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Friday, January 14, 2011

Sky News bias and Amnesty hypocrisy

From Sky News:
Britain is buying 30 Watchtower WK450 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) which are based on the Israeli Elbit Hermes 450 system, in a deal worth close to a £1bn.
But some accuse the Government of purchasing technology that was "field-tested on Palestinians" during the three-week Gaza conflict in 2008-9.
And the revelation that Royal Artillery soldiers undertake drone training in Israel has reignited the debate over Watchkeeper's purchase - particularly given that their Israeli trainers may have been involved in the Gaza conflict.
Note the implication by Sky News that the Gaza operation was inherently immoral. Not that some bad things may have happened, or that Israel could have somehow done a more effective job at targeting only militants  in civilian clothing with weapons caches in civilian neighborhoods hiding among civilians, but that the war itself was illegitimate and Israel had no business defending itself against thousands of rockets aimed at its citizens. This is a sickening implication, one that is aimed only at Israel and no other nation who has ever had a war.
Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said: "Amnesty International has documented the role of drones in serious human rights violations by the Israel Defence Forces in Gaza."
Amnesty's Gaza report talks often about the advanced optics that the drones have that should allow the IDF to distinguish between civilians and terrorists. For example, it says "Surveillance drones have exceptionally good optics, allowing those watching to see details such as the type and colour of the items of clothing worn by those being observed, and what kind of objects they are carrying." Yet most of the specific instances they discuss are where the people are in the building that was bombed - where the optics are useless. Not only that, but we have seen the video from the drones. it is not nearly as easy to distinguish the targets from civilians in real time, especially when the targets hide among the civilians.

Amnesty's report assumes a superhuman, omniscient infrastructure where the IDF knows what every Gaza citizen is doing every minute of the day and can instantly distinguish between legitimate targets and civilian targets. And once it creates this huge straw man of the all-knowing, all powerful, highly accurate IDF, it then compares the actions of the real army against its ideal. Then when the IDF inevitably falls short - it is ready to accuse them of severe human rights violations.

And, of course, Amnesty never acknowledges Israel's explanations and justifications for its actions. The report was written in 2009 but a lot of information has come out since then from the IDF - information that Amnesty has shown little interest in using to modify its initial conclusions. Has Amnesty ever retracted a specific allegation after an Israeli explanation or proof otherwise?
"There is already growing international concern over the use of drones in remote unlawful killings, sometimes amounting to extrajudicial executions," Mr Hancock said.
Don't you love the passive voice here? He is referring only to his own organization, of course, but he wants to make it sound much more like a consensus.

Note also that he is implying that no one is a legitimate target of drones, since every death in war is an "extrajudicial execution."
"It would seem wholly inappropriate for UK forces to be trained in the use of drones by a country with a track record of applying this technology in grave abuses of people's human rights."
Here we see Amnesty's hypocrisy in full bloom.

Amnesty admits that drones help nations be more effective in fighting their enemies. They allow more precise targeting, and less collateral damage. In fact, if you believe Amnesty, Israel's drones - seemingly the best in the world - should result in zero collateral damage, because their optics are so fantastic.

Amnesty should love drones as the single most effective method of distinguishing between military and civilian objects - to do exactly what the Geneva Conventions require.

Yet when Great Britain shows a desire to purchase the weapons that would allow them to minimize human rights violations, Amnesty is suddenly concerned and calls such a move "inappropriate." Why? Because they believe that the people selling these weapons that can save lives are immoral people, therefore the purchase of these effective tools are tainted by Israel's inherent immorality.

This is an astonishing example of Amnesty's hatred of Israel. Would they say the same thing about Great Britain buying American drones, even though by any objective measure the US is guilty of exactly the same alleged crimes Israel is, on a much larger scale, in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Alternatively, would Amnesty rather have Great Britain target terrorists in Afghanistan with blunter and less accurate weapons?
During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli offensive on Gaza following Palestinian rocket attacks against Israel in 2008, UAVs were used for targeting - leading to Israel being accused of breaking international law.

Amnesty International estimated that hundreds of civilians were killed, including up to three hundred children - the targets often identified by UAVs.
Sky News here (and Amnesty in its report) is broadly implying that Israel specifically targeted children. This is simply slander, and it can be disproven by the simple fact that Amnesty admits that Israel used phone calls, "roof-knocking", flyers and other methods to avoid civilian casualties. Why on earth would Israel go through so much effort to avoid civilian casualties if they then turn around and target them?

But consistency is not what Amnesty, and Sky News, are after. They want blood - and in this case,  Israeli blood.

(h/t T34)