Monday, January 19, 2009

Human Rights Watch and the "pro-Israel donors"

Mouin Rabbani sent me this (I cite with his permission): "This is a very interesting press release, As'ad: HRW once again accuses Hamas of indiscriminate attacks, but for the first time in its history does not denounce such attacks by Hamas as war crimes. The reason is so transparently obvious: the same press release accuses Israel of "indiscriminate attacks", so, ipso facto, such attacks are not a war crime. That pernicious moron Roth really thinks no one will notice. If Israeli tanks had rolled into Gaza City and been welcomed with rice and flowers by their collaborators, HRW would probably issue an urgent press release denouncing Palestinians as war criminals since neither rice kernels nor flower petals are precision-guided projectiles, and launching them from urban areas constitutes human shielding..." Mouin followed up with this:
"1. "We warned the Israelis hour by hour through the night of the vulnerabilities here as the shells came closer and closer, and shrapnel was coming into the compound on a regular occasion," John Ging, UNWRA's Gaza director of operations, told the media. "Nonetheless, we have now been subjected to these direct hits." Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert apologized for the attack, but said Israeli forces had come under fire from the UN compound. "It is absolutely true that we were attacked from that place, but the consequences are very sad and we apologize for it," he said. Not reported by HRW is that "UNRWA officials ... categorically ruled out any possibility that militants had been firing from the compound" (Associated Press). This can only be a premeditated and deliberate ommission, particularly because HRW also declines to echo, or even mention, UNRWA's demand for an independent investigation and accountability. The only possible conclusion here is that under the fearless leadership of Roth HRW is deliberately suggesting to lay readers that the attack would have been permissible under international law if Olmert's claims were true, and, not less importantly, throwing its weight behind these claims. In the process Roth and HRW have also reminded us of a fundamental principle enshrined in the Geneva Conventions that is often overlooked by legal scholars: if you are Israeli, state that you have been saddened by your actions, and apologise for them, you can kill as many Palestinians as you damn well please. In Latin, this principle is known as "We will never let our funders down". 2. "Israeli fire also hit the al-Shurouq tower, which houses media outlets such as Reuters, al-Arabiyya Television, and al-Hayat newspaper, causing substantial damage and wounding at least two journalists, including one who worked for the Abu Dhabi television channel. Media organizations had provided the Israeli military with the GPS locations of all their offices. Israeli forces told the media that they had come under fire from the building. It is not clear if Israeli forces hit the building using artillery or tank shells. Ditto. Apparently Hamas are so devious that they succesfully transformed the Shuruq building into the HQ of their rocket battalion without even being noticed by the dozens of journalists and their dozens of cameras in, on and around the building - though one can't exclude the possibility that some of the journalists (Arabs, don't forget) were themselves firing at Roth's favourite state. This is really serious, As'ad - if Roth and HRW continue to salivate over Israel like this the entire country might drown. 3. "Human Rights Watch is unable to conduct full investigations into alleged laws of war violations by either side because of Israel's continuing denial of access to Gaza. Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups have also violated the laws of war by continuing to fire unguided Qassam and Grad rockets at population centers in Israel." Read that again. Violations of the laws of war by either side can only be alleged, and require a full investigation and entry to the Gaza Strip, but in the case of Hamas and other Palestinian organisations Roth and HRW can confidently conclude that these laws have been violated without conducting a full investigation or entering the Gaza Strip. As you probably know, the ICC statutes established a cardinal principle in this respect (commonly known as the "Roth Principle"): where war crimes investigators are unable to conduct investigations in full and in situ, a cursory examination of either their pocketbooks or the political preferences of their funders will suffice. 4. "In Human Rights Watch's June 2007 report "Indiscriminate Fire: Palestinian Rocket Attacks on Israel and Israeli Artillery Shelling in the Gaza Strip," Human Rights Watch made the following recommendations to Israel concerning the use of artillery in densely populated areas of Gaza. Human Rights Watch called upon Israel to ... Collect and analyze data regarding Palestinian civilian casualties from artillery shelling in order to assess the harm to civilians caused by the use of artillery in particular locales and situations, and thus to base targeting decisions on a proper weighing of foreseeable civilian harm." Given Roth's exacting standards, I suspect we will soon see an HRW press release calling for several days more shelling of Gaza to ensure sufficient data can be collected..."