In Guardian op-ed, Ken Roth demonises Israel with lies on top of lies

As Executive Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) from 1993 to 2022, Ken Roth – as NGO Monitor, as well as HRW’s former director, demonstrated – transformed the organisation from one dedicated to universal human rights into a platform for targeting Israel. Since stepping down from the NGO, and taking a position at Harvard, Roth’s malign obsession with Israel hasn’t waned – nor has his disregard for the facts, as a Guardian correction to one of his post-October 7 op-eds demonstrates.

In his Oct. 16 piece at the outlet – a mere nine days about Hamas’s massacre – Roth was already peddling ‘Israeli is committing genocide’ propaganda. But do do so, he distorted a quote by defence minister Yoav Gallant to make it seem as if he was calling to eliminate the Gaza population, while omitting the sentence which made it clear he was referring to eliminating Hamas.

Unfortunately, it was only three months later, following a piece in the Atlantic by Yair Rosenberg, that the Guardian and other outlets who used the fake quote corrected Roth’s lie.

Just as Roth was ahead of the anti-Zionist heard in promoting the genocide charge against Israel, he also was one of the first to hop on the latest libel, that the state is intentionally starving Palestinians in the Hamas-run enclave. His latest Guardian op-ed (“Israel’s attempt to destroy Unrwa is part of its starvation strategy in Gaza”, March 26) peddles lies on top of lies to reach his desired conclusion.

In fact, he skillfully weaves together both canards into the op-ed, arguing that Israel’s “vendetta” against UNRWA reflects a cynical effort to ethnically cleanse the territory.

Israel’s vendetta against the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (Unrwa) illustrates the callousness with which Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government has fought the war in Gaza. It also reflects an effort to use Hamas’s 7 October attack as an opportunity for demographic re-engineering.

Of course, Israel’s complaint with UNRWA centers around reports that a dozen UNRWA employees allegedly “had connections” to the Oct. 7 massacre, and at least six took part in the attack. At least two others helped kidnap Israelis, and others “were tracked to sites where Jewish civilians were shot and killed.”  Others reportedly “coordinated logistics for the assault, including procuring weapons.” UNRWA vehicles and facilities were also used in the pogrom.

A Wall Street Journal expose cited intelligence estimates shared with the Journal indicating that roughly 1,200 of its employees in Gaza “have links to Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad.  The evidence is so strong that more than a dozen democratic countries cut aid to the UN agency after the revelations first surfaced.

Indeed, as our colleague Sean Durns noted, UNRWA’s extensive ties to terrorist groups are nothing new, and in fact date back at least 12 years.

Roth’s PR for UNRWA continues in a subsequent paragraph, in which he completely re-writes history in order to promote the refugee narrative.

Unrwa established by the UN general assembly in December 1949 to address the 700,000 Palestinian refugees whom Israeli troops had forced from their homes during the war that led to the creation of the state of Israel in May 1948. Palestinians refer to this expulsion as the nakba, or catastrophe.

This ahistorical account omits that “the war” was started by five Arab armies, who, with the support of the Palestinian leadership, launched a war of annihilation against the nascent Jewish state. As is so often the case with the Guardian and their contributors, demonising Israel is almost always accompanied by such an erasure of destructive Arab and Palestinian decisions.  Further, his contention that all 700,000 Palestinians were forced out by Israeli troops is fiction. Most of the 700,000 Palestinians fled the war, or were convinced to do so by Arab leaders.

This lie serves an important purpose for Roth: to assign collective and perpetual Israeli responsibility for the refugees, ignoring not only the destructive decision to turn down the UN Partition Plan, which would have created a Palestinian Arab state, but also the cynical decision by leaders of Arab states where many of the refugees fled not to grant Palestinian refugees citizenship and assimilate them into their society. This ensured that the ‘refugee’ problem could be used as a political tool against the Jewish state.

Roth continues by telling us that “Today, Unrwa provides education, healthcare and social services to the surviving refugees and their descendants“.

However, as highlighted in a recent report compiled by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), UNRWA’s textbooks used in schools in Gaza have helped radicalise a generation of children in Gaza in the glorification of terror and promoting “martyrdom.”

He tells us that Palestinian refugees “number nearly 7 million, scattered among Jordan, Lebanon and Syria as well as the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza“, without explaining the rationale for people of Palestinian descent living in Palestinian territories can still be considered refugees, or why Palestinians who’ve become citizens of Arab countries such as Jordan – the population of which numbers in the millions – can similarly still be considered refugees.

Roth then alleges this:

As some governments resumed Unrwa funding, averting the agency’s potential shutdown, Israel said it would prevent Unrwa from delivering aid to northern Gaza, where, because it is most distant from the two open southern entrances, the need is most dire.

As COGAT pointed out the day before Roth’s op-ed, “UNRWA went over 6 weeks without requesting a single convoy. Only over the past few days, they made but 3 requests”.

