Human Rights Watch has done nothing except “once again shown that its very name is a gross misnomer.”
It was more than a decade ago that Richard Bernstein, the esteemed founder of Human Rights Watch (HRW), published a damning op-ed taking his own beloved NGO to task for straying from its original mission in favor of obsessively castigating Israel.
“Human Rights Watch had as its original mission to pry open closed societies, advocate basic freedoms and support dissenters,” Richard Bernstein wrote in 2009. Yet “now, the organization, with increasing frequency, casts aside its important distinction between open and closed societies. Nowhere is this more evident than in its work in the Middle East. The region is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records. Yet in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region.”
In the years since Bernstein went public with his (sadly accurate) criticism, HRW and its director Kenneth Roth have only doubled-down on their calculated effort to delegitimize the Jewish State in the court of public opinion. Now, with the publication of a shockingly mendacious new “report” accusing Israel of “Apartheid”, HRW has more closely aligned than ever before with the illiberal, totalitarian forces that would see the Jewish State wiped off the map.
- 1 Analyses and Articles
- 2 Statements and Press Releases
Naturally, we’ve covered the NGO’s misguided exploits extensively over the years, including the bias and even outright anti-Semitism of HRW’s “Israel and Palestine Director”, Omar Shakir.
a) This picture is from 2015.
b) It is devoid of any context, such as July 2015 was period of major Arab riots in Jerusalem – Temple Mt. area.
c. Is entirely possible the Arab male was involved in the violence (see above).
— Arsen Ostrovsky (@Ostrov_A) April 26, 2021
Shakir, for his part, has so dedicated himself and his career to promoting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel that, citing an “entirely unexceptional” Israeli law prohibiting foreign nationals within the country from actively planning or working to destroy it (a criterion that, even according to its own leaders, the BDS campaign’s activists absolutely meet), the Israeli government refused to renew his residency visa; Shakir was deported in late 2019.
Our reporting on Shakir, HRW director Ken Roth, and a number of other politically motivated and biased HRW staffers can be found in:
- UN Resolution 2334 advances the boycott of Israel
- Human Rights Watch whines after Nikki Haley hits them over obstruction of attempts to reform UN Human Rights Council
- Airbnb to boycott Jews living in the ‘West Bank’
- Anti-Israel bias at Human Rights Watch (Part 1: Omar Shakir)
- Anti-Israel bias at Human Rights Watch (Part 2: Two decades of anti-Zionism)
- Israeli Supreme Court approves deportation of Omar Shakir, anti-Israel activist working for Human Rights Watch
- Human Rights Watch Allegedly Took Saudi Money “by Promising Not to Support” Gay Rights in Middle East
- Investigation: How Anti-Israel Activists Are Hijacking The Coronavirus Crisis And Turning It Against Israel
- Claims That U. Toronto Succumbed To Zionists In Denying Human Rights Position To Valentina Azarova Fall Flat
Shakir’s track record makes it totally unsurprising that HRW’s latest anti-Israel venture—a wildly propagandistic “report” calling Israel an “Apartheid” state—was in fact written by Shakir himself. (You can peruse the full paper here or below.) The document is so rife with inaccuracies—from subtle rhetorical distortions to outright lies—that even the Biden Administration’s State Department has publicly rejected HRW’s “Apartheid” charge.
Clearly, there’s much about the document that begs close scrutiny, and Israel-focused research and advocacy organizations all over the world have answered that call with aplomb. Below, we’ve gathered and highlighted some of the responses from mainstream Jewish groups, as well as the best deconstructions of HRW’s false charges—including blogs, op-eds, and reports—we could find.
.@hrw, has released a report accusing Israel of "crimes against humanity", and apartheid. I’ve never seen such a collection of unfounded lies.
