Human Rights Watch publishes another deceptive anti-Israel report
The newest Human Rights Watch hit job on Israel is massive – over 51,000 words – , and I don’t have enough hours to fisk it all. But the first few paragraphs should do:
Almost immediately after Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank in June 1967, the Israeli government began establishing settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. From the outset, private businesses have been involved in Israel’s settlement policies, benefiting from and contributing to them. This report details the ways in which Israeli and international businesses have helped to build, finance, service, and market settlement communities. In many cases, businesses are “settlers” themselves, drawn to settlements in part by low rents, favorable tax rates, government subsidies, and access to cheap Palestinian labor.
In fact, the physical footprint of Israeli business activity in the West Bank is larger than that of residential settlements. In addition to commercial centers inside of settlements, there are approximately 20 Israeli-administered industrial zones in the West Bank covering about 1,365 hectares, and Israeli settlers oversee the cultivation of 9,300 hectares of agricultural land. In comparison, the built-up area of residential settlements covers 6,000 hectares (although their municipal borders encompass a much larger area).
If this is true, then we can do the math on how massive Israel’s settlement enterprise is.
The West Bank is 5655 km2, which is 565500 hectares. According to HRW, Israel’s fast growing settlements including businesses and farms take up 2.9% of the West Bank.
Over 49 years.
At that rate, Israel will complete its takeover of the entire West Bank in the year 3705.
Time is running out!
This explains why HRW writes numbers without context. They don’t want anyone to do the math.
Israeli settlements in the West Bank violate the laws of occupation. The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power from transferring its citizens into the territory it occupies and from transferring or displacing the population of an occupied territory within or outside the territory. The Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court, establishes the court’s jurisdiction over war crimes including the crimes of transfer of parts of the civilian population of an occupying power into an occupied territory, and the forcible transfer of the population of an occupied territory. The ICC has jurisdiction over crimes committed in or from the territory of the State of Palestine, now an ICC member, beginning in June 13, 2014, the date designated by Palestine in a declaration accompanying its accession.
And HRW cannot explain exactly how individual Jews or Jewish-owned businesses are violating the Geneva Accords by voluntarily moving to the territories. Allowing citizens to move is not “transfer.” HRW is using proof by assertion, and this document is filled with examples like this.
Israel’s confiscation of land, water, and other natural resources for the benefit of settlements and residents of Israel also violate the Hague Regulations of 1907, which prohibit an occupying power from expropriating the resources of occupied territory for its own benefit. In addition, Israel’s settlement project violates international human rights law, in particular, Israel’s discriminatory policies against Palestinians that govern virtually every aspect of life in the area of the West Bank under Israel’s exclusive control, known as Area C, and that forcibly displace Palestinians while encouraging the growth of Jewish settlements.
Since over 95% of Palestinians live in Areas A and B, some specific statistics of how many have been “forcibly displaced” from area C would be very useful here. But HRW doesn’t want you to know statistics that undermine the point they want to make. Once again, actual numbers will not be offered when they show that the issue is much smaller than what HRW wants its readers to know. (Many of the “displaced” in Area C are Bedouin who built homes recently and illegally. Some illegal communities have been dismantled many times. But how many were forced to move out of Area C? How many had other homes when they built these illegal ones? HRW doesn’t want you to know.)
Following international standards articulated in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, businesses are expected to undertake human rights due diligence to identify and mitigate contributions to human rights violations of not only their own activities but also activities to which they are directly linked by their business relationships. They are also expected to take effective steps to avoid or mitigate potential human rights harms—and to consider ending business activity where severe negative human rights consequences cannot be avoided or mitigated.
Based on the findings of this report, it is Human Rights Watch’s view that any adequate due diligence would show that business activities taking place in or in contract with Israeli settlements or settlement businesses contribute to rights abuses, and that businesses cannot mitigate or avoid contributing to these abuses so long as they engage in such activities. In Human Rights Watch’s view, the context of human rights abuse to which settlement business activity contributes is so pervasive and severe that businesses should cease carrying out activities inside or for the benefit of settlements, such as building housing units or infrastructure, or providing waste removal and landfill services. They should also stop financing, administering, trading with or otherwise supporting settlements or settlement-related activities and infrastructure.
HRW says that Jewish-owned businesses are exploiting Palestinians by paying them lower than Israel’s minimum wage. That is against Israeli law, by the way, but some unscrupulous businesses do indeed try to skirt the law by paying an Arab middleman to contract employees and pay them a lower wage that is still above the standard Palestinian wage.
A lot of the report attempts to show how Jewish businesses abuse their Palestinian workers. Only one problem.
As we have previously shown, Israeli companies pay over double PA wages. Palestinians who work for Israelis also work fewer hours than then those who work for fellow Palestinians.
But if a Jewish-run business is offering better working conditions and wages and fewer hours than the Palestinian Arab businesses are, and the Jewish business owners are guilty of violating human rights of the workers, then you must conclude that most Palestinian businesses are far worse violators of human rights! Human rights are absolute, not relative – it might be unfair for there to be wage discrimination but an Arab being paid better and treated better than his neighbor cannot be said to be a victim of human rights abuse while his neighbor isn’t.
Which human rights organization can we call to fix the pervasive human rights abuses that must be occurring at Palestinian Arab businesses? Which “human rights” organization will call to boycott Palestinian businesses because of how they exploit their workers?
I know one “human rights” organization that won’t do anything about it. Because that organization is based on double standards, and this report is yet another example of that.
UPDATE: See also here to see why HRW’s legal arguments are without basis.
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