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NGO Monitor finds over 300 flaws with Human Rights Watch report on Israel’s ‘apartheid’

Key errors in the HRW report include false claims that Arabs in Israel are “hemmed in” with “density problems.”

A view of Israel's largest Arab city, Umm al-Fahm. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
A view of Israel's largest Arab city, Umm al-Fahm. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

NGO Monitor has published a scathing analysis of an April 2021 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) that accused Israel of committing “apartheid.” NGO Monitor analyzed the 217-page report along with its 867 footnotes.

HRW conducted almost no primary research, NGO Monitor found. Instead, HRW cited itself approximately 175 times, or in 20% of the document’s footnotes. HRW also cited B’Tselem approximately 70 times, and 20-40 times for Peace Now, Adalah, Gisha, HaMoked and Ir Amim, which are “all politicized NGOs active in the anti-Israel ‘apartheid’ campaign,” according to NGO Monitor.

In total, NGO Monitor found 303 total flaws with HRW’s report, divided into 105 errors, 136 misrepresentations, 37 omissions and 25 instances of a double standard.

Key errors in the report include false claims that Arabs in Israel are “hemmed in” with “density problems.” Salo Aizenberg, an independent scholar and author of the NGO Monitor report, told JNS that this is an “egregious” falsehood, given that “the largest 16 Arab cities have a density of about 2,550 persons per square mile, while the greater Tel Aviv metro area has a density of about 9,000, and key cities like Haifa and Jerusalem are two to three times more dense than these Arab towns.” According to Aizenberg, false claims surrounding such population density are repeated in 18 separate pages of HRW’s report.

Other errors that NGO Monitor found with the HRW report include assertions that:

  • Israel granted entry permits to “hundreds” of Gaza residents, when the number of permits granted was 127,000 in 2019;
  • Palestinian access to water has remained flat, while it has actually increased;
  • Israel “almost never” demolishes Jewish homes in Jerusalem, when about 1/3 of homes that Israel demolishes there are Jewish homes;
  • Restrictions on the entrance of “dual use” goods, which can be used for both civilian and terrorist purposes, to Gaza cannot include construction materials, fertilizers and chemicals;
  • The time it takes to cross the Qalandiya checkpoint is “hours,” rather than minutes;
  • It is “virtually impossible” for Arabs to get building permits in Jerusalem, while thousands have, and Arab permits surpassed Jewish permits in 2018; and
  • Israel has an “intent to dominate” the Bedouins and removes their settlements to make room for Jewish settlement.

Additionally, the “falsification of quotes also shows the deliberate dishonesty of HRW,” stated Aizenberg. “A mistake here or there may be acceptable, but we counted at least 20 quotes either altered or grossly misrepresented. One example is a quote by Shimon Peres claiming to show that Jews sought to ‘dominate’ Palestinians. Peres refers to certain events as a result of Arab attacks on Jews, but HRW deliberately alters the quote to claim it evidences intent for Jewish domination.”

Gerald Steinberg, NGO Monitor’s president, told JNS that “HRW’s falsification and manipulation of numerous ostensible quotes, distorting their obvious meaning, and the massive rewriting of history, highlights the methodological farce [of HRW’s report].”

“Equally egregious are the double standards,” Aizenberg said. “HRW cites as apartheid actions that all nations legally take without claims of racism. To claim Israel’s identification as Jewish is apartheid when many dozens of nations identify one religion in their governing documents, including European countries (e.g., Greece and Denmark are constitutionally Christian) is the height of hypocrisy.”

Additional double standards found in the report include:

  • Criticizing how Israel limits the acquisition of citizenship by marriage while ignoring similar actions by many other nations and the Palestinians’ abuse of those laws; and
  • Criticizing Israel for its high incarceration rate of Palestinians, ignoring far higher incarceration rates for minority groups worldwide. For example, African-Americans in the U.S. are incarcerated at seven times the rate of Palestinians and Aboriginal people in Australia at 10 times the rate.

“Perhaps more egregious than the errors are the omissions,” Aizenberg said. “HRW’s clearly articulated thesis is that all Israeli actions are due to pure racism. Of course, many Israeli actions, from restricting access to Gaza to manning checkpoints in the West Bank, are for security reasons, to stop terrorism. How does HRW deal with this fact? It erases all terrorism; it literally does not use the word ‘terrorism’ once in its document, or related words such as ‘suicide bombing.’”

Key omissions reported by NGO Monitor include:

  • The security reasons for Israel limiting access to Gaza’s waters to Gaza’s residents, and Hamas’s attempts to smuggle in heavy weaponry by sea;
  • How Hamas’s massive military spending contributed to Gaza’s poverty; and
  • The security concern regarding Palestinian terrorists while criticizing checkpoints.

So, what should be done? “The best way to hold HRW accountable is to make people and institutions aware and force HRW to answer for their falsified report. For those who loathe Israel, the truth will not matter. But for the larger numbers who simply don’t know and believe that a group like HRW must be accurate, showing how the report is fraudulent can make a difference,” Aizenberg said

Steinberg agrees.

“Powerful NGOs like HRW (with an annual budget of $110 million) need to be named and shamed by exposing these shoddy propaganda stunts,” said. “When journalists, academics and diplomats are too embarrassed to cite reports like this, they will stop  describing the NGO as ‘highly respected.’ And when donors to HRW in Los Angeles, Berlin, Toronto and Sydney recognize that they are paying for this travesty, they will stop the funding.”

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