In Syria? Genocide. Gaza? Political rivals thrown from roofs. Iran? Ppl imprisoned & tortured without trial but HRW focuses on…Israel https://t.co/cWSjCqhqo1
— יוסף חדאד – Yoseph Haddad (@YosephHaddad) April 27, 2021
Analyses and Articles
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA)
Founded in 1982, the Boston-based CAMERA has documented and debunked an astonishing number of HRW‘s lies over the years. Its analysis of HRW’s latest, by Dr. Alex Safian, reminds readers of HRW’s long history of employing activists who openly support designated terrorist groups:
Unfortunately, the organization has a long history of anti-Israel agitation and propaganda, perhaps best illustrated by the facts about Joe Stork, who served for many years as HRW’s Deputy Director of Middle East issues. Before being hired by HRW, Stork openly supported Palestinian terror attacks against Jewish civilians, and opposed any and all peace treaties between Israel and Arab states.
Stork even traveled to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq for a conference on “Zionism and Racism.” His very appearance at a conference sponsored by the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein should have disqualified him from working for any human rights group, but apparently that’s not how HRW saw it.
At the conference Saddam Hussein himself could not have outdone Stork, whose presentation referred to the “Zionist colonization of Palestine,” the “Zionist settler-colonial enterprise,” the “infamous Balfour declaration,” and the “Zionist theft of the property and productive resources.”
…Before going into the details of the report, the cover itself is notable: a full, color picture of Israel’s security barrier, with a Palestinian child running in the foreground. The portion pictured – of course – is an imposing wall, despite that fact that most of the barrier is fencing. But more importantly, the reason for the barrier’s existence is given short shrift by Human Rights Watch, with just one sentence devoted to questioning whether security concerns were the real reason for its construction (p72).
That’s why searching the report for the words “terror” or “bombing” or “suicide” is so instructive. Such a search reveals that in the entire 216-page report there is not a single mention of any Palestinian terrorist attack against Israelis. For example, Human Rights Watch neglected to mention the horrific Passover bombing on May 27, 2002, in which 30 people were killed and 140 were wounded by a Palestinian suicide bomber. Also omitted was the suicide bombing of the Sbarro Pizzeria in Jerusalem on August 9, 2001, in which 15 people were killed including 7 children. Also omitted was the attack on December 1, 2001 at the Ben Yehuda Street pedestrian mall in Jerusalem, killing 11 people and wounding 180. Also omitted was the attack on a passenger bus the next day in Haifa, killing 15 and wounding 40. (For a partial list of such bombings see Suicide and Other Bombing Attacks in Israel Since the Declaration of Principles.)
These attacks, and many more just like them, were the reason for the construction of the security barrier, but for some reason Human Rights Watch does not see fit to even allude to them. It is simply amazing that an organization calling itself “Human Rights Watch” would work so hard to dehumanize these victims of Palestinian terrorism, in effect to bury them a second time.
Read the rest at “Human Rights Watch Maligns Israel With Lies on Top of Lies“.
Elder of Ziyon (EoZ)
Don’t let its satirical name fool you; EoZ is one of the most thorough and prolific blogs correcting the record on Israel in existence. The Elder’s excellent original research is often featured in our work here at LIF. Elder has already published multiple posts on the “Apartheid” report, many of which aptly note that Israel’s neighbors in the Arab League and beyond are actually guilty of the sins of which Shakir myopically accuses Israel:
Every nation has the right to determine who is eligible for citizenship, and many countries favor those whose ancestors belong to the same nation. This is not racism.
Throughout the report, HRW asserts that Israel’s laws that give preference to Jews – as one would expect in the world’s only Jewish state, especially when most of its neighbors are irredeemably antisemitic – are not pro-Jewish laws, but anti-Palestinian laws. This is absurd, because no non-Jew can receive automatic citizenship. The entire basis of the report is that Israel is discriminating against Palestinians and it simply does not allow that it is moral for Jews to have and maintain their own state where they can be safe from persecution.
This law creates a reality where a Jewish citizen of any other country who has never been to Israel can move there and automatically gain citizenship, while a Palestinian expelled from his home and languishing for more than 70 years in a refugee camp in a nearby country, cannot.
