Commentary Magazine


Human Rights Watch Now Openly Endorsing BDS

Human Rights Watch doesn’t like Israel. No surprise there. But since the advocacy group still does important work on human rights issues in other countries, it continues to get taken seriously by the media and government officials. This legitimacy should end immediately in light of HRW’s latest report, which tacitly endorses the beyond-fringe Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. From the text of the study:

The report is based on case studies comparing Israel’s starkly different treatment of settlements and next-door Palestinian communities in these areas. It calls on the US and EU member states and on businesses with operations in settlement areas to avoid supporting Israeli settlement policies that are inherently discriminatory and that violate international law.

The report also asks the U.S. to avoid “offsetting the costs of Israeli expenditures on settlements by withholding U.S. funding from the Israeli government in an amount equivalent to its expenditures on settlements and related infrastructure in the West Bank.”

That’s bad enough. But there was one recommendation that really caught my eye:

Congress should request a report from the General Accounting Office on the subject of tax-exempt organizations that support settlements and settlement-related activities. Such a study should include specific assessments of the amounts and types of donations involved and the actual end-uses of such donations in the settlements. The report should also address whether current laws and regulations regarding charitable organizations ensure that tax-exempt status is not granted to organizations that facilitate human rights violations or violations of international humanitarian law, are adequately enforced, and whether they are adequate or require revision.

Hmm. As we know from the Z Street case, the IRS has already been giving some pro-Israel groups a hard time on their tax-exemption applications — ostensibly because Israel has a “higher risk of terrorism.” But could the IRS also be concerned about tax-exempt groups giving support to Israeli settlements? And if not, will this be the next rallying cry picked up by the BDS movement?

In addition to those suggestions, HRW also recommended the following quasi-BDS tactics:

• The international community should tack on extra tariffs to products imported from Israeli settlements: “Ensure that policies do not promote settlement activity, such as the discriminatory violations of Palestinian human rights documented in this report, by enforcing tariff agreements in accordance with international law, such that Israeli settlement goods are not given preferential treatment, including by requiring and enforcing clear origin labeling.”

• Businesses operating from the settlements should cease involvement in any activity that HRW deems to be a violation of international law, “including where necessary ending such [business] operations altogether.”

The NGO Monitor has also denounced the report. In an e-mail, it called it evidence that HRW “endorses boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS), disguised as opposition to settlements, but in reality seeking the destruction of Israel.”

“This is further proof of HRW founder Robert Bernstein’s conclusion that the organization has turned Israel into a pariah state,” NGO Monitor president Gerald Steinberg added, in a statement on Sunday.