Hamas’ Silent Partners

Hamas’ Silent Partners

Lenny Ben-David

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh set out his strategy for political warfare against Israel in parallel with his military campaign on October 19, 2013, when he offered “Blessings to all the commissions, individuals, civil society groups, and human rights organizations that worked to break the siege on Gaza and who fought against the [Israeli] fence and the settlements.”1 Haniyeh was addressing his remarks to the large group of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) critical of Israel and the IDF in the media and international arena.

“Moreover,” Haniyeh continued, “we bear in mind those…who stood by our cause and against the Zionist war on our land, and this reflects the consciousness of the nations regarding our just cause and the level of transgression and racism undertaken by the Zionist entity against our people.”

Hamas Prime Minister in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniyeh in a televised address in Gaza City on October 19, 2013 (Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto/Sipa)

Hamas Prime Minister in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniyeh in a televised address in Gaza City on October 19, 2013 (Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto/Sipa)

Haniyeh explained that the Palestinian struggle against Israel is “comprised of the armed struggle, the popular struggle, the diplomatic and political struggle, public affairs, public and legal and academic and diplomatic boycotts [emphasis added], and it must take place at all levels – regional and international.” Hamas and other terrorist organizations rely on international organizations to condemn, defame, and boycott Israel with the aim of undermining international support.

Dozens of Palestinian, Israeli, international, and Christian organizations are engaged in the Palestinians’ campaign against Israel and are supported financially by major foundations, private donations, and even European governments.

Today, dozens of Palestinian, Israeli, international, and Christian organizations are engaged in the Palestinians’ campaign against Israel and are supported financially by major foundations, private donations, and even European governments.2 Journalists quote NGOs at length, usually not aware that the “humanitarian” organizations often rely on Hamas offices such as the Gaza Ministry of Health for their “information” on casualty figures.

Discredited UN bodies such as the 2009 “Goldstone Commission” relied heavily on the reports coming from some of the Hamas-fed organizations. Presumably, as the new UN commissions begin their investigations on the 2014 war, they also will rely on these groups.

Some NGOs claim that Israel commits war crimes, collective punishments, crimes against humanity, and disproportionate, indiscriminate, and unlawful attacks. They rebroadcast Hamas’ “civilian” casualty reports that cite anonymous “eyewitnesses” and do so without any critical analysis or investigation. In one case, an organization fabricated a canard that Israel was using experimental Dense Inert Metal Explosives (DIME) against civilians.3

Perhaps the most disproportionate detail in NGO reports is the paucity of accusations and condemnation against Hamas for its many war crimes, attacks on civilians, use of human shields, and summary executions of its own people.

The Physicians for Human Rights–Israel (PHR-I) report4 displayed the organization’s bias in the very first line of its 237-page indictment of Israel: “On 8 July 2014, Israel initiated a military offensive in the Gaza Strip.”

Who began the war? No mention is made in the report of Hamas’ indiscriminate barrages of rockets against Israeli civilians that preceded the Israel Air Force action. (Indeed, Hamas rockets were barely mentioned in the entire report.) Only on July 17, after Hamas’ tunnel assaults into Israel, did Israel begin its ground operation inside Gaza.

In the PHR-I case studies are a video interview and this narrative about a policeman, Osama al-Batash, which are both deceptive and revealing:

Osama el-Batash, 31 years old, a policeman. Resident of al-Tuffah neighborhood of Gaza City. Injured on July 12, 2014 at 10:00 pm. Osama and his family were having their Ramadan fast-breaking dinner at his uncle’s when two missiles hit the house with no prior warning. The explosion caused the collapse of the four-story building and three adjacent buildings were affected in the blast. Twenty people died in the explosion and more than 50 were injured. After his injury his leg was amputated. He suffers from franctures (sic) in the jaw and many burns in different parts of his body.

Who Is His Uncle, Host of the Post-Ramadan Dinner?

Tayseer Batash served as the chief of Gaza’s police, appointed by Hamas and with the rank of Brigadier General. Tayseer was wounded in the attack. Most of the men killed were between the ages of 17 and 28 and, like Osama, likely to have been Hamas police.5 At their funerals their bodies were draped with Hamas flags. Any women and children killed in the blast were used as human shields by the chief of police and his men.

