Tirana Hassan, executive director of Human Rights Watch. Credit: Allison HRW via Wikimedia Commons.

by Bassam Tawil

(Gatestone Institute) — Human Rights Watch has once again exposed its unvarnished anti-Israel bias, this time by alleging that Israel systematically targets Palestinian children. The outrageous — and false — allegation was included in a new report published by HRW on August 28 under the title: “West Bank: Spike in Israeli killings of Palestinian children.” The report claims that “the Israeli military and border police forces are killing Palestinian children with virtually no recourse for accountability.”

Noting that HRW “investigated four fatal shootings of Palestinian children by Israeli forces between November 2022 and March 2023,” the report fails to mention that during this period Israel faced a massive wave of terrorism sponsored and funded by the Iranian regime and its Palestinian terror proxies, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The report also fails to mention that the terrorist groups have been recruiting Palestinian teenagers as combatants and sending them to kill Israeli civilians and soldiers.

It further fails to mention that more than 30 Israelis have been killed since the beginning of this year in a series of terrorist attacks in Israel and the West Bank. In the past two weeks, Palestinian terrorists murdered a Jewish mother of three and a Jewish father and his son in two separate shooting attacks in the West Bank. HRW did not issue a report about that.

One of the cases “investigated” by HRW is that of Mahmoud al-Sadi, 17, reportedly killed by Israeli security forces as he walked to school near the Jenin refugee camp in northern Samaria on Nov. 21, 2022. Notably, the HRW report does not mention why Israeli troops had entered the camp.

Were the Israeli soldiers bored and thinking, “Gee, might be fun to go shoot up a few kids today”? No. Israeli security forces entered the camp as part of a counter-terrorism operation designed to foil attacks by Hamas and PIJ. The Jenin camp has long served as a hub for Iran-backed Islamist terrorists who see themselves engaged in a jihad (holy war) to eliminate Israel. Several terrorists who carried out shooting attacks in the West Bank and Israel had come from the camp.

In the past two years, a large militia called Jenin Battalion started operating in the camp. Its members have since carried out constant shooting attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians. The Jenin Battalion terrorists, who are heavily armed, are mostly affiliated with PIJ, an extremist Islamist organization responsible for countless terrorist attacks that have killed and injured hundreds of Israelis in the past few decades. There is no mention of this militia or its activities in the HRW report. Evidently, HRW does not want the facts to spoil its effort to slander Israelis by depicting them as child-killers.

The exact circumstances of al-Sadi’s death will never be known, since he was quickly buried by his family and other Palestinians in the refugee camp. The Israeli army said soldiers who were trying to arrest suspected terrorists had come under fire from Palestinian gunmen. Apparently, al-Sadi was killed in the exchange of gunfire.

While HRW presents al-Sadi as an unarmed teenager, Palestinians posted a photo of him carrying a M-16 rifle. Apparently such photos, where Palestinian teenagers are featured brandishing weapons and dressed in military outfits, are irrelevant to HRW.

Bizarrely, HRW does admit that the remaining three “children” allegedly killed by Israel were involved in terrorist attacks. Yet, as far as HRW is concerned, Israeli soldiers and police have no right to defend themselves when they are attacked with stones, firebombs and fireworks. Why? According to the logic of HRW, the perpetrators are “only” teenagers.

Does HRW really expect Israeli soldiers and policemen to ask someone who shoots at or firebombs them how old they are before shooting back? The other three Palestinian teenagers mentioned in the report —  Wadie Abu Ramuz, Mohammad al-Saleem and Adam Ayyad — were not killed while in their beds, on their way to school or to buy bread for their moms.

Abu Ramuz, a resident of eastern Jerusalem, was fatally shot by police officers as he attacked them with fireworks. Al-Saleem, from the West Bank village of Azzun, was a member of an armed group called Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. He too was killed while attacking Israeli soldiers with incendiary devices. Ayyad, a resident of Dheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem, was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist group. Ayyad went into battle intending to die, and carried a written will in his pocket. “God fulfilled my dream of becoming a martyr,” he wrote in the document. “Martyrdom is not only death. It is pride for us and the whole world.”

Instead of denouncing the Palestinians for using children as combatants, HRW is condemning Israel for defending itself against terrorism.

“Following a failed campaign by anti-Israel NGOs to get the Israel Defense Forces included on a United Nations blacklist of child rights abusers, HRW makes another attempt with their new report,” noted NGO Monitor, a globally recognized research institute promoting democratic values and good governance.

Arsen Ostrovsky, CEO of the International Legal Forum, said that “contrary to HRW’s malicious lies and gross distortions of truth and law, Israeli security forces only target Palestinian terrorists.” He added:

“If HRW truly cared about the welfare of Palestinian children, it would call out Palestinian terror groups for using Palestinian children as human shields, while the Palestinian Authority [headed by Mahmoud Abbas] continues to create a systematic infrastructure of incitement and glorification of violence.”

Each time HRW publishes an anti-Israel report, one cannot help recalling the damning criticism of the organization by its own founder and longtime chairman, the late Robert L. Bernstein.

In a 2009 opinion piece in The New York Times, Bernstein lashed out at HRW over its obsession with Israel:

“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,” he wrote.

“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.

“Leaders of Human Rights Watch know that Hamas and Hezbollah chose to wage war from densely populated areas, deliberately transforming neighborhoods into battlefields. They know that more and better arms are flowing into both Gaza and Lebanon and are poised to strike again. And they know that this militancy continues to deprive Palestinians of any chance for the peaceful and productive life they deserve. Yet Israel, the repeated victim of aggression, faces the brunt of Human Rights Watch’s criticism.”

Although Bernstein’s criticism was published more than a decade ago, HRW continues to prove that his every word remains as relevant today as it was then. HRW’s ongoing obsession with Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, serves as a reminder that the organization is on the side of the terrorists who appear as committed to killing Americans (herehere and here) and other Westerners, as to destroying Israel and killing Jews.

As the United States approaches the 22nd anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, we see Islamic State virtually doubling the territory it controls in Mali, in addition to other terror threats.

The HRW reports are no less dangerous than the non-stop incitement to violence by Hamas and PIJ on Al Manar, Al Jazeera Arabic, or by the regimes of Qatar and Iran. Such reports provide ammunition to Iran and its proxies to pursue their murderous campaign against Israel and the West, and reveal that HRW is not all that different from the Palestinian terrorists and their patrons in Iran.

Originally published by The Gatestone Institute.