Commentary Magazine


The Human-Rights Organizations That Cried Wolf

An appeal filed to Israel’s Supreme Court this week provides a good example of just how morally warped some Israeli human-rights groups have become — and why those who truly need them are suffering as a result.

The appeal was filed on behalf of Gaza resident Atsem Hamdan, who sought permission to enter Israel for medical treatment unavailable in Gaza. The relevant Israeli authorities refused, and a district court upheld this decision. Hamdan, it said, could seek treatment in another country; Israel is not obliged to provide medical care for every resident of a hostile entity, which Hamas-led Gaza certainly is.

In their appeal, Haaretz reports, Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel argue that in fact, Israel is “obligated to see to the welfare and health of residents of the Gaza Strip. … This obligation is a result of the state of warfare, Israel’s control of the border crossings, and the Gaza Strip’s dependence on Israel due to the long years of occupation.”

The sheer absurdity of these claims is mind-boggling. First, if Israel retains responsibility for Gaza’s residents even after having withdrawn every last soldier and settler, merely because it used to occupy the Strip, what incentive would it ever have to quit any “occupied” territory? If Israel is going to be held responsible for the residents’ welfare whether it goes or stays, it may as well stay and at least enjoy the benefits of occupation — like being able to crack down on Hamas’s rocket-manufacturing industry.

Second, if “the state of warfare” and the border blockade that stems from it obligate Israel to provide medical care for Gaza’s residents, then every country in the region has a powerful incentive to go to war with Israel. After all, Israel has the best medical care in the region. So either its neighbors can invest hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrading their own hospitals, or they can bombard Israel with cheap rockets and thereby obligate Israel to provide their citizens with state-of-the-art medical care — a much more cost-effective option.

And that, of course, is aside from the moral perversion of this argument, which makes the victim responsible for the aggressor’s wellbeing. After all, it was Hamas that attacked Israel following the latter’s 2005 pullout from Gaza, not the other way around.

Finally, Gaza has two borders, and Israel controls only one. It’s hardly Israel’s fault that Hamas has irritated Egypt so badly that Egypt’s border with Gaza is sealed, too.

I doubt this nonsense will convince the Supreme Court, but it is nevertheless far from harmless — because such moral perversity is increasingly making Israelis tune out anything any self-proclaimed “human-rights organization” says. And that leaves the real victims of human-rights abuses, whose only hope of redress lies in having such organizations make their stories public, increasingly voiceless. For if these groups persist in crying wolf over trumped-up “rights” like those they claim for Hamdan, eventually, no one will listen anymore.