Summary Report on Human Rights Watch

Organizational Data

Founded in 1978 as Helsinki Watch; Middle East Watch created in 1989; Operating Budget $22 Million; donors include major organizations, such as the Ford and MacArthur Foundations, and private philanthropies (2003 Report, p. 42)

Major figures: Kenneth Roth – Executive Director (ex-prosecuting attorney); Joe Stork – Acting head of Middle East Division (radical anti-Israel political activist and ex-editor of Middle East Report); Gary Sick – Middle East Advisory Committee (ex-U.S. National Security Council during Carter Administration, responsible for Iranian policy)


  • In a study of activities between October 2000 and April 2004, HRW’s reports and activities on Israel were found to be systematically and exceedingly biased. Most of the 103 reports, press releases, letters, photo essays and film festivals focus on condemning Israeli responses to terror, in comparison to only 13 that deal with Palestinian terror attacks. This record illustrates HRW’s exploitation of the rhetoric of universal human rights in order to pursue political and ideological objectives in concert with international demonization of Israel.
  • HRW’s systematic condemnations of Israeli policies erase the context of Palestinian violence, and when terrorism is mentioned, it is marginalized, and not reflected in action items. HRW also ignores systematic anti-Israel incitement to hatred and the glorification of terrorists.
  • HRW has not issued a single report on antisemitism, on the role of the Egypt, Syria, and other governments in promoting hatred and violence, or on kidnapped and missing Israelis, including Ron Arad. Through its silence, HRW, like the UNHRC, belies the claim to universal and unbiased approaches.
  • HRW’s highly politicized advocacy on boundaries and disputed territory extends far beyond the human rights mandate. As a result, HRW has become a party to the Arab-Israeli conflict and a contributor to the atmosphere of violence, and has lost credibility and influence in Israel and beyond.
  • HRW has been a prominent participant in anti-Israel political campaigns such as the Durban conference (September 2001) and the ICJ process (February 2004).
  • HRW reports on Israel repeatedly use condemnatory terminology such as “war crimes”, “collective punishment”, “violations of international law”. The arbitrary use of this language without definition or context clearly reflects political and ideological positions.
  • While over 900 Israelis have been killed by Palestinian terror attacks, HRW has generally failed to use its public relations and press access to issue condemnations, in contrast to AMNESTY, and in contrast to the regular HRW condemnations of Israel. The single detailed HRW report on Palestinian terror and its implications, released in November 2002, has been forgotten in subsequent HRW actions.
  • HRW has served as a major conduit for Palestinian-based organizations that exploit human rights to pursue political and ideological objectives, thereby violating and undermining the concept of universal and apolitical human rights.
  • HRW and affiliated organizations (ICBL) have used staged photographs and manipulated evidence to support a political and anti-Israel position.
  • Selected Illustrations and details:

  • HRW May 2002 report Jenin: IDF Military Operations. These operations took place following a year of terror attacks, including the Passover bombing at the end of March in which dozens of Israeli civilians were killed. The focus of the HRW’s report on human rights was not on terrorism, but on the response. The report claims that:

    at times…IDF military attacks were indiscriminate…failing to make a distinction between combatants and civilians…particularly 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.

    This highly subjective language reflects the propaganda campaign of the Palestinian leadership, and is based on unsubstantiated anecdotal evidence and unverifiable Palestinian claims.

  • In a December 10 2002 CNN interview, Kenneth Roth attacked Israeli policy in the case of Jenin, and called for "conditioning" or cutting US government assistance to Israel. He “forgot” to mention the context of terrorism.
  • HRW’s “World Report" in 2001 repeated the unsupported claims on Israel’s policy on illegal building in Jerusalem, proclaiming that Israel "violates provisions in international law against collective punishment." This report exclsuively reflects Palestinian perspectives in what is a highly political conflict. The detailed refutation of Palestinian claims written by Justus Weiner (Illegal Construction in Jerusalem, A Variation of a Global Phenomenon), was ignored.
  • The HRW press release of June 7, 2002 condemned the Knesset decision to reduce child subsidies in cases where parents have not served in the army. This is a complex issue whose impact extends beyond the Israeli-Arab community. The ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, the poorest segment of the Israeli population, is also affected in exactly the same way, but they were ignored in this highly politicized statement.
  • Nov 1 2002 : HRW report “Erased in a Moment, Suicide Bombing Attacks Against Israeli Civilians”. After the release of this report, it has disappeared from the HRW vocabulary and horizon, and it is rarely if ever cited in subsequent condemnations of Israeli defense actions against terrorism.
  • February 23 2004: On the day after the Jerusalem bus bombing, HRW issued a highly politicized and biased attack on Israel’s policy of unilateral separation. Instead of considering the human rights benefits from removal of checkpoints and reduction in friction, HRW joined the campaign coinciding with the International Court of Justice proceedings. HRW endorsed the view that Israeli lives saved by separation are of lesser importance than reducing Palestinian inconvenience. HRW again used sweeping and unsupported terms such as “indiscriminate punishment”, “arbitrary and excessive restrictions on the freedom of movement”.
  • On January 9 2004, al-Jazeerah published a denunciation of the “Zionist NGO Monitor”, and defended HRW for its political and ideological support of the Palestinian cause.

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