And every single Arab country has laws banning Palestinians from becoming citizens – laws that were on the books since the 1950s, ostensibly to “support” Palestinians. Unlike Israel’s laws that give preference to Jews becoming citizens and that do not discriminate against Palestinians specifically, the laws in all Arab League states say that all Arabs can become citizens except Palestinians. For over 70 years, they have been languishing in the countries they were born in and have not had a path to citizenship.
If Israel’s laws giving positive preference to Jews (similar to laws in Spain, Italy, Poland and many other nations) is “apartheid” and “racial discrimination,” then most certainly every Arab country whose laws specifically discriminate against Palestinians is guilty of the same.
But HRW never says that. Isn’t that interesting? The epithet “apartheid” only applies to the Jewish state. Isn’t that a super interesting coincidence?
HRW has a problem with the entire concept of a Jewish state, and by extension with the idea of a Jewish people.
…And here is the best evidence that Human Rights Watch has a problem with Jews. Throughout its mentions of the Law of Return and Israel’s Citizenship Law that favors Jews, not once in 220-odd pages does it mention a possible reason why Israel might want or need to have a state of its own. It goes through the history of these laws without once mentioning the word “Holocaust.” Not a single mention of “antisemitism.” The word “persecution” is only mentioned as an accusation against Israel of persecuting Palestinians. To HRW, the entire purpose of the Jewish state is to discriminate against Palestinian Arabs.
A pro-Israel media watchdog group, Honest Reporting is “dedicated to helping ensure truth and integrity in the media.” Honest Reporting’s quick, shareable, educational video clips have expertly taken anti-Israel media entities—from Christiane Amanpour to Al Jazeera—to task for falsehoods and deceptive language alike. In his review of HRW’s report, Honest Reporting researcher Emanuel Miller eviscerated HRW’s politicized anti-Israel leanings and the media outlets that accept its claims uncritically:
Unfortunately, Human Rights Watch has an ill-deserved gravitas that serves to disguise its biased methodology. Consequently, pundits and journalists alike have taken the bait, swarming to cover the report without properly analyzing its contents and challenging its absurd claim – which hinges on subverting the term “apartheid” to have an entirely new meaning.
…Since the Oslo Accords were signed in the 1990s, most Palestinians are governed by the Palestinian Authority. This body was set up with international encouragement, and the Palestinians willingly agreed to adopt a system in which they gained partial autonomy while granting Israel overall security control. Given the many wars Israel had faced in the decades previously — and since — this arrangement made eminent sense as a stepping stone along the road to a more permanent solution.
Nevertheless, the HRW report slams Israel — essentially for keeping its citizens safe. “The Israeli government has demonstrated an intent to maintain the domination of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory,” the report charges. “That intent has been coupled with systematic oppression of Palestinians and inhumane acts committed against them. When these three elements occur together, they amount to the crime of apartheid.”
…the reports casts Israel as solely responsible for the lack of a resolution to the decades-old conflict, and characterizes its desire to keep the lid on violent Arab uprisings as “apartheid” — a stunning inversion of reality. Why, at the very least, are journalists not asking HRW how Israel’s basic security needs can be met?
…the report largely recycled existing materials from known anti-Israel organizations, without engaging in independent investigative work. As Israeli columnist Ben Dror-Yemini notes:In the 200 or so pages of the report, HaMoked is mentioned 62 times, Adalah 77 times, Gisha 92 times and B’Tselem 151 times. But the record goes to Haaretz newspaper, which is cited a massive 190 times. In reality, Shakir did no fact checking or investigations of his own, and the concept of fairness does not even come into it. He pored over anti-Israel publications that pretend to be objectively critical and gathered anything that matched his preestablished hostility. The outcome was decided in advance.”
Based in Israel, Kohelet “strives to secure Israel’s future as the nation-state of the Jewish people, to strengthen representative democracy, and to broaden individual liberty and free-market principles in Israel.” In both English and Hebrew, Kohelet’s scathing fact-check accuses the HRW report of depicting “an alternate reality.”
