Professor Gerald M. Steinberg

Israelis Have No 'Human Rights', Gerald M. Steinberg

Jerusalem Post

March 8, 2004

International Court of Justice proceedings at the Hague, political statements by the International Red Cross, one-sided UN resolutions, and biased reports from nongovernmental organizations are all manifestations of how human rights norms are manipulated to demonize Israel.

The international human rights framework was created in response to the horrors of the Holocaust and embodied in the Nuremberg trials and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But going far beyond simple irony, this idealistic framework has been hijacked to justify the Palestinian terror campaign against Israelis.

A small group of powerful NGOs has played a leading role in this process. For example, on the day the ICJ began to hear arguments on the separation fence, Human Rights Watch stepped up to bat on the Palestinian team. On February 23, HRWs multi-million dollar public relations machine issued a press release and briefing paper condemning Israel's separation barrier.

At the same time Israeli victims of the latest Palestinian bus bombing were being buried, HRW's ideologists denounced "Israel's West Bank barrier" as a grievous violation of human rights. While claiming to speak in the name of humanitarian principles, HRW officials such as Joe Stork and Kenneth Roth have been abusing these norms in order to play an active role in the public-relations campaign to demonize Israel.

HRW was present in Durban when the NGO community hijacked a UN conference on racism to promote its own racist anti-Zionist agenda. And as an NGO, supported by well-meaning but often uninformed donors who lack an independent evaluation capability, HRW is not held accountable to anybody.

Armed with a human rights halo HRW and its fellow NGOs (Amnesty, Oxfam, and their Palestinian subsidiaries) provide the ideological foundation that allows the terrorists get away with murder.
Beyond displaying a profound insensitivity to the Israeli victims of the latest Palestinian terror bombing in Jerusalem, HRW's consistent silence in response to this brutality (with the one exception of November 2002 that proves the rule) speaks volumes when contrasted with the massive campaign in support of the Palestinian political position.

Even in this single report on Palestinian terror, the politically correct HRW hierarchy sought to exonerate Yasser Arafat by ignoring the massive and clear evidence of the PLO leader's role.

The political goals of HRW's latest broadside are also reflected in the use of the standard vocabulary of demonization and delegitimation. In these political blitzkriegs, Israeli separation policies are denounced as "violations of international human rights and humanitarian law," entailing "indiscriminate punishment of entire communities," and constituting "arbitrary and excessive restrictions."

Not coincidentally, these politically loaded terms, which can never be tested or disproved, are also deeply embedded in the propaganda attacks voiced by the PLO officials at The Hague (whose salaries are still paid by British, Swedish and Danish taxpayers as part of the peace process), and by the other staunch human rights advocates – Saudi Arabia, Iran, the Arab League, the Conference of Islamic States, and the Palestinian-born prime minister of Belize.

IN ITS defense, HRW, like other groups, will point to the ritualized reference to Israel's right and duty to protect its civilians from attack. But this brief note, buried in the torrent of rhetoric damning the actions taken by Israel to implement this duty, highlights the complete absence of concern about the most human right of Israelis – the right to life.

Blanket claims regarding Palestinian inconvenience as a result of separation are not compared with the benefits of security for five million Israeli citizens. Indeed, the removal of checkpoints and the large-scale reduction in daily friction that will result from the construction of the separation barrier will actually benefit the populations on both sides. But HRW is ideologically blind to these dimensions.

In fact, the evidence demonstrates that HRW, like the UN's anti-democratic majority, only uses human rights as a cover for pursuing political advocacy campaigns. The real focus is on settlements, boundaries, and disputed territories.

Although the most recent press release denouncing the separation wall includes the mantra that HRW takes no position on the Israeli-Palestinian territorial dispute, the adoption of the Palestinian position and vocabulary on these issues demonstrates precisely the opposite.

The claim that "The route of the barrier is designed to incorporate and make contiguous with Israel the civilian settlements" is also factually incorrect. Many settlements are outside the fence and some are slated for removal, as part of the disengagement plan.

HRW's press statement exposes it as a biased political organization hiding behind the rhetoric of human rights. In the process, the basic right to life and to ride a bus without being blown to bits has been erased.

Will HRW's lasting legacy be the shameful destruction of the concept of human rights?