(April 17, 2018 / NGO Monitor) A number of NGOs have made statements and launched social media campaigns related to the violent confrontations along Gaza’s border on Fridays, beginning March 30, 2018, under the label of “Great March of Return.”
Analysis of thee posts and reports show a consistent pattern of erasing the context, including the stated aim of trampling the fence in order to enable masses of Palestinians to cross, and the threats to Israeli civilians living a few hundred meters from the border; the Palestinian use of civilians (including women and children) as human shields; and the central role of terror organizations, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
The numerous instances of Palestinian minors hurling rocks and approaching the border are scrubbed from the NGO reports, as well as a video of a 7-year-old Palestinian girl sent across the border for propaganda purposes.
Furthermore, in alleging that the Israeli military had violated international law in killing a number of Palestinians involved in the violence, the NGOs ignore the evidence that the majority of deaths were of members of terror organizations.
The following showcases a selection of extreme bias by human rights NGOs:
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
- On April 14, 2018, HRW Executive Director Ken Roth tweeted: “These well fortified Israeli snipers at Gaza border protests were the ones who supposedly felt they faced such an imminent lethal threat that they had no choice but to use lethal force. Or they had illegally liberal open-fire orders.”
- On April 11, 2018, HRW Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir was interviewed on Al Jazeera on “impunity for Israel’s killings of demonstrators in Gaza.” According to Shakir, “Israeli investigations going back for the majority of its 50 years of occupation, and even before then, have been a whitewash operation…we are talking about killings planned at the highest levels of the Israeli government that greenlighted firing on unarmed demonstrators. The reality is it’s time for international investigations.”
- On April 11, 2018, Omar Shakir tweeted: “When a state deems the gunning down of a clearly unarmed demonstrator to the raucous cheers of his peers ‘exemplary,’ what power won’t it claim? For those still defending Israel’s Gaza policy: what more do you possibly need to see to say enough?”
- Statement by Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson, “The shocking number of Palestinians killed and hurt today by soldiers firing across the Gaza fence raises serious questions about Israel’s longstanding use of live ammunition to police demonstrations. Israeli allegations of violence by some protestors do not change the fact that using lethal force is banned by international law except to meet an imminent threat to life” (emphasis added).
- Ignoring the fact that the majority of those killed were Hamas operatives, Israeli security concerns, the context of violence and terrorism, and Israel’s sovereign right to defend its border, HRW Executive Director Ken Roth tweeted“Irrelevancies offered to defend Israel’s killing Gaza protesters: -Hamas started it. -It was a ‘provocation.’ -Some victims weren’t nice people. -Some protesters used violence. Truth: None justifies Israel using lethal force except as last resort to stop imminent threat to life” (emphasis added).
- On April 3, 2018, HRW issued an “analysis” of the March 30, 2018 events along the Israel-Gaza border. As addressed by NGO Monitor, this latest publication lacks credible methodology and manipulates the presentation of facts and law.
- On April 13, 2018, Amnesty released a statement titled “Israeli forces must end the use of excessive force in response to ‘Great March of Return’ protests” calling for “independent and effective investigations.” According to Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Magdalena Mughrabi, “For the past two weeks, the world has watched in horror as Israeli forces unleashed excessive, deadly force against protesters, including children, who merely demand an end to Israel’s brutal policies towards Gaza and a life of dignity. … The Israeli authorities must urgently reverse their policies and abide by their international legal obligations.”
- On April 13, 2018, Amnesty tweeted: “Reports of over 300 people injured so far in #Gaza from tear gas and live ammunition, including one Palestinian shot in the head with live ammunition, and one photojournalist. A medical team was hit with tear gas in eastern #Gaza. This is not acceptable. #stopexcesiveforce.”
- States that “The Israeli authorities must stop using lethal and other excessive force against Palestinian protesters once and for all. At least 17 people have died …” ignoring that fact that 10 of the 15 Palestinians killed were identified by the IDF as Hamas operatives.
- Ignores the fact that Israeli civilians live in extremely close proximity to the border and that Israeli soldiers were deployed to protect these civilians and the border when alleging that “While some Palestinian demonstrators have thrown stones and other objects towards the fence, it’s hard to believe how this would be an imminent danger to the lives of well-equipped soldiers protected by snipers, tanks and drones” (emphasis added).
- States “The Israeli authorities are obligated to respect the right to peaceful protest and, even if violence may occur, only the minimum force necessary to address it can be used. Having consistently ignored the human rights of Palestinian refugees for 70 years, Israel must at least hear their demands and allow peaceful demonstrations and protests to take place” (emphasis added). While the statement is fraught with misinterpretations of international law, this claim in particular simply points to Amnesty’s political motivations. It further ignores that the protests were far from peaceful, as seen by the use of Molotov cocktails, arson, and attempts to breach the border fence.