The Gazan police is “an integral part of the security layout of the Hamas regime in Gaza,” charges the Israel Security Agency. “[Police] officers are de facto still part of Hamas combat troops, participating in military activity against the IDF, from shooting at the IDF to monitoring its movements to terror activity against Israel.”6

“The IDF decided to strike the house of Hamas commander Tayseer al-Batash,” Ha’aretz reported, “which is near a mosque, after a number of individuals were spotted about to launch rockets, according to the army.”7

The NGO claims against Israel were led by two of the mega-NGOs: Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Others who weighed in included B’Tselem, Adalah, Al-Haq, Association for Human Rights in Israel (ACRI), the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), Oxfam, and Yesh Din.

Human Rights Watch Lost Its Way

Formed in 1978, with the noble intent to protect human rights around the world, Human Rights Watch (HRW) today, with its $50 million budget, devotes much of its energy to investigating and chastising open societies such as Israel. “The real activity of this organization today,” human rights activist Natan Sharansky asserted, “is a far cry from what it was set up 30 years ago to do: throw light in dark places where there is really no other way to find out what is happening regarding human rights.”8

HRW makes numerous accusations about the usage and types of Israeli weapons in order to support claims of Israeli violations of the rules of war, despite its lack of any military experts or observers on the battlefield. For example, in response to HRW accusations about Israel’s use of drone missiles against Gaza in 2009, Robert Hewson, editor of Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons, responded, “Human Rights Watch makes a lot of claims and assumptions about weapons and drones, all of which is still fairly speculative, because we have so little evidence.”9

An Anti-Israel Obsession

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch (Goncalo Silva/Nur Photo/Sipa)

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch (Goncalo Silva/Nur Photo/Sipa)

HRW’s executive director, Kenneth Roth, issued 400 tweets about Israel to his 90,000 followers during the course of the 2014 Gaza war, reflecting his obsessive and “personal animus towards the Jewish state and even less credibility,” NGO Monitor noted.10

This animus was very apparent when Roth tweeted on September 15, 2014, “Germans rally against anti-Semitism that flared in Europe in response to Israel’s conduct in Gaza war.”11

Roth’s blaming Israel for European anti-Semitism was attacked by The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg: “Roth’s framing of this issue is very odd and obtuse. Anti-Semitism in Europe did not flare ‘in response to Israel’s conduct in Gaza,’ or anywhere else. Anti-Semitic violence and invective are not responses to events in the Middle East, just as anti-Semitism does not erupt ‘in response’ to the policies of banks owned by Jews….It is a universal and immutable rule that the targets of prejudice are not the cause of prejudice….Like all prejudices, anti-Semitism is not a rational response to observable events; it is a manifestation of irrational hatred.”12

Careful reading of reports published by HRW on Israeli violations of the laws of war shows the reports to be speculative, tentative, and uncertain. Every “eyewitness” account by Palestinians is accepted uncritically; every response by the Israel Defense Forces is treated skeptically. The following is from one HRW report widely covered in the media, Israel: In-Depth Look at Gaza School Attacks:13

  • Israel’s attacks “did not appear to target a military objective…” [emphasis added]
  • “At about 10:45 a.m. on August 3, an apparent Israeli Spike guided missile hit…”
  • “It is highly unlikely that at least four of the inaccurate, unguided rockets used by Palestinian armed groups…”
  • “It is also unlikely that Palestinian armed groups would have targeted the area near the school with mortars…”
  • “An inspection of the site and photographs of munition remnants found at the school suggest…”
  • “Israeli ground forces were apparently present…”
  • “Human Rights Watch observed tank tread-marks….The tanks demonstrate the presence of Israeli troops in the vicinity who could have been the source of the mortar rounds.”
  • “An inspection of the impact mark across the street from the school…strongly suggests that the munition was a Spike missile.”

Gaza Residents: Hamas Was in the
Destroyed Towers

On December 9, 2014, Amnesty International issued a 32-page report charging that Israel’s destruction of four high-rise buildings in Gaza was a “war crime.”14 Amnesty claimed that the attacks were “collective punishment” and “all the evidence we have shows this large-scale destruction was carried out deliberately and with no military justification.”15

Amnesty admitted that none of the residents of the buildings suffered any physical harm after several methods of Israeli advance warnings allowed them to evacuate. It is also clear that many of the apartments belonged to Hamas officials and offices that had been evacuated early in the war. Amnesty failed to see the evidence. Amnesty’s supposed witnesses were all unnamed.

