Amnesty International has slammed the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas and the rival Fatah group for serious human rights abuses in the recent factional fighting in Gaza and the West Bank.The last paragraph is most interesting. It shows that the criticism of Amnesty as being one-sided about alleged Israeli human rights violations has stung, and Mr. Smart is pretty much admitting that it is true.
Hamas is accused in a report published today of "increasingly resorting" to arbitrary detention and torture since its forces took control of the Gaza Strip in June. In the West Bank Fatah security personnel are accused of detaining, abducting and abusing hundreds of Hamas supporters, with help from Israel.
The Palestinian president and chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, is the leader of Fatah and a key partner for Israel, the US and the west. Hamas has been boycotted as a terrorist organisation which refuses to renounce violence, recognise Israel or accept peace agreements.
"The leaders of both the PA and Hamas must take immediate steps to break the cycle of impunity that continues to fuel abuses, including arbitrary detentions, abductions, torture and ill-treatment by their forces," said Malcolm Smart, AI's Middle East director. "The ongoing factional struggle between Fatah and Hamas is having a dire effect on the lives of Palestinians, especially in the Gaza Strip ... exacerbating the human rights and humanitarian crisis caused by Israeli military campaigns and blockades."
Amnesty's report catalogues the infighting that culminated last June when Hamas seized control of PA security institutions in Gaza. Both sides "displayed a flagrant disregard for the safety of the civilian population by launching indiscriminate attacks and reckless gun battles in residential neighbourhoods," it says.
Lawlessness and impunity were already the norms before 350 people were killed. Both sides mounted attacks in and around hospitals and targeted patients in their beds. Fatah activists were thrown from tall buildings.
Amnesty has issued reports critical of Israeli practices in the occupied territories, and says it is anxious to demonstrate that it is not ignoring abuses committed by the Palestinians. "The international community must hold all Palestinian parties accountable to the same human rights standards," said Mr Smart.
Of course, Amnesty cannot resist blaming Israel for some of the abuses mentioned above. And clearly Amnesty does not use the same yardstick when criticizing Fatah and Hamas because of the sheer number of reports that target Israel, whose alleged abuses pale in comparison to the daily murder and torture that Palestinian Arabs do to each other. Even so, this proves that shining a light on the absurdly biased condemnations that Israel has suffered, not only by NGOs but also at the UN, can cause enough discomfort to prod these organizations to take a deeper look at how Israel's sworn enemies act.
For an example on how bias still pervades Amnesty, do a search on "Qassam rockets" or "Sderot." Every mention of Palestinian Arab rocket attacks is "in context" of Israeli attacks against terrorists; there are no articles dedicated only to PalArab abuses. But there are plenty that mention only Israeli abuses, with perhaps a passing reference to Israeli "claims" that their attacks against terrorists are in response to rocket or terror attacks.
Still, it is a step in the right direction. As of this writing, the report is not yet on the Amnesty site.