Thursday, March 26, 2009

The PCHR vs. the IDF on Gaza casualty counts

(This posting has changed from quoting yesterday's Haaretz article to quoting today's Jerusalem Post article which seems more accurate and uses the same numbers as YNet.)

The IDF has released a report on the Arab casualties in Gaza:
The IDF formally released precise figures on Thursday for the first time detailing Palestinian casualties incurred during Operation Cast Lead, and said a large majority of those killed were terrorists.

Of the 1,166 names of Palestinian dead gathered by the IDF's Research Department, 709 have been identified as "Hamas terror operatives," the IDF said, adding that the terrorists hailed from a variety of organizations.

According to the IDF, 162 additional names of men killed during the operation "have not been yet attributed to any organization."

A total of 295 Palestinian non-combatants died during the operation - 89 of them under the age of 16, and 49 of them women, the army added.

The figures were released "following the publication of reports that introduced false information originating from various Palestinian sources," the IDF said.

"In order to remove any doubt regarding the number of Palestinians killed in Operation Cast Lead, the IDF wishes to introduce the accurate figures to the public.

"The figures were gathered following the examination of various intelligence sources and after the names and numbers were thoroughly cross-referenced and examined," it added.
Ha'aretz adds:

The fatality list presented by the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza has numerous inaccuracies and contradictions, the IDF says. For example, Tawfiq Ja'abari, the commander of the Hamas police, and Mohammed Shakshak, a personal assistant to the head of Hamas' military wing, Ahmed Ja'abari, are both described as dead children on the Palestinian list.
The PCHR disputes the IDF methodology. Here is their main argument:
PCHR consider the IOF’s classification of police officers as combatants illegal: this classification constitutes a wilful violation of the principle of distinction, a key component of customary international law. Hamas is a multi-faceted organisation, exercising de facto governmental control of the Gaza Strip. As an organisation, it cannot be considered an armed group. Rather, a distinction must be made between Hamas’ armed and political/civil components. The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades are the military wing of the Hamas organisation, they are an armed group, and are considered as combatants according to IHL. However, Hamas’ political and civil wings are comprised of civilians, who are legally entitled to the protections associated with this status, provided they do not take an active part in hostilities. Civil police, and governmental officials cannot be considered combatants. Attacks intentionally directed against these individuals constitute wilful killing, a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, and a violation of customary international law.
So the PCHR seems to accept for the most part Israel's contention that 600 of the known casualties are members of Hamas or other armed groups; they argue that only members of Hamas' "military wing" are legal targets.

This is sophistry.

Hamas is a military organization. Its entire purpose is to destroy Israel. All of its "wings" exist for that purpose, and its charitable and civil wings are not independent of its military wing - they are subsidiary to it.

Hamas will use its "charity" components to attract members for its terror wing. It will use the "political" wing as cover to deflect its clandestine use of terror.

Here is an excerpt from a book by Matthew Levitt that is probably the most comprehensive treatise on Hamas, describing the terrorist and political career of the mastermind of the 2002 Netanya Passover massacre:
The mastermind of the attack, Abbas al-Sayyid, served simultaneously as both the overt political Hamas leader in Tulkarm and the covert head of the Qassam Brigades terrorist cell there. Wearing these two hats, al-Sayyid gave public speeches and represented Hamas at public functions even as he secretly recruited military operatives and suicide bombers, received orders and funds from Hamas leaders in Lebanon and Syria, and personally planned and oversaw the cell’s operations. Al-Sayyid openly acknowledged his contacts with Hamas leaders abroad, but maintained these were purely political in nature. In fact, al-Sayyid took active measures to hide the military nature of these contacts. For example, while funds for Hamas political activity—$10,000—$13,000 a month—were overtly transferred from Hamas leaders abroad into al-
Sayyid’s personal bank account, Hamas leaders in Syria transferred funds for Hamas terrorist operations to an account al-Sayyid opened under a fictitious American-sounding name.

At the operational level, almost all the Hamas terrorists involved in the attack rose through the ranks of Hamas through the group’s Islamic Bloc student movement.Al-Sayyid himself began drifting toward Hamas while in high school after hearing the lectures of Sheikh Jamal Mansour, a prominent Hamas political and dawa leader. Three of the operatives, including both intended suicide bombers, were members of a singing troupe called al-Ansar that lauded Hamas and its suicide bombers. Hamas dawa activists and institutions performed a variety of key functions like helping fugitive cell members hide from authorities. In one case female Hamas activists helped a cell member move around Tulkarm disguised as a woman. Covert operatives also used mosques tied to Hamas as meeting places and as dead-drops where messages and matériel—including the suicide bombing vests—were left and retrieved by parties unknown to one another. Long after the attack, the Hamas dawa would use the Park Hotel bombing as a means to radicalize and recruit future operatives by printing posters glorifying the attack and naming community events like a soccer tournament after Abdel Aziz Basset Odeh, the suicide bomber.

Inside the Palestinian territories, the battery of mosques, schools, orphanages, summer camps, and sports leagues sponsored by Hamas are integral parts of an overarching apparatus of terror. These Hamas entities engage in incitement and radicalize society, and undertake recruitment efforts to socialize even the youngest children to aspire to die as martyrs. They provide logistical and operational support for weapons smuggling, reconnaissance, and suicide bombings. They provide day jobs for field commanders and shelter fugitive operatives.
Even after Hamas' takeover of Gaza, Hamas has shown little interest in building an infrastructure to perform daily duties that are a necessary part of governing. When it could, it would keep the existing PA/Fatah infrastructure; only when it felt threatened by them would it replace the leadership - all the while accepting hundreds of millions of dollars from the PA to keep the institutions running. In this way, all the "wings" of Hamas could concentrate on smuggling weapons, building fortified tunnels for bomb storage and to kidnap IDF soldiers, and recruiting more members.

The Hamas police, to take an example of a group that the PCHR considers civilian, is not primarily the law-enforcement organization that PCHR implies. There is no functioning legal infrastructure in Gaza. The Hamas police exist to keep the people under the thumb of Hamas and to stop any competing groups like Fatah to gain strength. Their purpose is just as terrorist as the "military wing."

The PCHR, as always, is doing its best to demonize Israel and as such it has a vested interest in increasing the numbers of "innocent civilians" killed in Gaza. But when you look at the details, you can see that most of those killed were not innocent civilians...and the PCHR knows this quite well.