The four buildings (12-story Zafer Tower in Gaza City, 7-story office building in Rafah, 16-floor Italian Center, and 13-story al-Basha Tower) were not innocent residential buildings. The Rafah building “was said to contain an office of the Hamas interior ministry,” according to one British reporter.16 Other buildings contained Hamas news offices and radio stations, according to Israeli accounts.

Palestinians inspect the rubble of the al-Zafer apartment tower, which contained Hamas offices, following Israeli airstrikes on August 23, 2014. The IDF ensured that the building was evacuated before targeting it. (AP photo/Adel Hana)

Palestinians inspect the rubble of the al-Zafer apartment tower, which contained Hamas offices, following Israeli airstrikes on August 23, 2014. The IDF ensured that the building was evacuated before targeting it. (AP photo/Adel Hana)

Amnesty was unmoved by these facts and complained about the resultant monetary and property damage. “Even if the Israeli authorities had good reason to believe that a part of a building was being used for military purposes, they had an obligation to choose means and methods of attack that would minimize harm to civilians and their property,” the report charged.17

The strongest rebuttals to Amnesty’s report come from Palestinians in Gaza who are refusing to rent their properties to Hamas officials. Amnesty International had only to interview them. “Gaza Landlords Refuse to Rent to ‘Targeted Families’,” wrote Al Monitor on October 1, 2014.18

On September 6, Al Monitor related, “The residents of Daoud Tower organized a protest in front of the building, in the middle of the Ramal neighborhood in Gaza, to prevent the media and the employees of political organizations to enter their offices.”19

“A woman was carrying a sign that read ‘NO to service, media and security institutions in Daoud Tower!’” according to Al Monitor. The woman explained, “The tower was bombed eight times during the war. We were terrified. Our cars and neighboring apartments were destroyed, and some of us were injured. All of this happened because certain political bureaus [Hamas] rent offices here under the pretext of being trade companies.”20

Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzouk complained that after the war, landlords in Gaza “were afraid to rent out their apartments out of fear they would be targeted by Israel in the future,” according to reporter Khaled Abu Toameh.21

The nature of the high-rise apartment occupants was revealed already in the 1990s when the U.S. government audited several housing projects it had funded. It found that the high-rise buildings in Gaza “may not benefit the project’s intended beneficiaries – lower-income residents.”22

The apartments were apparently going to Gaza officials. The audit explained, “The Memorandum of Understanding between USAID and the Palestinian Housing Council (PHC) sets out the requirement that the beneficiaries represent the lower-income group….Our audit found, however, that the PHC was considering selling the housing units to higher-income Palestinians.”

The residences in the Zafer Tower included two penthouses and 40 three-bedroom apartments of 1,615 square feet. According to a New York Times report, the apartments originally sold for $60,000 each, a tony sum for poverty-stricken Gaza.23 “The Israeli military said the building was ‘a command and control center’ where ‘multiple floors’ were ‘used regularly by Hamas for operational activities’ throughout the seven-week battle,” the report noted. “In interviews, more than half the tower’s occupants said that Hamas had taken over one of the penthouse apartments in 2007 for what several said was a ‘media office’ filled with computers and communications equipment.”

Lenny Ben-David, Director of Publications at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former senior Israeli diplomat in Washington and AIPAC official in Washington and Jerusalem. He is the Publisher of IsraelDailyPicture.com.

