Six Questions on HRW’s Gaza Rockets Report

Research organization NGO Monitor has reviewed the Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) report (“Rockets From Gaza”) on Hamas’ rocket fire on Israel’s civilian population.

While the report clearly finds Hamas guilty of war crimes and acknowledges “the psychological toll of years of rocket attacks” on Israelis, a number of questions need to be addressed:

1. Why did it take HRW 6 months to issue a report that covers no new ground and largely repeats the International Crisis Group’s report of April 2009? In the interval, HRW issued two publications condemning Israel. NGO Monitor’s detailed analysis of HRW’s report on Israel’s use of drones can be found here.
2. Why does HRW perpetuate the “balance” between terrorist groups and their targets? (“Whether it is Hamas’ claims of the ‘right to resist occupation’ or Israel’s of the right ‘to combat terror’, the reasons for engaging in armed conflict do not permit a party to ignore its legal obligations in the way it conducts hostilities.”)
3. Why did HRW fail to condemn Hamas for extensive use of human shields? What is the basis for the claim that Hamas “did not…force civilians to remain in areas in close proximity to rocket launching sites”?
4. Why is Israel absurdly blamed for Hamas’ rocket fire from populated areas? According to HRW, Hamas “redeployed from more open and outlying regions – many of which were…controlled by Israeli ground forces…into densely populated urban areas”. In other words, Israel’s operation against the rocket fire is blamed for the Hamas violations of the laws of war. And numerous rocket attacks from these same urban areas – long before the IDF operation – is not mentioned.
5. Why is there no effort to uncover details of weapons smuggling into Gaza, and no mention of Iran? When HRW published speculative allegations on Israel’s use of drones and white phosphorous, they emphasized US military assistance.
6. Why does HRW continue to falsify the history in order to attack Israel? This report blames Israel for the end of the ceasefire — “These attacks virtually stopped…but resumed after Israeli forces killed six Palestinian fighters…on November 4, 2008”. This version ignores the fact that Israel was responding to tunnels being completed and suggestions of another kidnapping attempt.

NGO Monitor’s President Prof Gerald Steinberg suggested some answers: “While containing no new information, this report might have had an impact if HRW published it six months ago. The fact that it is only now on their agenda exposes their biased priorities. The timing might indicate HRW’s effort to use this report to divert attention from the Saudi fundraising controversy, and as a fig leaf to cover the disproportionate focus on Israel.

On the substance, HRW failed to indict Hamas for turning the entire Gaza population into one massive human shield, and ‘researchers’ need to explain why they did not investigate the sources of the ‘smuggled’ rockets or to mention Iran. In contrast, when condemning Israel on a very thin factual foundation, HRW officials consistently criticize the American security relationship and arms transfers”.

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