- On April 13, 2018, tweeted: “26 Palestinians have been killed and thousands injured over the past two weeks. #Israelmust end this ‘horrifying’ use of force against protesters in Gaza.”
- Tweeted that it was “troubling” that Israel was deploying troops to defend its border, stating “Troubling news that#Israel has deployed 100 snipers to the Gaza border for today’s Land Day protests. The authorities must refrain from using excessive force.”
- On April 13, 2018, PCHR released a statement condemning “this new crime committed by the Israeli forces that resulted in this huge number of causalities, killed and wounded, believing it is as a result of the international community’s silence towards the crimes committed by the Israeli forces upon an official decision at the highest military and political levels.” PCHR furthered that “demonstrations are fully peaceful and civilians have the right to raise their voices against the Israeli forces and closure and enjoy their right to return.”
- On April 1, 2018, PCHR published a press release accusing Israeli forces of “practice[ing[ murder in cold blood.”
- States that “According to the new field updates, the Land Day Activities continued in all border areas in the eastern Gaza Strip while the Israeli forces continued to target those participating in the peaceful assembly” (emphasis added).
- The PCHR statement includes the names of four Palestinians killed, including “Jihad Zuhair Abu Jamous (30) from Khan Younis was hit with a bullet to the head, in eastern Khuza’ah in Khan Younis.” According to the IDF, Abu Jamous was an active operative in Hamas’ armed military wing.
- In a press release, delegitimized Israel’s security threat and falsely claimed that the IDF used force based on “a political decision at the highest political level in Israel to suppress hundred thousands of civilians participating in fully peaceful protests within hundreds meters away from the border fence with Israel. Israeli forces directly targeted these protesters without any justification and without the latter posing threat or danger to life of the Israeli soldiers…It should be noted that the Israeli forces are still targeting the protesters, portending the increase of victims’ number. (emphasis added).
- In the press release, PCHR lists Palestinians killed, including at least one the IDF identified as a Hamas operative.
- On April 12, 2018, Al-Haq tweeted an infographic titled “Gaza’s Untold Story: From Displacement to Death” that stated that “more than half of Palestinians killed were refugees displaced since the Nakba in 1948.”
- On April 11, 2018, Al-Haq published a report titled “Gaza: Documenting Wilful Killings and Injuries during the Great Return March” referring to Israel as the “belligerent occupant” and accusing the Israeli military of “indiscriminate and disproportionate use of lethal force against Palestinians.”
- Tweeted, “The attacks on Palestinian protestors on 30 March 2018 in #Gaza further establish #Israel’s unremitting suppression of #Palestinians’ right to peaceful protest, but most importantly the right to realize the right of return which Israel continues to deny.”
- Condemned Israel’s deployment of troops to defend its border, “#Israeli Occupying Forces had extensively prepared for and deployed additional forces and equipment in the area, including snipers, drones, bulldozers, and attack dogs, and issued explicit orders to use live fire against #Palestinian”
- The series of Al-Haq tweets was retweeted by FIDH.
- In a statement, lists “Palestinian protestors,” killed, including at least 10 who the IDF identifies as being Hamas operatives.
- On April 13, 2018, Al Mezan published a press release condemning the “use of lethal and other excessive force by Israeli forces, including sharpshooters, to police the peaceful demonstrations. The unarmed protesters, who pose no serious threat to the Israeli forces, have the right to peacefully assemble to demand their fundamental and inalienable human rights.”
- On April 12, 2018, Al Mezan and Adalah sent a letter to the Israeli Attorney General calling for the “Israeli military to refrain from firing live ammunition at Palestinian civilians participating in legitimate protest actions.”
- States that “Al Mezan also recalls that international humanitarian law prohibits the targeting of civilians and deliberate attacks that lack necessity and that are conducted disproportionately.” At least five Hamas operatives are included in Al Mezan’s list of “civilians” killed.
- Refers to the border between Israel and Gaza as a “separation fence.”
- On April 13, 2018, B’Tselem issued a position paper titled “If the heart be not callous: On the unlawful shooting of unarmed demonstrators in Gaza” discussing “why the orders given the soldiers, permitting live fire at unarmed civilians who do not pose a danger, are unlawful.“ B’Tselem accused Israel of “extensive whitewashing” and “Upholding the unlawful policy, despite the horrific results.”
- On April 5, 2018, B’Tselem launched a campaign called “Sorry Commander, I cannot shoot,” which featured newspaper advertisements urging soldiers to “refuse to open fire on unarmed demonstrators.”
