Israel and the Human Rights Distortion

On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released its latest condemnation of Israel, saying in a lengthy report the country is guilty of crimes of apartheid and persecution because of its policies toward Palestinians.

The report claims to examine Israel’s treatment of Palestinians through ‘the present-day reality of a single authority, the Israeli government, ruling primarily over the area between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea.’

But in criticising Israeli authorities for ‘an overarching policy to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians’ the report completely ignores the context of extensive terrorist activities from among the Arab populations in Gaza and the West Bank.

An Arab woman at the Qalandiya checkpointAn Arab woman at the Qaladiya checkpoint (photo AP/Majdi Mohammed)

As one of the world’s best-known human rights groups, such a report ought to carry significant weight with its accusations that Arab people are systematically denied basic rights granted to Jews. But these accusations come from various human rights organisations frequently and face counter-accusations of bias, so the impact will be limited.

Israeli authorities immediately rejected the accusations as the usual type of antisemitic propaganda they face. A realisation is spreading internationally that anti-Israel propaganda has become the latest form of antisemitism, and it is often disguised as concern over human rights.

NGO Monitor is an organisation set up to hold non-governmental organisations to account, and it quickly published a rebuttal of this latest HRW report. A few key points are listed here:

  • The document adds to decades of HRW’s obsessively singling out of Jews and Israel, and rejection of the legitimacy of a Jewish nation state …
  • HRW’s report is part of a concerted NGO campaign over the past 18-months to interject the term “apartheid” into discourse about Israel …
  • The claims made regarding Israel and the definition of apartheid under the Rome Statute are fundamentally political and rejected by many legal experts as 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 …
  • HRW denies Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state and reduces all security policies to “demographic objectives.”
  • HRW dismisses Israel’s concerns and policies on security in the context of ongoing terror, falsely asserting that security is used “as a justification to advance demographic objectives.”

As usual, international media organisations have written at length about the HRW report. The BBC’s news article covers some of the main accusations at length before quoting international human rights lawyer, Philippe Sands, as saying the report ‘was a balanced and rigorous wake-up call by a serious and authoritative organisation.’

Thankfully, they also quoted Gerald Steinberg, founder of NGO Monitor, right at the end of their article as saying the HRW report was part of a “vindictive vendetta ... against Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.

He highlighted the fact that HRW had chosen to “completely ignore and erase deliberately decades of terrorism and the need for counter-terror measures.”

President of the British Board of Deputies, Marie van der Zyl, said the HRW report was a “sham which puts rhetoric above fact.”

They consistently ignore or downplay the fact that Israel’s security measures in the West Bank and around Gaza are the response to well-documented terror activities. The ridiculous ‘apartheid‘ slur in this report is belied by the fact that, as it stands, Israel’s next government may well rely on the support of Arab parties, voted for by the country’s fully-enfranchised Arab citizens.

Writing in the Jerusalem Post, Seth J. Frantzman notes that Israel’s human rights record regarding treatment of the Palestinians has improved in recent decades. ‘Clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians rarely result in the death of civilians, a major change from how events unfolded during the First and Second Intifadas.’

He also emphasises the fact that an entire generation of Palestinians has grown up educated in Palestinian Authority schools in the West Bank and under Hamas rule in Gaza. Someone born when the Palestinians first began to administer their own affairs in a new authority under the Oslo Accords is now 25 years old.

Thus, the war of words over human rights in and around Israel continues.

If anyone doubts the claims of bias in the accusations levelled against Israel, one only has to look at the way the country is singled-out for criticism at the United Nations to realise that there is a significant international problem.