Yona Schiffmiller
Yona Schiffmiller

Thank You, Captain Obvious: HRW Determines Palestinians Rocketed Israel

On August 12, 2021, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published perhaps its most worthless and unnecessary report since its founding, in a flagrant show of tokenism designed to mask its anti-Israel animus.  Just by reading the title, “Palestinian Rockets in May Killed Civilians in Israel, Gaza,” one wonders what groundbreaking research or investigative capabilities HRW could possibly bring to bear on events known to anyone with even a passing familiarity of the region.  Only HRW’s August 23 publication on Israeli airstrikes could rival this exercise in absurdity.

Indeed, as expected, the August 12 document contains no new insights and reveals no new information.  The world did not need HRW and its $90 million annual budget to tell us that Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations launched rockets at Israeli civilians in May.

Rather, this report’s only purpose is to exist, to be something for HRW to point to when accused of stoking antisemitism in its years-long campaign to deny the legitimacy of the Jewish State.

If anything, if there is anything noteworthy at all about the contents of this publication, it’s what is not HRW’s authors chose not to include.

In describing the Palestinians killed and injured by one of many Gaza-launched rocket that fell short, HRW notes that it spoke to a number of witnesses and that the authors “are withholding their names for their security.”

The fact that Gazans reporting on misfired Hamas rockets – to say nothing of Hamas’ embedding weapons, fighters and military installations amongst civilians and other international law violations – must be treated as if they are in a witness protection program, undercuts the credibility of organizations like HRW and others that rely heavily on statements from Gaza residents when claiming to document Israeli action.

The organization’s July report, repeatedly and predictably accusing Israel of committing “war crimes” in Gaza, was based largely on such ”testimonies”.  HRW did not identify how its witnesses were selected, or clarify whether or how it investigated witness affiliations to terrorist organizations.  Similarly, it did not explain how claims regarding the absence of combat activity or military infrastructure were verified.

Hamas has cultivated this coercive atmosphere, systematically intimidating its own citizens.  On May 13, internal security forces instructed Gazans not to cooperate with individuals and organizations from outside Gaza, announcing, “It is prohibited under all circumstances to provide details of events or to send messages and videos that discuss locations of bombing and its outcomes or rocket launching sites of the resistance.”

As to the substance of the latest report, it is evident from the outset that there is no need for an “investigation” of Palestinian rockets attacks on Israel. Each one, a blatant war crime, is meticulously documented and reported on widely in various media outlets. Worse yet, HRW meekly avoids an actual inquiry into the extent of Palestinian misfires and the death and damage they caused to civilians in Gaza.

HRW notes that “Some Palestinian rockets – 680 according to the Israeli military – misfired, fell short, and struck in Gaza, in some instances causing deaths and injuries.”  However, continues the report, “Hamas authorities have not provided information about how many rockets misfired or how many people died as a result in Gaza and there are no precise independent estimates.”

Is this a joke? Or does HRW really think that Hamas would have “provided information” about this? And what about HRW, which supposedly conducts research into armed conflict? Is it capable of producing such estimates?

HRW’s forfeiting this issue is at best an acknowledgement of the severe limitations of its investigative capabilities, or worse, indicative of a lack of interest in dedicating resources to uncovering and documenting Hamas’ crimes.  After all, this is the same group that told the world in July that it had found no evidence of Hamas military tunnels beneath the streets of Gaza- a reality so apparent even UNRWA has confirmed it.

In the end, HRW’s attempt at “even-handedness” presents an absurdly generous approach to Hamas and its murderous objectives. As has been the case for 20 years, Executive Director Ken Roth and his employees cannot bring themselves to decisively state that Palestinian terrorist organizations deliberately targeted Israeli civilians.  The closest they come is to conclude that statements by Hamas and others boasting that they were launching rockets at Israeli cities “suggest that they were deliberate attacks on civilians.”

Instead, Hamas’ primary fault is launching munitions without guidance systems.

HRW’s track record of harming Israel through BDS and delegitimization is well-known.  When it dusted off the “apartheid” libel – inventing a new definition just to fit Israel – HRW revealed the true face of the organization.  Flaccid criticism of Palestinian war crimes does nothing to change that reality.

HRW’s target audience of policy makers, business executives, and journalists should recognize the organization for what it is: a well-funded group with meager independent research capabilities, obsessed with criminalizing the Jewish State.

About the Author
Yona holds an M.A. in International Relations from Hebrew University.
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