- Posted a statement “Shooting unarmed demonstrators is illegal and the command that allows it is manifestly illegal” (emphasis added) claiming that “Armed soldiers and unarmed demonstrators are not ‘at war.’ The illegal open fire regulations and the compliance with them are the reason for the number of dead and injured today in the Gaza Strip.”
- States that “The Israeli military’s use of 100 snipers against unarmed Palestinian civilian protesters in the Gaza Strip is illegal. Live gunfire on unarmed civilians constitutes a brutal violation of the international legal obligation to distinguish between civilians and combatants. Israel is obligated to act in accordance with international law. Adalah will call for an investigation into those responsible for today’s deadly incident in Gaza and will demand that those found responsible for the killings be brought to justice” (emphasis added).
- In a tweet, Adalah further claimed that “#Israel breaching international #law by exercising deadly force against unarmed #Palestinian civilians in #Gaza / Coverage in @haaretzcom.”
- On April 12, 2018, three Breaking the Silence employees signed a letter to The Guardian expressing “sorrow at Gaza shootings” stating “Instructing snipers to shoot to kill unarmed demonstrators who pose no danger to human life is another product of the occupation and military rule over millions of Palestinian people, as well as of our country’s callous leadership, and derailed moral path.”
- It was later revealed that, in contrast to the headline in The Guardian, two of the three did not serve as snipers.
- On April 7, DCI-P tweeted: “Our investigation confirms Israeli forces killed 13-year-old Hussein Mohammad Adnan Madi in Gaza yesterday around 4 pm local time. He sustained a gunshot wound to the abdomen & was later pronounced dead at Shifa hospital. #GazaReturnMarch” and that “Yesterday, Israeli forces shot & killed 15-year-old Aladdin Yahia Ismail Zamili in Gaza around 6 pm local time. He sustained a gunshot wound to the neck and was later pronounced dead at Youssef Al-Najjar hospital in Rafah. #GazaReturnMarch.” On April 6, DCI-P tweeted: “Israeli forces shot dead Ibrahim Abu Sha’er on March 30. @DCIPalestine investigations confirmed he was 17 years old when he was killed, not 22 years as reported by news media. Under international law, any person below 18 years is considered a child. #GazaReturnMarch.”
- DCI-P did not question why children were present at the violent clashes on the border.
- On April 15, 2018, Executive Director Tania Hary participated in a JStreet panel titled “Gaza: What Would it Take to Break the Cycle of Violence.” According to Hary, “Isolating Gaza purely for fragmentizing Palestinians, shooting unarmed protesters simply because they are a disturbance.. these things are out there. We have to rise to the challenge of confronting what undermines our values.”
- On April 12, 2018, Gisha tweeted a link to its publication titled “Behind the headlines: Gisha’s analysis of the situation in Gaza” stating that “Israeli politicians and officials depict recent events near the #Gaza border as a sudden threat initiated by Hamas. By doing so, they willfully obscure the wider context of Israel’s 50 years of control, culminating in a closure.”
- Ignores Israel’s sovereign right to defend its borders, stating “ Gisha expresses grave concern that the lethal force used yesterday in the Gaza Strip could have been avoided had the rules of engagement been dictated by international law rather than a desire to quash protest” (emphasis added).
- On April 15, 2018, these NGOs petitioned the High Court of Justice demanding that the “court order the cancellation of open-fire regulations allowing IDF soldiers to fire live ammunition at demonstrators who do not endanger the lives of soldiers on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.”
- On April 13, 2018, MAP called on the UK government and the international community for “independent investigations into the violence at the Gaza perimeter protests.” MAP provides a form email to send to MP’s calling to “take action and support international calls for independent investigations into the killing and injuring of Palestinian protesters, and accountability for violations of international law.”
- Stated that “15 Palestinians have been killed,” failing to note that at least ten were affiliated with Hamas.
- Condemned Israel’s deployment of troops to defend its border, stating that “Israel’s military positioned more than 100 snipers on the border with Gaza ahead of the planned demonstrations.”
- On April 1, MAP posted a press release stating that MAP “condemns the killing and injuring of unarmed civilians in Gaza…” The press release yet again ignores the context of violence and terror and disregards the fact that 10 of the 15 Palestinians killed were Hamas operatives. This failure to acknowledge new evidence demonstrates that MAP is more interested in promoting a particular narrative of the conflict than in accurate on reporting.
- Ignoring the fact that the majority of deaths were part of the Hamas terrorist organization, states that “Tveit [WCC General Secretary] called for prayers and solidarity with the people of Gaza. ‘We pray for the victims and their families,’ he said, ‘and we seek God’s mercy, love and grace that we may be empowered with strength to continue our work for justice and peace.’”
