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September 2, 2014 8:29 pm

Ken Roth’s Twitter War Against Israel

avatar by Petra Marquardt-Bigman


The Executive Director, Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth. Photo: Kai Mork.

After I recently wrote about Ken Roth’s preposterous defense of the tunnels dug by Hamas in order to attack Israeli communities near Gaza, I realized that Roth displays his pronounced bias against Israel quite openly on Twitter. Before we look at a small sample of Roth’s relevant tweets, it’s worthwhile to note that his interest in all things Israeli is not necessarily driven by the news, because some topics that should be very important for his work are obviously of very little interest to him.

Consider this astonishing tweet Roth posted on Aug. 28:

So here we have the executive Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) wondering if perhaps someone somewhere could “inspire Pakistan’s army to stop sponsoring rights abuses.” A lot of people might wonder if this wasn’t part of Ken Roth’s well-paid job, particularly given the fact that last December the Asian Human Rights Commission released a report that comes to the grim conclusion that “Pakistan has turned into a killing field; its citizens brutalized.”

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Well, maybe someone somewhere will do something about it – apparently it won’t be Ken Roth, and perhaps it also shouldn’t be him but rather someone who is familiar with the well-documented fact that Pakistan’s army is not just “sponsoring” rights abuses, but also committing plenty of them. Among the recent news about Pakistan that Ken Roth didn’t find worthwhile mentioning on Twitter are “extremely serious and provocative” clashes between Indian and Pakistani troops along the tense dividing line in Kashmir as well as further killings in Balochistan – which some see as Pakistan’s “Palestine” – and anti-government protests in Islamabad that resulted in “fighting” that left three protesters dead and hundreds injured.

But the dangerously failing Muslim state that was established barely a year before Israel interests Ken Roth obviously much less than the world’s only Jewish state. When it comes to Israel, no detail is too small to escape Roth’s attention – even a nixed radio advertisement can serve as some kind of evidence confirming Roth’s suspicion that deep down, the “Israeli nation” knows what Roth is broadcasting tirelessly on Twitter: that Israel has not really “acted properly.”

Indeed, the executive director of HRW doesn’t feel it’s necessary to wait for any investigations to suggest that Israel is guilty of war crimes and that it deviously tries to “change [the] subject” to cover up those crimes. But as far as Ken Roth is concerned, it won’t help the Jewish state to point to its respect for human rights at home, or to the fact that Hamas started the war and committed plenty of war crimes while fighting it.

So it’s perhaps hardly surprising that when Ken Roth sees images of a partly destroyed Hamas stronghold, these images strike him as “apocalyptic” – just as the Palestinian producers of the clip obviously had in mind given the choice of the sound track. Roth also spread the news that a “U.S. military officer” was absolutely sure that the “IDF didn’t try to minimize civilian dead” in this Hamas stronghold and that it was ridiculous to claim that Hamas was hiding behind civilians.

Roth relied for this information on an article by Mark Perry published on Al Jazeera America.  As it happens, both the Qatari-owned channel and the “false flag“-author are reliable sources for anyone in search of news biased against Israel. Needless to say, Perry once again claims to rely on “senior U.S. military sources speaking on condition of anonymity” – and needless to say, he pretends to get from these anonymous sources not just their personal views, but “the U.S. military’s” “assessment of Israel’s Gaza operation.”

Eventually, shortly before the fighting ended, Roth himself decided to play the military expert. Protesting Israeli strikes on some high-rise buildings in Gaza, Roth criticized that just because Israel claimed to target a terror site in a high-rise building, there was no justification for bringing down the entire tower. As in many of his tweets about Israel, the article he linked to – in this case a Reuters report on the cease-fire – provided no basis for his criticism, since there is no reference to Israeli strikes on any high-rise buildings. However, in an article published shortly after the cease-fire came into effect, a high-ranking Israeli officer involved in directing Israel’s Operation Protective Edge explained how the need to fight terrorist groups instead of conventional armies was forcing Israel to respond to the new threats:

“What terror did was, first and foremost, to recognize IDF’s superiority in the acknowledged [conventional] spheres: air, sea, and land. So they created a new underground medium, tunnels, building them as a new combat space under their control. And they squeezed their activity into villages, cities and towns. In Lebanon, Hezbollah dispersed its strength among 200 villages. In Gaza, it is crammed into the crowded urban space. Almost every multistory building has a Hamas headquarters. They counted on the assumption that Israel wouldn’t touch a 14-story residential building filled with civilians on flights three to 14, while the three lowest flights are occupied by Hamas headquarters.”

Perhaps Ken Roth will soon advise the IDF how to effectively strike the three lowest floors of a high-rise without affecting the upper floors – or perhaps he will side with Hamas and claim that just as they are entitled to use tunnels, they are also entitled to use civilian high-rises for their purposes.

As already noted, Roth often links in his tweets on Israel to articles that don’t have any obvious relation to the views he posts. Sometimes, there is even a somewhat counterproductive effect, as is arguably the case in this tweet where Roth claims that “#Israel quest for mere ‘quiet’ is euphemistic way to say it doesn’t want accord for ending #Gaza siege. That’s wrong.” The New York Times (NYT) article he links to merely asserts that at the end of 50 days of war, both Israel and the Palestinians are “more entrenched.” For Roth it is obviously not worthwhile pondering what it means when a terror group with a genocidal anti-Semitic charter is “more entrenched,” and he also ignores the photo that accompanies the article with the caption: “A Palestinian girl carried a Kalashnikov rifle on Friday amid Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza City.” The caption leaves out that the girl is also dressed up as a fighter of the “Saraya al-Quds”, i.e. Jerusalem Brigades of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

This was by no means the only such picture coming out of Gaza in recent days, and such images obviously document Israel’s often voiced concern about the glorification of terrorism that is passed on already to very young Palestinian children. But the executive director of HRW wouldn’t find such an image noteworthy, and even if the related article describes both Israel and the Palestinians as “more entrenched,” Ken Roth will feel that only Israel should be criticized.

Apparently Roth is also aware that Israel “sells” – which means on Twitter that it boosts retweets and responses. On Aug. 27, he posted a tweet about the casualties caused by cluster bombs in Syria and linked to a related NYT article. The tweet was retweeted by 29 people and favorited by 9.  Some two hours later, Roth linked to the same article, but this time, he mentioned Israel – and the tweet garnered 60 retweets and 22 favorites.

It turns out that Israel-bashing is what makes Ken Roth’s tweets really popular: as blogger Elder of Ziyon found out, an analysis of Roth’s recent 3,200 tweets shows that his top 10 tweets (i.e. those that garnered the largest number of retweets) include eight tweets about Israel. Most of them are misleading or even outright falsehoods, such as claims about very high civilian casualty rates in Gaza based on unchecked Palestinian numbers, or the false claim that Hamas had nothing to do with the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in June.

What makes these results even more revealing is that Elder also checked out HRW’s top 10 tweets and none of them is about Israel. But then HRW also gets at most a few hundred retweets, while Ken Roth’s Israel-bashing garners thousands of retweets. That is despite the fact that HRW has 1.36 million followers while Ken Roth has just some 75 000. It almost looks as if the people who follow Roth know that he will provide them with plenty of Israel-bashing that they can conveniently retweet.

So the executive director of HRW may well be one of the most effective Israel-bashers on Twitter, and he’s likely the best paid.

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