Monday, March 15, 2010

The importance of the ITIC report (guest post)

Zvi made a comment in response to the charge that the ITIC report on Goldstone I mentioned does not directly address the charges of war crimes against Israel, rather it concentrates on Hamas war crimes.

It is worth publishing here, somewhat modified to make it less "comment"-like:

When Hamas turns otherwise civilian structures into military operations centers, they become legitimate military targets. Bombing such targets is specifically NOT A WAR CRIME, even if a lot of legally ignorant and/or dishonest UNHRC, NGO, media, bloggers and other opinion shapers blather on endlessly about it being one.

When Hamas terrorists pose as civilians, they endanger civilians. When they use civilian clothing, the soldiers fighting them fire back to protect their own lives; and if it is difficult to distinguish non-uniformed snipers shooting out of windows from non-uniformed civilians moving within the same part of a building, then even if 98% of the time the soldier avoids shooting, he may kill a noncombatant 2% of the time, EVEN THOUGH HE DOES NOT INTEND TO HURT NONCOMBATANTS. If he does not intend to hurt noncombatants, and has made an effort to distinguish them from gunmen, then the death of the civilian is an accident, and the soldier HAS NOT COMMITTED A WAR CRIME.

Hamas, like Hezbollah, makes a consistent strategy out of firing rockets from civilian locales; using medical centers and mosques and schools as firing platforms; and fighting while wearing civilian clothing. The effect of this is to make it very difficult for Israelis, returning fire against the Hamas firing positions, to avoid hurting civilians by mistake.

When Hamas rocket- and gunmen fire from areas near civilians or uses a metal shop as an armory, it makes it difficult for a drone pilot to distinguish civilians at that location from gunmen, when civilians appear to be participating in military operations. And we have only the word of Hamas that the other people were, in fact, civilians.

It is NOT A WAR CRIME to kill a civilian BY ACCIDENT during a battle, no matter how much you dance around the truth, nor is it a war crime if Israel bombs a house that contains explosives, and the resulting secondary explosions engulf nearby houses; and when your enemy deliberately puts his rockets in a clinic or a mosque, it is NOT A WAR CRIME to bomb the clinic or the mosque.

The reason why these things matter in the context of the report is NOT because "one bad turn deserves another." That's the kind of arrant nonsense that HAMAS trots out when faced with evidence of wrongdoing. Israel does not make that argument. Rather, it makes the argument that it is trying to avoid civilian casualties, but Hamas is deliberately placing its forces so as to create civilian casualties. There is ample video evidence, and evidence from Palestinian groups themselves, to back up this claim.

One of the many problems with the Goldstone Travesty is that Goldstone's commission repeatedly and explicitly refused to deal with the question of whether Israeli soldiers' decisions were reasonable given the knowledge available to them at the time and given the standard tactics of the gunmen against whom they were fighting. The accuser bears the burden of proof; but Goldstone's commission explicitly rejected this basic principle and instead simply asserted that the Israelis were "guilty" of war crimes.

The Goldstone commission simply assumed that all attacks in which civilians died represented malicious attempts by Israelis to massacre Palestinians and that the Israelis were guilty. They then waved their hands and used a rhetorical gimmick (that they had "no evidence", which given the fact that they persistently avoided receiving and investigating the evidence that was provided to them, is both sort of true and utterly meaningless) to avoid looking for the truth.

In addition, because Goldstone repeatedly and persistently avoided any serious investigation of Hamas/PIJ/PRC/AAMB war crimes, there has been no comprehensive report that documents such war crimes. Advocates of understanding the truth should welcome this new report.

As for the IDF's investigations, YES, the IDF is investigating incidents. Unlike Goldstone, it does this deliberately and with attention to facts and with investigation of sources. A second indictment has recently been issued against several soldiers, and a number of other "criminal investigations" - their words, not mine - are ongoing.