- On April 12, 2018, these NGOs were a signatory on a statement by US Churches and Christian Agencies “support[ing] the Palestinian people as they courageously stand up for their rights. The groups called on the United States to “censure the violent and indiscriminate actions of the State of Israel in response to the demonstrations which in no way threaten the security of the state or its citizens, and to hold Israel appropriately accountable, ensuring that US aid isn’t used in ways that contravene established US and international laws, given the more than $3 billion in military aid the US disburses to Israel annually.”
- Officials of the Norwegian Refugee Council including Jan Egeland (Secretary General) and Karl Schembri (NRC Media Advisor for the Middle East), posted numerous tweets condemning Israeli actions and promoting Palestinian allegations. In particular, the NRC focused on the death of Yassar Murtaja, who, it was claimed, was an innocent photo-journalist. According to Israeli reports, Murtaja, who operated photo drones smuggled into Gaza, was an officer in the Hamas terror structure. According to an April 9 NRC statement, “Yasser Murtaja…had agreed to document for NRC the bitter prolonged struggle faced by Palestinian refugees in Gaza. The work was planned to start the day after he was killed.”
- Tweeted that “We are deeply disturbed to learn of the deaths of 9 Palestinian protestors on Land Day in Gaza. We are monitoring coverage of the #GreatReturnMarch. For all those protesting in solidarity here: if you have a question about your rights, contact us,” ignoring the fact that the majority of Palestinians killed during Friday’s clashes were Hamas operatives.
- Tweeted: “Those ‘tragically deadly consequences’ were not inevitable. They were deliberate decisions by the IDF to use live rounds on peaceful protestors. The IDF killed 5 Palestinians and injured over 1000 others yesterday. Hamas did not” (emphasis added).
- Tweeted: “Don’t let anyone tell you that the violence the IDF committed yesterday was a response to Palestinian actions. By their own admission, it was always the plan. They have no strategy for peacefully dealing with mass nonviolent protest” (emphasis added).
- On April 13, 2018, JVP called for people to contact Senator Gillibrand and urge her to “speak up for the rights of Palestinian protesters and lead with values for justice, equality, and dignity. #GreatReturnMarch.”
- JVP retweeted a tweet that lists “16 #Gaza victims,” and reads “Remember – and honor – those killed by Israeli military snipers while protesting in the #GreatReturnMarch” and another that reads “Palestinian names and lives are so often overlooked. Here are the names of 14 people shot and killed at the Gaza border by the Israeli army.” According to the IDF, 10 of these 16 individuals are Hamas terrorists.
- JVP tweeted “What a shameful statement. 15 dead. More than a thousand injured #GreatReturnMarch,” again ignoring the fact that at least ten of those killed were Hamas terrorists.
- JVP tweeted, “Thousands of Palestinian refugees in #Gaza march for #HumanRights as the Israeli military opens fire. The world supports the #GreatReturnMarch” (emphasis added).
- On April 7, 2018, AIDA released a statement “condemning Israel’s unlawful killing of civilians in Gaza” and called for an “independent and transparent investigation into the killing and injuring of civilians in the context of peaceful demonstrations, and for those responsible to be held to account.”
- On April 14, 2018, Executive Director Yousef Munayyer debated Danny Ayalon on Al Jazeera about “Israel’s deadly tactics against Palestinian protestors in Gaza.” According to Munayyer, “These protests are going to continue…They are inspiring for Palestinians who are looking at mass popular mobilisation as a way to continue to resist and demand their rights.”
- On April 13, 2018, USCPR called for Senator Gillibrand to “speak out for unarmed Palestinian demonstrators and journalists being shot by the Israeli army. Condemn the killings. Call for an investigation. The world needs your leadership!”
- On April 10, 2018, Munayyer tweeted: “The military calls the shooting of an unarmed, nonthreatening protester ‘exemplary’ but will discipline those who took and posted an unauthorized video of an operational event. You can’t make this up. They are saying, good job shooting protesters, next time don’t get caught.”
- USCPR launched a campaign to “hold Israel accountable for Gaza Land Day Massacre” stating that “Israel is expecting to act with impunity – again. But you can help hold it accountable for its excessive use of force against Palestinian demonstrators.” The campaign called for people to contact their members of Congress and “demand an investigation to hold Israel accountable.”
- On April 12, 2018, members of CodePink confronted U.N. Ambassador Niki Haley asking, “why are you blocking an investigation into the Israeli use of excessive force in Gaza?…Israel deserves to be held accountable just like any other country.”
- On April 13, 2018, EuroMed Rights and FIDH called on the European Union to “urge Israel to refrain from using lethal or excessive force against unarmed protesters.”
*Organizations with alleged links to the PFLP terrorist organization. See NGO Monitor’s report “The European-Funded NGO PFLP Network.”