Did Human Rights Watch and The Telegraph use a misleading photo in report on illegal Palestinian child labor?

Robert Tait of The Telegraph published a story on April 13th based on a new 74-page report by Human Rights Watch (Israel: Settlement Agriculture Harms Palestinian Children) claiming that Palestinian children “as young as 11” are being employed under dangerous conditions in Israeli settlements “in breach of international law”.

Tait cites the HRW report’s claim that “hundreds of child labourers are working in farms and agricultural businesses in the strategically sensitive Jordan Valley for just £13 a day”, and includes an accusation by HRW’s Sarah Leah Whitson that “Israel’s settlements are profiting from rights abuses against Palestinian children.”

David Elhayani, head of the Jordan Valley regional council, denied the allegations, according to The Telegraph, and said “there were no children among the 6,000 Palestinians employed by the [council].”

Both The Telegraph article and the HRW report used the same photo to illustrate the alleged illegal use of child labor by Israeli settlement farms in the Jordan Valley.


telegraphThe child in the photo appears to be perhaps 11 or 12.

However, a look at the original photos taken by a Reuters photographer suggests that the photos used by The Telegraph and HRW may be misleading.

The series of photos, which include the photo of the boy used by The Telegraph and HRW, were taken by Reuters’ photographer Mohamad Torokman in 2010, and appear to illustrate work at a Palestinian farm.

Here’s the first photo in the Reuters series (taken on May 24, 2010), the one used by HRW and The Telegraph:

hrw reuters date farm (2)
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Here’s the second photo in the Reuters series (also taken on May 24th, 2010) of what appears to be the same boy at the same farm.

hrw kid farmer dates (2)

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Now, here’s the third photo in the series also taken on May 24th.  The caption notes that the owner of the date palm orchard is a Palestinian named Naeem Issawi.


click to enlarge

It certainly appears that the photo of the underage boy seen in the HRW report (and in the Telegraph story) is working illegally on a Palestinian farm. (The boy is quite possibly Mr. Issawi’s son.)

So, a 74-page report by HRW on the Israeli use of illegal Palestinian child labor appears to have misled readers by using a photo which actually illustrates the Palestinian use of illegal Palestinian child labor.

The significance of this misleading photo would not be lost to those who read a series of articles by former AP Jerusalem correspondent Matti Friedman. Friedman argued that journalists covering the region learn very quickly that “what is important in the Israel-Palestinian story is Israel” and Israel’s alleged abuse of Palestinian human rights.

Facts concerning the abuse of Palestinian human rights by other Palestinians (including Palestinian leaders) is not part of the MSM story.

The alleged problem of Israeli settlements illegally employing Palestinian children is consistent with the media’s myopic focus on Israel. However, the problem (unexplored by HRW or The Telegraph) of Palestinian children being illegally employed (per the photo) by fellow Palestinians is certainly not consistent with the desired narrative. 

We’ve contacted HRW and Telegraph editors seeking comment on the photo, and will update this post when they reply.

17 replies »

  1. They are throwing the kitchen sink at Israel.

    Anybody who knows a little about Israel knows that this is impossible. What HRW should report about are the monthly Arab

    murders of their women and children for honor reasons or some other reason understood only by Arabs.

    Child labour in a country that loves its children ? What a load of nonsense. Israeli NGO’s would have mentioned child labour

    were there any.

    I think this will be a story in which the initial charge will be withdrawn, but the damage is done. It has happened many times

    before. Part of the NGO m.o. .

  2. Great catch. Perhaps it is time to consider a regime of licensing NGOs, with permits dependent on accuracy, honesty, ethical standards and all that normal stuff. How many of these cowboy outfits would pass an independent audit of those aspects?

  3. In other words, HRW witnessed none of this alleged abuse of child laborers. Just some more unreliable, politically motivated rumor mongering from Sarah Leah Whitson et al, who have been caught pushing Arab war propaganda on many occasions while calling themselves a human rights organization. Again smearing the innocent on behalf of the guilty using children as props. They ought to be prosecuted.

  4. “Ripe for Abuse”
    A few years back when HRW and Sarah Leah Whitson were courting petrol dollars from a real human rights violator, Saudi Arabia, the term they had used for their campaign against Israel, a free and democratic country and home to numerous unfettered human rights groups, they argued that they went after Israel because it was “low hanging fruit.”
    Judging from the photo my guess is they are trying to make their own metaphor into something literal.

  5. Ken Roth draws a six figure salary from donations to HRW, many of those donations come from good-hearted people scratching out living. Ken then supplies them with fantasies of greedy Jews financially profiting from the abuse of children, feeding long-established anti-Semitic tropes. So who’s the greedy and abusive profiteer here?
    He makes me sick.

  6. Poor Israel. As if it’s not enough to have to deal with enemies on every single one of her borders [and the rest of the international community’s media], she also has to cope with the Jew-hating liars known as ‘NGOs’; the worst offenders are Amnesty International, HGW, BT’selem and the UN. I despair when I read an article such as this that continually disseminates lies upon more lies. When will the world wake up, if ever?

  7. Great work, Adam.
    Looks like HRW is abusing children for propaganda against Israel. Did HRW ever protest the misuse of children by the Palestinian terror organisations?

    • Anne is correct. Calling this farce “misleading” is just the same as calling the medieval blood libel “misleading.” Human Right Watch is clearly and openly iniciting against Jews using false witness accounts pictures exactly like their predecessors during the centuriesa and people fighting against racism should treat them accordingly.

  8. Reblogged this on fritzwunderlich and commented:
    HRW, eine “Menschenrechtsorganisation”
    A delegation from Human Rights Watch was recently in Saudi Arabia. To investigate the mistreatment of women under Saudi Law? To campaign for the rights of homosexuals, subject to the death penalty in Saudi Arabia? To protest the lack of religious freedom in the Saudi Kingdom? To issue a report on Saudi political prisoners?

    No, no, no, and no. The delegation arrived to raise money from wealthy Saudis by highlighting HRW’s demonization of Israel. An HRW spokesperson, Sarah Leah Whitson, highlighted HRW’s battles with “pro-Israel pressure groups in the US, the European Union and the United Nations.” (Was Ms. Whitson required to wear a burkha, or are exceptions made for visiting anti-Israel “human rights” activists”? Driving a car, no doubt, was out of the question.)