Meet the Mainstream Media’s Go-To Human Rights Experts. Spoiler Alert: They Hate Israel.

Omar Shakir, a NYT and WaPo mainstay, blamed Hamas's terrorism on Israeli 'apartheid'

L: Human Rights Watch's Omar Shakir (Forbes Breaking News/YouTube) R: Gaza lawyer Raji Sourani (EuroMed Rights/YouTube)
December 19, 2023

The Washington Post recently tapped two human rights experts, Omar Shakir and Raji Sourani, to lambast Israel over viral photographs of Palestinian prisoners clad in their underwear. In that story, headlined, "Hungry, Thirsty, and Humiliated: Israel’s Mass Arrest Campaign Sows Fear in Northern Gaza," Shakir called for an international investigation of the Jewish state. Sourani condemned Israel for littering Gaza with "corpses all over the place."

Both men are also routinely cited in the New York Times, where Shakir in particular is a mainstay. The Times quoted Shakir in a Dec. 13 story headlined, "Under Rules of War, 'Proportionality' in Gaza Is Not About Evening the Score," in which the activist raised "‘serious questions’ about whether Israel has committed war crimes."

Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director for Human Rights Watch, and Sourani, who bills himself as a human rights lawyer in Gaza, are hardly even-handed human rights experts. Both blamed Hamas's terrorist rampage on Israeli conduct, and Shakir called for the dismantling of Israel’s so-called apartheid state even before Israel began its retaliatory attacks.

The elevation of Shakir and Sourani in the Times and Post reflects the mainstream media's effort to put the democratic state of Israel and the terrorist group Hamas on the same moral playing field.

In his first tweet after Oct. 7, Shakir blamed the violence on Israeli "apartheid," writing in a tweet on Oct. 9: "So long as there's impunity, Gaza remains an open-air prison and Israel's apartheid isn't dismantled, bloodshed and repression will continue."

Sourani responded to Hamas's slaughtering of Israeli civilians in a similar manner. In his first tweet after the attack, he accused Israel of launching "the boldest and most cruel unprecedented attack" in "the heart of Gaza." He went on to blast Israel for the bombing of a hospital carried out by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, parroting talking points used by Hamas: "The bombing of the Paptist [sic] hospital in the heart of Gaza the boldest and most cruel unprecedented attack which resulted almost 500 killings, is the first of its scale," he wrote. "Israel criminal."

These virulently anti-Israel voices have become go-to authorities on human rights for the mainstream media. In total, the Times and Post have combined to cite Shakir 18 times and Sourani 3 times since Oct. 7. At the same time, Shakir and Sourani have taken to X, formerly Twitter, and other media outlets to accuse Israel of "apartheid" and "genocide"—and peddle Hamas propaganda, questioning the notion that Hamas uses facilities like hospitals and schools to conduct military operations, for example.

In a Nov. 14 Reuters piece, Shakir raised questions about whether Hamas uses Gazan hospitals to conduct military operations. He argued that "even if" the terror group does so, Israel's decision to fight in and around those hospitals—particularly Al-Shifa—is "very alarming."

Shakir also defended the use of Hamas-provided death counts, telling the Associated Press in a Nov. 6 report that those figures are "professionally done and have proven to be reliable."

Sourani, meanwhile, condemned President Joe Biden for "supporting Israel, the occupying power, in its ongoing genocide and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians" on Oct. 18, and accused the Democrat of covering up "large scale massacres." In an Oct. 17 interview with left-wing outlet Democracy Now!, he characterized Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other terror groups as part of a "resistance" and blamed Israel for the "root causes" of Hamas terrorism.

"Everybody should think about the root causes of this. There is an occupation by Israel," Sourani said. "It's shame on the West to support such criminal country who do these war crimes. … We will not accept that."

Shakir, who promoted the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement while a student at Stanford University, in 2020 called on Israel to "uncage the 2 mill Palestinians held in world's largest open-air prison," citing a "Palestinian healthcare system" that could not "deal with" the coronavirus pandemic. Sourani has charged Israel with a "new brand of apartheid … much, much worse than South Africa used to be."

Neither the Times nor the Post responded to requests for comment.