Human Rights Watch Co-Founder Says Israel Is 'Engaged In Genocide' Of Palestinians

Human Rights Watch co-founder Aryeh Neier, a German-born Jewish man who survived the Holocaust, says he has been “persuaded” in recent months that Israel is “engaged in genocide against Palestinians” and that conflating antisemitism with criticism of Israel is ludicrous.

“I thought Israel had a right to retaliate against Hamas, and I thought Israel had a right to try to incapacitate Hamas so that it would never be able to do anything like that again,” Neier told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria about the Israel-Gaza conflict in an extensive interview Sunday.

“But I was disturbed by some of the actions of Israel, by the use of very large weapons, 2,000-pound bombs, which are utterly inappropriate in a crowded urban area,” he continued, adding that these bombs “can kill somebody two football fields away.”

The decadeslong conflict erupted anew on Oct. 7 when Hamas killed 1,200 Israelis and took around 200 others hostage. Israel’s ongoing bombing has reportedly killed more than 35,000 Palestinians since, most of them women and children, to increasing international outrage.

Neier told Zakaria that “even though Israel went far overboard,” he still wasn’t sure the term “genocide” applied. The 87-year-old human rights icon, who previously led the American Civil Liberties Union, first chronicled his change of mind in the New York Review of Books.

“I am now persuaded that Israel is engaged in genocide against Palestinians in Gaza,” he wrote in an essay for next week’s issue of the magazine. “What has changed my mind is its sustained policy of obstructing the movement of humanitarian assistance into the territory.”

In February, Israeli troops opened fire in Gaza as starving Palestinians rushed to pull food off an aid convoy. Gaza’s health ministry said 115 Palestinians were killed and more than 750 others were injured. President Joe Biden approved humanitarian air drops as a result.

Displaced Palestinian families and their destroyed tents after Israel's recent bombing in Rafah.
Displaced Palestinian families and their destroyed tents after Israel's recent bombing in Rafah. Jehad Alshrafi/Associated Press

Over two dozen humanitarian and human rights groups argued in March, in a message obtained exclusively by HuffPost and sent to President Biden, that Israel’s aid limits for Gaza make U.S. military support for Israel illegal under the Foreign Assistance Act.

Last month, leaked U.S. memos expressed concern the White House may be violating international law in that regard. This month, Israel bombed a tent camp in the Palestinian city of Rafah, which was designated a “safe zone” for refugees, killing dozens of them.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday called the Rafah bombing a “tragic mistake.” He previously argued criticism of his government policies equated to antisemitism, a notion Neier said Sunday “degrades the concept of antisemitism” itself.

“Antisemitism has been a great scourge,” he told Zakaria, “but it doesn’t insulate the Israeli government from being held to the same standards as other governments have to be held to around the world.”