J'lem think tank: HRW lacks credibility

Senior researcher for rights group's Mideast division insists his organization's work was unbiased.

idf arrest hamas gaza 298.88 (photo credit: )
idf arrest hamas gaza 298.88
(photo credit: )
Human Rights Watch's Middle East division used faulty methodology and showed gross bias in its reports on alleged human rights violations by the IDF, the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor said in a report released on Tuesday. But a senior researcher for HRW's Middle East division said his organization's work was unbiased, and that its reports were based on meticulous research and designed to help the Israeli military avoid civilian causalities rather than garner international condemnation. "In terms of reports on Israel, HRW has a very serious bias and lack of credibility," said Gerald Steinberg, who is president of of NGO Monitor and a professor at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan. "They handle Israel differently than other countries because they have people writing the reports who operate with a lack of expertise on human rights and international law and with a great bias against Israel." NGO's Monitor's 88-page report accuses HRW of hiring staff who have demonstrated records of anti-Israel activities, relying on unreliable evidence, witnesses and sources, and omitting evidence from its reports that does not support its predetermined conclusions. "As shown by NGO Monitor's unique in-depth analysis, HRW repeatedly applies unprofessional methodology in support of an anti-Israel bias," NGO Monitor said in a statement. "Human rights values and research standards have been replaced by ideology." "What we did in this report, and what everybody should do is to look at the facts," said Steinberg. "We found consistent, systematic false and unsupported statement. All of the reports on Israel are based on speculation designed to create incitement." But Bill Van Esveld, an HRW researcher on the Middle East and North Africa, said his organization operated without prejudice, and was scrupulous about reporting the facts as they were uncovered on the ground. "HRW is not anti-Israel we are not anti-any country," said Esveld. "We believe Israel has a right and obligation to defend its citizens. We only take issue with how countries go about defending their citizens. We want to hold them accountable to the law they themselves signed up for," he said." Esveld admitted that working with evidence from Palestinians, who often have an extreme bias against Israel, could make it difficult to determine the truth, but he said that these were the same challenges that faced any organization collecting evidence. "We take witness bias into account," said Esveld. "We throw out any mistakes. We dismiss witnesses we find not to be credible. But the idea that you can't get the truth from witnesses just because they are Palestinian is just bizarre - determinations of law are often made this way." The NGO Monitor report also accuses HRW of expending a disproportionate fraction of its efforts on Israel when there are truly tyrannical states in the region. "[HRW] also diverts resources that should be focused on the oppressive regimes and absence of basic freedoms in other Middle East countries," reads the report. Esveld responded that his organization actually created far more reports on neighboring countries but that the media simply focused its attention on Israel.