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Sunday, February 07, 2010

HRW again makes baseless claims against Israel

In Human Rights Watch's latest press release, the organization claims that Israel is not conducting "thorough and impartial investigations" concerning Operation Cast Lead.

While the military is conducting ongoing investigations, officials did not provide information showing that these will be thorough and impartial or that they will address the broader policy and command decisions that led to unlawful civilian deaths, Human Rights Watch said.

"Israel claims it is conducting credible and impartial investigations, but it has so far failed to make that case," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director for Human Rights Watch. "An independent investigation is crucial to understand why so many civilians died and to bring justice for the victims of unlawful attacks."

...

The Israeli military has thus far examined specific incidents but not broader policies that may have caused civilian casualties in violation of the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said.

"The Israeli investigations so far have looked mostly at soldiers who disobeyed orders or the rules of engagement, but failed to ask the crucial question about whether those orders and rules of engagement themselves violated the laws of war," Stork said. "For those decisions and policies, senior military and political decision-makers should be held responsible."

HRW is being disingenuous again.

Apparently, no one from HRW read the original Cast Lead investigation report. In that report there were exhaustive descriptions of how IDF actions were entirely consistent with international law. HRW never responded to that report; it never answered its arguments; and as far as I know it never even referred to it.

This is not surprising. HRW bases much of its criticism of Israel (and other countries) on a bizarre, restricted interpretation of international law. With incredible hubris, HRW assumes from the outset that its interpretations are sacrosanct and inherently correct. Yet when Israel comes out with its own interpretation, that is consistent with the Geneva Conventions and other accepted sources of customary international law, HRW doesn't bother to answer with legal arguments: instead, it ignores them and insists that their own interpretations are the ones that the world must adhere to.

HRW is engaged in a massive misdirection, a sleight-of-hand so that it will not have to defend its own mistakes in the law. And it needs to do this for its very existence, because if HRW's version of international law is shown to be incorrect, every single report it has issued on that basis would need to be re-evaluated. So instead, HRW goes on the offensive and fails to address any substantive criticism. (As we have seen, HRW does not have the ability to investigate itself with any degree of objectivity, and it reacts to criticism in ways that can only be described as childish.)

Meanwhile, Israel's ongoing investigations are ongoing and taking literally thousands of man-hours. An IDF source described it to me this way:
These investigations are exhaustive and a logistical nightmare. The investigators talk to everyone involved, from the soldiers, to the commanders in the field, all the way up the chain of command. And almost all of the incidents can involve different branches of the army which require debriefings at every level (i.e. air force, tank unit, and ground force like paratroopers, and then also the southern command, and the intelligence unit, etc). so each incident, to investigate properly requires hundreds of hours of interviews, material and footage reviews, comparison with additional intelligence, and with past investigations done within the units themselves regarding the incidents in question etc.
I've already shown that these investigations are independent, and the people running them do not report to the IDF infrastructure - the very definition of independence. And when new evidence comes up, as HRW claims in the Al Bader flour mill case, the investigators re-open the cases.

Or would HRW prefer that the IDF re-invade Gaza to get first-hand forensics?

As a footnote, HRW again mentions the supposed "fact" that the Hamas police were not a legitimate target. I have shown that at least 75% of the police killed were members of the Al Qassam Martyrs Brigades, the organization responsible for a majority of attacks on Israel. I have shown that the Al Qassam Brigades as well as Hamas themselves do not distinguish between the police and the militants. Even Goldstone quotes the Hamas police as mentioning that "Police officers received clear orders from the leadership to face the enemy, if the Gaza Strip were to be invaded." (He then dismisses that very statement.) Anyone can look at the incredible PTWatch site and see first-hand the detailed obituaries that terror groups wrote to memorialize the police and other "civilians" killed during Cast Lead, including details of their terror careers and the dates that they joined the terror groups.

HRW does not address these findings, nor any other substantive criticism of their logic and methodology. HRW has no ability to defend itself or look at its own claims objectively. It appears that HRW's Joe Stork is engaging in a bit of projection when he accuses the IDF of something that applies far better to himself.