HRW’s position is so extreme, it goes beyond even the positions of PA/PLO President Mahmoud Abbas and the International Criminal Court. In a speech just this month, Abbas made clear that Israel is not an apartheid state. The ICC has been investigating potential crimes by Israel for years, and has never mentioned apartheid part of its investigation.
The HRW’s own report uses racist language, referring to all Arabs in the area as “Palestinians,” though many of them are Druze, Bedouin, or Circassians. The negation of these national identities in the name of Palestinian supremacy further reveals the bigoted and activist nature of the HRW report.
Human Rights Watch says what has sent Israel over the brink to apartheid is the Nation State Law and political discussions about applying Israeli law to the West Bank (which Human Rights Watch calls “annexation”). This is perhaps their most ludicrous statement. While the wisdom of the Nation State law can be criticized, it does nothing like what any of the apartheid laws did, and instead closely resembles numerous European democratic constitutional provisions. Indeed, it is almost entirely declarative; its one substantive provision guarantees rather than denies Palestinian Arab rights (it guarantees Arabic language rights). As for talk of “annexation,” it cannot be the basis for any claims of apartheid because it has not happened and is unlikely to happen in the near future.
- …On page 2, the report states “About 6.8 million Jewish Israelis and 6.8 million Palestinians live today between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River, an area encompassing Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), the latter made up of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. … From 1967 until the present, it has militarily ruled over Palestinians in the OPT, excluding East Jerusalem. By contrast, it has since its founding governed all Jewish Israelis, including settlers in the OPT since the beginning of the occupation in 1967, under its more rights-respecting civil law.”
FACT CHECK: FALSE
Israel has not had any government in Gaza since the 2005 Disengagement. While apartheid South Africa deported blacks from white areas, Israel did the opposite, expelling Jews from a largely Palestinian area.) In accordance with Israel’s power-sharing agreement with the Palestine Liberation Organization, Israel has no military government or territorial jurisdiction in areas A and B of the West Bank since 1995. There is no military government in east Jerusalem, and Palestinian Arabs, Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs are all subject to Israeli civil law. The Israeli military government in area C, in the meantime, is not personal or ethnically based. Palestinian Arabs, Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs are all subject to the military government; for instance, Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs and Palestinian Arabs who purchase land in area C all must register their purchases with the military government, and all are subject to the military government’s land use regulations.
Read the rest at “HRW Crosses the Threshold into Falsehoods and Anti-Semitic Propaganda” or below.
The experts on anti-Israel NGOs around the world, NGO Monitor researchers have assembled an impressive dossier on HRW, examining everything from the group’s funding sources to its staff’s social media posts. NGO Monitor’s analysis of HRW’s report explains exactly how faulty Shakir’s “Apartheid” canard truly is:
In the political and soft power arenas, the smear of apartheid is particularly potent, repeating propaganda from the 1970s (and earlier), labeling the Jewish State as inherently racist and drawing a direct equivalence to South Africa. Such comparisons delegitimize the concept of Jewish sovereign equality, regardless of borders or policies.
The legal façade is based on the highly selective claim that Israel per se and its policies fit the definition of apartheid under the Rome Statute (the ICC’s founding document). In contrast, many noted legal experts, including Professor Irwin Cotler and Judge Richard Goldstone, have repeatedly demonstrated that labeling Israel as an “apartheid state” is distortion and slander.
To exploit the apartheid claim, HRW and the other NGOs erase the basic nature of the South African regime, which was characterized by systematic, institutionalized oppression, particularly in the realm of political and civil rights. In contrast, and notwithstanding the ongoing ethno-national conflict, Israel’s non-Jewish population has full rights, thus rendering the analogy moot. No other regime, aside from South Africa, has ever been deemed to meet the international definition of apartheid, not even murderous and oppressive regimes practicing separation based on race, religion, and gender such as Saudi Arabia and China. The abuse of the “apartheid” label in the context of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a particularly cynical appropriation of the suffering of South Africans under the actual apartheid regime.
