In the 22 days of Israel’s military operation in Gaza, and continuing after the ceasefire, more than 50 NGOs have produced over 500 statements on the fighting.

NGO Monitor is tracking these statements to provide continual updates on NGO campaigns. This report focuses on Amnesty International. (See previous editions on Oxfam and HRW).

Amnesty International: “Disproportionate” Attacks on Israel

  • Throughout 2008, Amnesty disproportionately focused on Israel’s Gaza policy accusing Israel of “collective punishment.”  Little attention was paid to Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.
  • Between December 27, 2008 and January 13, 2009, Amnesty International headquarters issued twelve statements and its branches around the world have released tens more.  The statements are primarily critical of Israel and use the rhetoric of international humanitarian law in a consistently biased manner.
  •   Amnesty statements accuse Israel of “unlawful,” “disproportionate,” and “indiscriminate” attacks against Palestinian civilians, but this organization does not possess military expertise or detailed information regarding military targets in Gaza. These accusations are similar to Amnesty’s false claims against Israel made during the Second Lebanon War.
  •  On December 28, 2008, Amnesty accused the IDF of “unlawfully” killing “scores of unarmed civilians, as well as police personnel who were not directly participating in the hostilities.” Amnesty presents no evidence in relabeling Hamas operatives as “civilian” police officers, or in claiming that they were not “directly participating in the hostilities.” A Hamas-linked website claims that these men were members of Hamas’ Izzadin Kassam Brigade. By cloaking claims in Geneva Convention terminology, Amnesty seeks to transform Israel’s lawful attack on a legitimate military target into a war crime.
  • Amnesty largely ignores the well-documented commandeering of civilian infrastructure and widespread use of human shields by Hamas.  Instead, the organization accuses Israel of using human shields. (See quotes below)
  •  Before she could enter Gaza, Amnesty’s researcher in the region, Donatella Rivera, spoke with Israeli residents of the South about their experiences and the effects of rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. However, the majority of her activities and blog entries focus on the “humanitarian disaster” and Israeli “war crimes” and “egregious human rights abuses” in Gaza.
  • Amnesty has issued multiple demands for Israeli officials to be prosecuted for “war crimes” while largely absolving Hamas and its state backers, Iran and Syria, of responsibility.

For further information

The NGO Front in the Gaza War,” NGO Monitor Reports, January 15, 2009.

NGOs aid Hamas PR campaign, Anne Herzberg, Jerusalem Post, January 11, 2009 – Op-eds

On Proportionality,” Michael Walzer, The New Republic, January 8, 2009

Amnesty International’s criticism of Israeli action in Gaza distorts the law of war,” Marc Stern, The Jurist Hotline, January 7, 2008

Amnesty International’s anti-Israel stance undermines human rights and international law,” Avi Bell, The Jurist Hotline, January 5, 2008

Did Israel Use “Disproportionate Force” in Gaza?” Dore Gold, Jerusalem Viewpoints, Vol. 8, No. 16, 28 December 2008

International Law and the fighting in Gaza ,” Justice Reid Weiner and Avi Bell, MESI, December 29, 2008


Civilians must be protected in Gaza and Israel,” December 28, 2008

  •    “Amnesty International calls on Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups to immediately halt the unlawful attacks carried out as part of the escalation of violence which has caused the death of some 280 Palestinians and one Israeli civilian since December 27.”
  •  “Scores of unarmed civilians, as well as police personnel who were not directly participating in the hostilities, are among the Palestinian victims of the Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip.”
  • “Such disproportionate use of force by Israel is unlawful and risks igniting further violence in the whole region.”

End unlawful attacks and meet Gaza’s emergency needs,” December 29, 2008

  • “Amnesty International reiterates its call for an end to reckless and unlawful Israeli attacks  against densely populated residential areas which have killed  more than 300 Palestinians since 27 December, including scores of unarmed civilians and police personnel not taking part in the hostilities, and injured several hundred others.”

 “Urgent Letter to Secretary Rice,” January 2, 2009

  • But Amnesty International USA is particularly dismayed at the lopsided response by the US government to the recent violence and its lackadaisical efforts to ameliorate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”
  •  “Without diminishing the responsibility of Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups for indiscriminate and deliberate attacks on Israeli civilians, the US government must not ignore Israel’s disproportionate response and the longstanding policies which have brought the Gaza Strip to the brink of humanitarian disaster.”
  •  “The U.S. Arms Export Control Act of 1976 requires governments that receive weapons from the United States use them only for legitimate self-defense.”

Press Release: “Firmer European voice needed to unblock humanitarian crisis in the Middle East,” January 8, 2009

  •   “As EU Foreign Ministers meet in Prague, Amnesty International today urged them to spare no efforts to pressure Israel to end attacks which are directed at civilians or civilian buildings in the Gaza Strip or are disproportionate, and to allow much needed humanitarian access to the region.”
  •  “To show that it means business, the EU should put on hold discussions on the upgrade of relations with Israel and work on getting concrete commitments from Israel to end the humanitarian catastrophe.”

Press Release: “Amnesty International Calls on Israel, Egypt to Allow Critically Ill and Wounded to Leave Gaza for Treatment,” January 9, 2009

  • “The 1.5 million Palestinian civilians who are trapped in Gaza continue to both be targeted and suffer disproportionately in this conflict.”

Article: “Demands grow for Gaza war crimes investigation,” Guardian (UK), January 13, 2009

  •  “Amnesty International says hitting residential streets with shells that send blast and shrapnel over a wide area constitutes ‘prima facie evidence of war crimes.'”
  • “‘There has been reckless and disproportionate and in some cases indiscriminate use of force,’ said Donatella Rovera, an Amnesty investigator in Israel. ‘There has been the use of weaponry that shouldn’t be used in densely populated areas because it’s known that it will cause civilian fatalities and casualties.'”
  • “Rovera has also collected evidence that the Israeli army holds Palestinian families prisoner in their own homes as human shields. ‘It’s standard practice for Israeli soldiers to go into a house, lock up the family in a room on the ground floor and use the rest of the house as a military base, as a sniper’s position. That is the absolute textbook case of human shields.'”

Live Chat with Donatella Rivera: “Ask Amnesty,” January 12, 2009

  • “There is evidence that white phosphorous is being used by Israeli force in Gaza, posing an additional risk to the civilian population. We have not yet been able to confirm use of DIME.”
  •  “Israel, as the occupying power, has additional responsibilities for the welfare of the populations in Gaza, including an obligation to ensure provision of adequate food and medicine. Both sides are violating international law. Israel has been blocking the passage of emergency humanitarian assistance for Palestinians and has attacked medics and relief convoys. And Israeli forces have been carrying out indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks that have killed hundreds of unarmed civilians.”
  •  “Under IHL, an attack is disproportionate if it may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated. Many of the attacks by Israeli forces match this definition.”