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5,000-Word Human Rights Watch Report on Israeli ‘Abusive Policing’ Fails to Condemn Arab Violence

avatar by Akiva Van Koningsveld


Israeli Border Police force members stand near burning tires by one of the entrances to the Arab-Jewish town of Lod, Israel May 13, 2021. REUTERS/Corinna Kern

Human Rights Watch (HRW) continues its all-out assault against Israel.

As Gaza Strip-based terrorist groups in May fired thousands of rockets at Israeli population centers, another dangerous front opened up in the conflict that would last 11 days. With Hamas’ encouragement, Arab Israelis in Lod, Acre, Jaffa, Haifa, and other so-called mixed communities carried out what have been described as “pogroms” against Jews and their property. The mayor of Lod, a town in central Israel, compared the days-long unrest in his city to “Kristallnacht” and warned of a civil war.

The massive wave of anti-Jewish violence was followed by some attacks by far-right Jewish mobs that Israeli politicians across the political spectrum immediately denounced in the strongest terms.

However, HonestReporting noted at the time that, according to data released by the Fire and Rescue Services, Arab violence exceeded the Jewish response by a hundredfold.

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Yet Human Rights Watch (HRW), in its latest report titled, “Israel: Abusive Policing in Lod During May Hostilities,” did not even bother to include these crucial facts. Instead, the 5,000-word paper presents the Israeli perspective as being “inaccurate and inflammatory.” At the same time, the New York-based group relies on questionable pro-Palestinian sources to conclude that law enforcement agencies responded to May’s events in an “apparently discriminatory manner.”

Nevertheless, HRW’s topsy-turvy distortion of the truth regarding the Arab-initiated violence was uncritically published by wire service Agence France-PresseThe Daily MailBreitbart and multiple European publications (see for example here and here).

According to the official figures, between May 11 and May 16, 2021, Arab Israelis set fire to at least 10 synagogues, 112 Jewish houses, and 849 Jewish-owned cars. Additionally, 673 Jewish homes were in a variety of ways damaged and the apartments of 386 Jewish families were looted. Authorities recorded a whopping 5,018 instances of stone-throwing at Jews.

After the first violence broke out in Lod, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem applauded the rioters’ actions. “This uprising once again proves the unity of the Palestinian people everywhere,” Qassem stated, while other Hamas officials called upon Israeli Arabs to further “ignite the flames of confrontation.”

The US-designated terror group continued to incite violence throughout the hostilities, saying that “the integration of the fronts in the West Bank, Gaza and 48 [Israel] are the keys to victory.”

By comparison, the widely condemned Jewish vigilantes did not burn down a single mosque. No looting of Arab houses was reported. In Jaffa, one home was firebombed — but this was most likely done by Arabs who mistook the house for one owned by Jews. In stark contrast to violence perpetrated by Arab Israelis, Jewish rioters damaged a total of 13 Arab properties and burned 13 cars. Moreover, Israel’s emergency services registered 41 cases where Jews threw stones at Arabs.

And, as opposed to Hamas’ response, Israeli leaders condemned these incidents unequivocally. “I do not care if your blood is boiling; you cannot take the law into your own hands,” then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated. When 30 Jewish extremists assaulted an Arab driver in Bat Yam, now-Foreign Minister Yair Lapid was quoted as saying that “the rioters in Bat Yam […] are a bunch of pathetic racists who don’t represent Israel’s Jews.” Bezalel Smotrich, head of the far-right Religious Zionism party, said he was “shocked and ashamed to the bottom of his soul” and called for restraint.

These were the realities on the ground. Yet the Human Rights Watch report nonetheless charges Israeli authorities with “forcibly dispersing Palestinians protesting peacefully, while using inflammatory rhetoric and failing to act even-handedly as Jewish ultra-nationalists attacked Palestinians.” HRW has called on the United Nations to investigate these “apparently discriminatory practices and whether the inflammatory comments by senior Israeli officials incited violence.”

The document fails to condemn Arab-Palestinian incitement and violence even once.

Human Rights Watch ostensibly interviewed 10 Lod residents as part of its research — although they are not named in the report. The NGO also consulted with “analysts from two [unnamed] Israeli human rights organizations.” Furthermore, HRW claims it conducted “analysis and geo-localization of several video clips.” However, close scrutiny of some of the sources reveals significant flaws with regard to HRW’s accusations.

For instance, the report posits that Israeli police on May 10 used “teargas, rubber bullets, and a stun grenade” against peaceful protesters near Lod’s al-Omari mosque. In HRW’s narrative, the police used “excessive force” after a protester “replaced an Israeli flag on an electric pole with a Palestinian one.”

In reality, the “protest” was not peaceful at all; the rioting and vandalism had already started. Footage not included in the paper also shows participants hoisting Hamas flags while vowing to “redeem Palestine” — apparently referring to the entire territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

In what seems to be a pattern, Human Rights Watch turns a blind eye to witness testimonies and evidence of the widespread Arab attacks against Jews, like the recently aired Israeli documentary “Five Days in May.” Meanwhile, the organization leans on doubtful Arabic-language sources, including a propaganda account linked to pro-Iranian militias in Iraq and Radwan Al-Akhras, a Palestinian writer who praised the terrorist who killed 19-year-old Yehuda Guetta and called for the eradication of “the Zionists and their supporters.”

HonestReporting already this year debunked Human Rights Watch’s libelous claim that Israel has implemented a system of “apartheid.” Moreover, we have disproved its accusations that the Israel Defense Forces committed “apparent war crimes” during May’s conflict with Gaza-based terrorist groups.

It’s about time for the media to stop taking HRW’s anti-Israel reports at face value.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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