Founded in 1995 by Palestinian lawyers and human-rights activists, the Gaza City-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) defines itself as “an independent legal body” dedicated to “protecting human rights, promoting the rule of law, and upholding democratic principles in the Occupied Palestinian Territories [OPT].” Specifically, PCHR investigates and documents what it views as Israeli human-rights violations against Palestinians; provides legal aid and counseling for individuals and groups involved in disputes with Israel; and publishes fact sheets and position papers on issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
By PCHR's telling, “Israel's occupation and settlement system in the OPT is a form of de facto apartheid that is the root cause of instability in the region.” Depicting Palestinians as innocent victims of relentless Israeli brutality, PCHR press releases and reports regularly accuse the Jewish state of perpetrating “extrajudicial executions”; “ethnic cleansing”; “mass arbitrary arrests and humiliation”; “harassment and violence”; “war crimes”; “torture”; “inhumane treatment”; “gross violations of international humanitarian and human-rights law”; “crimes against humanity”; “collective punishment”; the “direct targeting of civilians”; and “indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks.”
Evaluating PCHR, NGO Monitornotes that while it “does an important job of describing intra-Palestinian human rights abuses,” it is “blatantly one-sided in its removal of the context of terror and [its] disregard of human-rights abuses committed [by Palestinians] against Israeli civilians.” For example:
PCHR described Hezbollah terrorist activity in 2000 as “legitimate Lebanese resistance against Israeli occupation in Lebanon,” comparing it to the “French resistance during the Nazi occupation.”
A PCHR Fact Sheet condemns “the massive destruction in Jenin and Nablus during Israel's April 2002 military offensive in the West Bank,” but makes no mention of the fact that it was precipitated by a relentless wave of Palestinian terrorist attacks—most notably the deadly the Passover Massacre of March 27—whose perpetrators hailed from that region.
According to NGO Monitor, “PCHR engages in political activity based on the Durban strategy of delegitimizing and isolating Israel through boycotts and sanctions” as well as divestment. In a February 2002 statement to the UN Human Rights Commission, for instance, PCHR exhorted the international community to support “the imposition of comprehensive arms, oil, economic and trade sanctions and embargoes ... [and] the downgrading or suspension of diplomatic relations.” It also asked the United Nations “to exclude Israel from all UN-sponsored conferences and organizations.” Three years later, PCHR joined other Palestinian NGOs in supporting a British Association of University Teachers' boycott of Israeli universities. The Palestinian boycotters issued a statement calling their initiative “an historic moment in the global movement to isolate Apartheid Israel ... [which] steals our land and ghettoizes us behind Walls in a project aimed at the expulsion of Palestinians from their land.”
PCHR allegedthat during the 2009 Gaza War (known as Operation Cast Lead), approximately 82% of all Palestinians who suffered casualties were civilian non-combatants and 18% were “resistance activists.” But as NGO Monitor points out: “The non-combatant figure is not credible and includes a large number of Hamas fighters. Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hamad acknowledged that 600-700 Hamas members were killed in the Gaza fighting.” One particularly noteworthy individual whom PCHRclassified as a “civilian” was Nizar Rayan, a senior Hamas military commander who was killed in a January 2009 IDF airstrike. PCHR called Rayan's killing a “heinous crime” and declared that the “perpetrators and their military and political leaders must be prosecuted.” Others whom PCHR listed as non-combatants included members of groups like the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Islamic Jihad al-Quds Brigades.
In 2009, PCHR promoted the highly biased conclusions and recommendations of the UN Goldstone Report, which, in its examination of the causes and ramifications of Operation Cast Lead, charged Israel with “war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity” while only lightly reprimanding Hamas. All told, the document quoted PCHR 50 times.
PCHR is a leader in the anti-Israel “lawfare” movement, a term connoting a war that is being waged against the Jewish state in courtrooms by NGOs that: (a) file lawsuits against companies and governments that do business with Israel; (b) urge courts and international legal bodies to impose boycotts and embargoes on Israel; and (c) demand the issuance of arrest warrants against Israeli public officials whom the NGOs accuse of human-rights violations. Some examples:
PCHR has tried to have Israelis arrested in England, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, and New Zealand.
PCHR has filed for punitive damages against U.S.-based Israeli officials, and against companies doing business with Israel; all of these suits were frivolous and thus were dismissed by the courts in their preliminary stages.
In January 2009, PCHR filed a lawsuit designed to punish Israel for the killing of the aforementioned Hamas leader Nizar Rayan. At the time, PCHR was preparing cases against no fewer than 87 Israelis in 6 countries.
Since the 2009 Gaza War, PCHR has repeatedly lobbied the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute Israelis for alleged “war crimes.” In April 2013, PCHR exhorted the Palestinian leadership to join the ICC so that it could help to prosecute Israeli officials.