…In presenting the [Apartheid] argument, the HRW publication repeatedly denounces what they sinisterly term Israel’s “racist” demographic policies. This begins with the claim: “Most significantly in demonstrating Israel’s demographic goals is the 1950 Law of Return.”
The Law of Return provides Jews dispersed around the world access to Israeli citizenship. Nothing in the law discriminates against non-Jewish Israeli citizens and is not unique – other countries, such as Ireland, Spain and Germany, have legislation to simplify emigration for diaspora populations.
More importantly – and evidencing the report’s antisemitic effect, if not intent – HRW deviously erases the context: the Law of Return was enacted in the shadow of the Holocaust, to provide a safe haven for Jews who for centuries suffered persecution around the world. The sharp rise in physical violence and other forms of antisemitism around the world in recent years only highlights the need for Israel as a safe refuge from persecution.
Additionally, the Law of Return is consistent with the standards of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), which mandates “special measures” for the “advancement of certain racial or ethnic groups” to protect the “fundamental freedoms.” As noted by the UN Committee, but erased in the HRW report, this provision seeks to remedy “inequalities resulting from the circumstances of history” … and to “prevent further imbalances from arising.”
Read the rest at “HRW’s “Apartheid” Publication: Demonization, BDS, and Lawfare“.
For almost 30 yrs, @kenroth used @hrw for personal vendetta vs #Israel. After he hired @OmarSShakir, even many who are very critical of the Jewish state recognize the vicious nature of the latest campaign. Beyond adding to the hate, Roth has done huge moral damage to #HumanRights https://t.co/4PfoAeaFCf
— Prof Gerald M Steinberg (@GeraldNGOM) April 26, 2021
Statements and Press Releases
As one of Britain’s most prominent Jewish community institutions, the Board of Deputies and its President Marie van der Zyl issued a sharp rebuke of HRW, calling the report a “sham which puts rhetoric above fact…” She continued, pointing out that, “Civil society organisations should be directing their efforts towards reinvigorating the peace process, not trading in false hyperbole that extends the cycle of conflict.” Read the full statement here or below.
— Board of Deputies of British Jews (@BoardofDeputies) April 27, 2021
The American-Jewish umbrella group, Conference of Presidents, published a press release condemning HRW’s report as a “disgraceful…attemp[t] to demonize, delegitimize, and apply double standards to the State of Israel.” Read the full statement here or below.
Jewish Leaders Denounce Anti-Israel Report by Human Rights Watch pic.twitter.com/Cz2KMww6Z7
— Conf Of Presidents (@Conf_of_Pres) April 27, 2021
The venerable, century-old group, Hadassah: The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, tweeted its solidarity with the Conference of Presidents in denouncing HRW’s “misguided effort”.
As a member of the #ConferenceOfPresidents, we stand with them and "strongly reject the disgraceful report released…by #HumanRightsWatch that attempts to demonize, delegitimize, and apply double standards to the State of #Israel." https://t.co/umGp6j6Ah4
— Hadassah (@Hadassah) April 29, 2021
Paul Charney, Chair of the Zionist Federation of UK and Ireland, slammed HRW’s publication, saying it “only lay[s] bare [HRW’s] sheer contempt for the Jewish state and its people, all its people…HRW have once again shown that its very name is a gross misnomer.” Read the full statement here.
To counter those who demonise #Israel with the "apartheid" canard, & because it's #ZionismMonth, it's timely to spread the truth about #Israeli society-a diverse tapestry of all its citizens where Jews, Arabs, Druze & others are fully represented throughout.@WeBelieveIsrael ❤️🇮🇱 pic.twitter.com/HZM9K35GMr
— Zionist Federation (@ZionistFed) April 29, 2021
We’ll keep searching for helpful analyses of HRW’s flawed report. In the meantime, don’t forget to also check out these thoughtful op-eds on HRW’s “Apartheid” report: by Herb Keinon at The Jerusalem Post, Peter Osnos at The Forward, and Ben-Dror Yemini at YNet.
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