A vocal international human rights group lashed out against Hamas on Thursday: Using critical language it normally reserves for Israel, Human Rights Watch strongly rejected claims made earlier this week by the Gaza-based terror group that it had investigated allegations in a UN report into last winter’s Gaza war and absolved Palestinian armed groups of any wrong-doing.
“Hamas’s claim that rockets were intended to hit Israeli military targets and only accidentally harmed civilians is belied by the facts,” the New York-based group said.
HRW issued its statement after the Islamist rulers of the Gaza Strip said its investigations of allegations in a UN report on the Gaza war found that they and other Palestinian armed groups “struck military targets and avoided civilian targets.”
HRW pointed out that most of the rocket attacks on Israel hit civilian areas. “Civilians were the target,” the rights group said, adding that “deliberately targeting civilians is a war crime.”
On Wednesday, Hamas’s statement said:
“The committee worked around the clock to uncover the facts, despite the certainty that there were no violations of international humanitarian law or international human rights law that amount to war crimes,” said the committee head, Hamas justice minister Mohammed Faraj al-Ghul.
“The Palestinian government has on more than one occasion called on armed Palestinian groups to avoid targeting civilians,” said the report by Hamas, which has claimed scores of deadly suicide bombings against Israeli civilians.
“(The armed groups) struck military targets and avoided civilian targets, and any accusations related to this concern errant fire.”
HRW has come in for frequent criticism from pro-Israel advocates, who said that the organization–like many similar non-governmental groups–singles Israel out for harsh criticism without taking into account the larger context of the battles she faces, while allowing the terror groups she fights a complete pass. Further, they say, HRW and other groups take full advantage of Israel’s open society while never criticizing the fact that they can’t even safely enter the territories controlled by rogue regimes in Syria or elsewhere in the Arab world.
Late last year, HRW Founder Robert Bernstein added his voice–sadly–to HRW’s critics, alleging that the group had lost its moral focus and no longer made distinctions 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.
Israel, with a population of 7.4 million, is home to at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world — many of whom are there expressly to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Meanwhile, the Arab and Iranian regimes rule over some 350 million people, and most remain brutal, closed and autocratic, permitting little or no internal dissent. The plight of their citizens who would most benefit from the kind of attention a large and well-financed international human rights organization can provide is being ignored as Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division prepares report after report on Israel.
Human Rights Watch has lost critical perspective on a conflict in which Israel has been repeatedly attacked by Hamas and Hezbollah, organizations that go after Israeli citizens and use their own people as human shields. These groups are supported by the government of Iran, which has openly declared its intention not just to destroy Israel but to murder Jews everywhere. This incitement to genocide is a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
As they say in Israel, kein yirbu — may this clarity increase!