Notes

1 Jonathan D. Halevi, “Hamas Strategy: Manipulate Human Rights Groups,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, October 24, 2013, http://jcpa.org/hamas-strategy-manipulate-human-rights-groups, citing http://safa.ps/details/news/114151#sthash.ai7wsAni.BJTG3Vlv.dpuf
2 “Memo: Ending Secrecy in European Union Funding to Political Advocacy NGOs Operating in the Arab-Israeli Conflict, NGO Monitor, March 13, 2013, http://www.ngo-monitor.org/article/memo_ending_secrecy_ in_european_union_funding_to_political_advocacy_ngos_operating_in_the_arab_israeli_conflict
3 Rania Khalek, “Israel Firing Experimental Weapons at Gaza’s Civilians, Say Doctors,” Electronic Intifada, July 15, 2014, http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/rania-khalek/israel-firing-experimental-weapons-gazas-civilians-say-doctors
4 “Gaza 2014: Findings of an Independent Medical Fact-Finding Mission,” Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights-Gaza, Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, Palestinian Center for Human Rights-Gaza, https://gazahealthattack.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/gazareport_eng
5 “Gaza Casualties: 54 Families Who Have Lost More than Four Relatives,” Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), 2014, http://www.smh.com.au/interactive/2014/gaza-victims/gaza-family/index.html
6 “Hamas Police ‘Dual Function’ in the Gaza Strip,” Israel Security Agency, http://www.shabak.gov.il/ENGLISH/ENTERRORDATA/REVIEWS/Pages/Hamas120709.aspx
7 Gili Cohen, “IDF to Open Criminal Probes into Five Gaza War Cases,” Ha’aretz, September 10, 2014, 
http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.615089
8 Herb Keinon, “Israel vs. Human Rights Watch,” Jerusalem Post, July 16, 2009, http://www.jpost.com/Features/Front-Lines/Diplomacy-Israel-vs-Human-Rights-Watch
9 Dan Williams, “Human Rights Watch Accuses Israel over Gaza Drones,” Reuters, June 30, 2009, http://uk.mobile.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUKLU5522820090630
10 “Ken Roth’s Immoral Anti-Israel Obsession and the Gaza War,” NGO Monitor, September 4, 2014, http://www.ngo-monitor.org/article/ken_roth_s_immoral_anti_israel_obsession_and_the_gaza_war_
11 Kenneth Roth, Twitter, September 15, 2014, https://twitter.com/KenRoth/status/511496648695226368
12 Jeffrey Goldberg, “Does Human Rights Watch Understand the Nature of Prejudice?” The Atlantic, September 21, 2014, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/09/does-human-rights-watchs-kenneth-roth-understand-the-nature-of-prejudice/380556/
13 “Israel: In-Depth Look at Gaza School Attacks,” Human Rights Watch, September 11, 2014, 
http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/09/11/israel-depth-look-gaza-school-attacks
14 “‘Nothing Is Immune’: Israel’s Destruction of Landmark Buildings in Gaza,” Amnesty International, December 9, 2014, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE15/029/2014/en
15 “Amnesty: Israeli Strikes on Gaza Buildings ‘War Crimes’,” BBC News, December 9, 2014, 
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-30393540
16 Robert Tait, “Israel’s Destruction of Gaza Tower Blocks a ‘War Crime,’ Says Amnesty,” Telegraph (UK), December 9, 2014, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/11282525/Israeli-destruction-of-tower-blocks-were-war-crimes-says-Amnesty.html
17 “Israel’s Destruction of Multistorey Buildings: Extensive, Wanton and Unjustified,” Amnesty International, December 9, 2014, http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/israels-destruction-multistorey-buildings-extensive-wanton-and-unjustified-2014-12-09
18 Asmaa al-Ghoul, “Gaza Landlords Refuse to Rent to ‘Targeted Families’,” Al Monitor, October 1, 2014, 
http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/iw/originals/2014/10/gaza-destruction-homes.html#
19 Ibid., http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/iw/originals/2014/10/gaza-destruction-homes.html#
20 Ibid., http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/iw/originals/2014/10/gaza-destruction-homes.html#
21 Khaled Abu Toameh, “Gaza Landlords Refusing to Rent to Hamas, Official Says,” Jerusalem Post, September 14, 2014, http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Gaza-landlords-refusing-to-rent-to-Hamas-375325
22 “Audit of the Gaza Housing Project,” USAID, Office of the Regional Inspector General, Cairo, Egypt, November 21, 1995, http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/pdabm321.pdf
23 Jodi Rudoren and Fares Akram, “Lost Homes and Dreams at Tower Israel Leveled,” New York Times, September 14, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/15/world/middleeast/at-gaza-tower-israel-leveled-lost-homes-and-dreams.html