HRW: Israel more hostile than ever

Foreign Ministry: "What truly became more hostile is the stance of groups like Human Rights Watch."

Hostility toward local and international human rights groups operating in Israel mounted in 2009 because of their reports on Operation Cast Lead, Human Rights Watch charged in its annual world report, released Thursday.
"Local and international human rights groups working in Israel have experienced a more hostile climate than ever before after documenting abuses committed by Israel, as well as Hamas, during the December 2008-January 2009 fighting in Gaza and Israel in connection with Israel's ongoing blockade of Gaza," wrote HRW executive-director Kenneth Roth in his introduction to the 612-page report.
In response, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said: "What truly became more hostile was the attitude of organizations such as Human Rights Watch and others towards Israel. The level of Israel-bashing, of disproportionate and at times hysterical criticism, of obsessive blame-gaming and sheer lies, has reached unprecedented peaks, more often than not without appropriate evidence to support the allegations."
The Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor watchdog organization charged that the report "reflects a continuing and pervasive anti-Israel bias, repeating many of the unjustified allegations that the organization made in 2009."
NGO Monitor noted that the report allots more pages to Israel than to any country other than China, though it should be pointed out that the section also includes alleged human rights abuses committed by the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.
The section devoted to Israel and the Palestinian territories deals primarily with the fighting in the Gaza Strip including Operation Cast Lead and the shelling of Israeli civilian targets by Palestinian terrorists.
For the first time, it seems, HRW noted that Hamas had used human shields during Operation Cast Lead. "Palestinian armed groups unnecessarily placed Palestinian civilians at risk from retaliatory attacks by firing rockets from densely populated areas," the report says. "Additionally, reports by news media and a nongovernmental organization indicate that in some cases, Palestinian armed groups intentionally hid behind civilians to unlawfully use them as shields to deter Israeli counter-attacks."
HRW accused Israel of shelling densely populated areas with heavy artillery and white phosphorous, of killing at least 11 civilians who were waving white flags, of firing missiles from aerial drones killing 87 civilians and of destroying or damaging civilian structures including a flour mill, food and cement factories and greenhouses.
It pointed out that the IDF has initiated only 27 military police investigations of alleged illegal acts by soldiers so far.
It also criticized Israel for continuing the blockade against Gaza after the fighting, thereby preventing the reconstruction of the area.
"As of September," the report states, "roughly 20,000 people remained homeless and 10,000 remained without water. Items Israel prohibited from entry included reconstruction materials, chickpeas, dates, macaroni, a water purification system and 120 truckloads of school supplies."
Regarding Jerusalem and the West Bank, the report noted that a Palestinian human rights organization had received 150 complaints of torture perpetrated by Palestinian Authority security agents against Palestinians.
In east Jerusalem and the West Bank, meanwhile, Israeli authorities demolished 103 residential structures, displacing 581 people, and held 335 Palestinians in administrative detention.