Then, pivoting to his conspiracy theory regarding Israel’s ‘true’ intentions in their anti-UNRWA position, he writes:

Destroying Unrwa thus furthers the Netanyahu government’s starvation strategy for Gaza. Since the siege it imposed on 7 October, the Israeli government has been letting in just enough food to avoid widespread deaths but nowhere near enough to alleviate hunger or to dim the prospects of famine.

As is the case with all canards about Jewish villainy, Roth provides nothing to back up his claim that Israel’s government is intentionally starving Gaza, and he ignores all evidence which challenges his predetermined view on the state’s actions.

For instance, he ignored evidence of extremely large quantities of food entering Gaza daily.

Much of this aid has been delivered to northern Gaza.

He also naturally ignores those who’ve argued that UNRWA itself is largely to blame for the failure to deliver the aid that Israel has allowed to enter Gaza.

Roth then peddles another lie

A land delivery that Israel organized without Unrwa in February ended in disaster, with more than 100 killed and hundreds more wounded when Israeli troops opened fire at hungry people desperate for food, contributing to panic. 

As the NY Times article he links to makes clear, allegations that Israel fired on and killed Palestinians waiting for food is based on the unevidenced claims of the Hamas-run health ministry.  The Times, unlike Roth, points to Israel’s emphatic denial that it fired on the crowd, and notes its investigation showing that most of those who died were killed as the result of a stampede when masses of Palestinians gathered around the aid trucks.

Roth then peddles the ‘right’ of return myth.

Israel also hopes to destroy Unrwa because the government naively believes that Palestinian refugees would then somehow forget that they are Palestinian refugees and stop insisting on a right to return. Many would not exercise that right but others would.

Roth’s link cites UN Resolution 194, a non-binding resolution passed in the wake of the first Arab-initiated war against Israel, as ‘proof’ that seven million Palestinians served by UNRWA have the ‘right of return’, a fallacy that CAMERA has prompted corrections to at many media outlets.  For instance, as our researchers have noted, the resolution doesn’t even hint at such a right for descendants of refugees – a population which makes up roughly 99% of the seven million people of Palestinian descent in question.

Roth actually tries to address the question of why Palestinians could possibly be justified in receiving ‘refugee’ status for generation after generation – seemingly in perpetuity.

To justify their rejection of Palestinian refugees, Israeli partisans make various unfounded arguments. They assert that only the people who were forced out of Israel in 1948 – few of whom are still alive – should be considered refugees, not their descendants. But it is common for descendants of refugees to be considered refugees.

First, as we noted above, millions of those who Roth calls refugees already have citizenship in a third country – a fact which undermines any claim that they are “refugees”.

Further, as Einat Wilf and Adi Schwartz explained in their book ‘The War of Return‘, which provides a compelling case for why the refugee issue is among the biggest obstacles to peace, it’s telling that while UNRWA deals exclusively with Palestinians, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) deals with all the world’s other refugees.  While UNRWA has not settled one refugee in their 75 year history, and has managed to turn a ‘refugee’ population of 700,000 to one of over 7 million, since WW2, the book argues, UNHCR “has been responsible for the welfare of all refugees in the world and has assisted in their resettlement and relocation – so that nearly all of them are no longer refugees“.

Roth then writes the following:

The attack on Unrwa is best understood as part of Israel’s quest to alter the demographics of the land it seeks to control. The population of the territory from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea is currently divided roughly equally between Jews and Palestinians.

His argument that the territory is divided equally between Jews and Palestinians elides that two million of those ‘Palestinians’ are Arab citizens of Israel.

He continues:

The obvious way for Israel to maintain its Jewish majority would be to allow a Palestinian state, but Netanyahu opposes that.

Some Israeli leaders see an ugly third way out of this conundrum – reducing the number of Palestinians. By starving Palestinians in Gaza and destroying much of the housing and infrastructure, Netanyahu seems to want to render Gaza unlivable.

You know who else opposes two states? Hamas – and and an overwhelming majority of Palestinians for that matter.

The elephant in the room – a political player whose decisions are just as important as those made in Jerusalem – is the terror group ruling Gaza, their fanatical desire to destroy Israel and their barbaric antisemitic massacre on Oct. 7.  Roth, who uses the word “Hamas” only once in the entire op-ed, like so many journalists at the outlet where he published his piece, sees Palestinians merely as victims, lacking any agency.

This is one if the reasons why he refuses to acknowledge Hamas’s genocidal ideology, while projecting that malign desire onto those who were victims of the terror group’s pogrom – a massacre which included the mass murder of Jews on a scale unseen since the Holocaust, as well as rape, torture, mutilation and necrophilia.  It’s also why he fails to acknowledge that the quantity of damaged or destroyed Gaza buildings is evidence of Hamas’s illegal use of the territory’s civilian infrastructure (including hospitals, mosques, and children’s bedrooms) to station fighters, store weapons and launch attacks – and why he fails to call out the terror group for its own role in Gaza’s food crisis.

In the contest to see who’s the most useful of Western useful idiots for the Gaza terror group, Roth is clearly in the top tier.

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