Human Rights Watch ignores critical aspects of Gaza riots

Palestinian protesters during clashes with Israeli forces near the Gaza-Israel border in Rafah, Gaza on May 14, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90 photo)

While attempting to disguise itself within a peaceful protest, the violence taking place along the Gaza-Israel border is nothing of the sort. Organized by Hamas, and joined by Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror groups, the “March of Return” event, as stated by a Hamas leader, “affirms that our people can’t give up one inch of the land of Palestine” – reiterating the terror group’s continued rejection of a State of Israel within any border.

What is more is that Hamas has incentivized violence along the border – including encouraging individuals to throw stones and Molotov cocktails, plant explosive devices, and destroy the border fence to infiltrate Israel to carry out attacks – by providing $500 to anyone injured and $3,000 to “martyrs.”

Hamas calls for the presence of women and children, hoping that if they are caught in the crossfire, it will secure a public relations victory.

Therefore, it is surprising that groups claiming to uphold universal human rights chose to ignore these crucial aspects. Human Rights Watch (HRW) is a stark case in point.

On April 2, Human Right Watch’s (HRW)Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir tweeted that his followers should “stay tuned” as HRW was “investigating Israel’s killings of demonstrators in Gaza…” (referring to the March 30 riots that resulted in 14 deaths) and that it would be releasing its findings the next day. Shakir’s preview notably omitted any mention of an investigation of Hamas’ clearly stated plan to storm and breach the border, thereby promoting bloodshed on both sides.

HRW’s resulting report echoes Shakir’s outrageous bias. The sources relied upon, the lack of verified evidence, and the erasing of the context of the event is simply an utter disgrace to the field of human rights research and advocacy.

For instance, the publication relies on allegations from fringe activists, ones that promote and share violent Hamas videos memorializing terrorist attacks and others that display a “100 metre map of Palestine” that encompasses the entire State of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

HRW – a group claiming to defend “the rights of people worldwide” – blatantly ignores the threat that Hamas and other terrorist factions pose to both Palestinian and Israeli civilians and does not mention the recruitment and use of children as soldiers – as seen in children throwing rocks and approaching the border –  and also ignores the use of children as human shields.


HRW also fails to acknowledge the human rights of Israelis living in dozens of communities only a few hundred metres from Gaza and the very real terror and potential catastrophe posed by tens of thousands of individuals storming the border. Instead, the NGO absurdly claims that there was no evidence presented that “some demonstrators seriously threatened Israeli soldiers…”

Is HRW suggesting that Israel should wait to act until a mob of thousands (including terrorists) break through the border and attack? By implying such, HRW undermines the fundamental principle of international law – that a country has an unfettered right to defend its border from hostile attack. Moreover, if the IDF had followed HRW’s hollow advice, the death toll may have been hundreds of times greater.

Unfortunately, HRW’s publication is not an aberration. Its failure to promote universal human rights is not new and while its distorted narrative does not promote the human rights of Israelis, it also effectively denies the human rights of Palestinians. As the National Post reported, “It’s Hamas that wants to see Palestinians killed, not Israel.”

HRW’s refusal to confront the damage it has done by issuing such publications exposes a tremendous void in the world of human rights advocacy. Who can we rely on to advocate for innocent civilians both within Gaza and within Israel if the largest human rights organization sides with a terrorist group?