palestinians in exile to choose freely among three options: returning to their country of origin, integrating into the country of asylum, or resettling in a third country…The options of local integration and third-country resettlement should not extinguish the right of return." (see NGO Monitor report) 


  1. Adalah was prominent in drafting many of the accusations of ‘apartheid’ and ‘institutional racism’ in Israel for the NGO Declaration that was issued in parallel to the World Conference against Racism in Durban in September 2001. (see NGO Monitor report)

Physicians for Human Rights – Israel

  1. In November 2002, PHR produced a 70-page report, "A Legacy of Injustice A Critique of Israeli Approaches to the Right to Health of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories."   The report failed to examine the record of the Palestinian Authority in medical human rights. However, it attacked the Israel Medical Association, Magen David Adom and the High Court of Justice for cooperating with the Israeli government and "the occupation." Such attacks on Israeli democratic and professional institutions are far removed from PHR-I’s own mission statement. (see NGO Monitor report)