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Saturday, June 25, 2011

The human rights community shows its hypocrisy on Shalit

I mentioned Friday that there was a joint press release from eight human rights groups regarding Gilad Shalit. Noah Pollak at Commentary noted:

If a better example of the utter moral collapse of the human rights community exists, it would be hard to find. The statement is one of passionless brevity — just a few sentences long — and expresses no opinion on the standing of Hamas, or on its 2006 raid into Israel, or on the legitimacy of its goals and methods. Remarkably, it doesn’t even demand the release of Gilad Shalit. The most that this allegedly courageous and principled human rights community could bring itself to say to the terrorists of Hamas is that they should improve the conditions of Shalit’s imprisonment.

Even the Goldstone Report demanded Shalit’s release. Human rights groups, especially when it comes to condemning Israel, invoke what they believe to be the inflexible requirements of international law as a guide to matters of war and peace. Their only source of credibility is their adherence to principle. Yet here these same champions of international law have lost their voices, and their outrage, when it comes to making what should be the easiest of judgments: That it is against international law to raid a sovereign state for the purpose of abducting its citizens, that Shalit’s imprisonment is barbaric and utterly without legitimacy, and that Hamas must release him immediately.
Pollak's criticism is slightly unfair, but only slightly.

Let's first look at the actual press release:

Human beings are not bargaining chips

Marking five years since the capture of Gilad Shalit, Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights organizations state:

Hamas must immediately end inhumane and illegal treatment of Gilad Shalit

Staff Sergeant Gilad Shalit has been in captivity for five years. Those holding him have refused to allow him to communicate with his family, nor have they provided information on his well-being and the conditions in which he is being held. The organizations stress that this conduct is inhumane and a violation of international humanitarian law.

Hamas authorities in Gaza must immediately end the cruel and inhuman treatment of Gilad Shalit. Until he is released, they must enable him to communicate with his family and should grant him access to the International Committee of the Red Cross. ]


Amnesty International & the Israel Section
B'Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
Bimkom: Planners for Planning Rights
Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement
Human Rights Watch
International Federation for Human Rights
Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Gaza
Physicians for Human Rights - Israel
Public Committee Against Torture in Israel
Rabbis for Human Rights
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel
Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights

In a separate press release,B'Tselem explicitly calls for Shalit's release:
Shalit is considered a hostage due to the circumstances of his abduction and the manner in which he is being held. International humanitarian law absolutely forbids the taking and holding of a person by force for the purpose of pressuring the adversary to comply with certain demands, while threatening to harm the person if the demands are not met. The taking of hostages is considered a war crime, for which all those involved bear personal criminal liability.

The Hamas leadership in Gaza bears an obligation to release Shalit immediately and unconditionally. Pending his release, his captors must treat him humanely and enable representatives of the ICRC to visit him.
But Amnesty does not:
Amnesty International is asking activists around the world to sign our petition to Isma’il Haniyeh, Prime Minister of the Hamas de facto administration in Gaza, urging him to alleviate the suffering of Gilad Shalit and his family by immediately complying with its obligations under international humanitarian law to ensure that he is well treated, held in humane and dignified living conditions, and to allow him to communicate with his family, including through sending and receiving letters. Treating Gilad Shalit as a hostage is a flagrant violations of these obligations as Amnesty International stressed again today together with Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights NGOs.
This means that Amnesty is considering Shalit a prisoner of war, not a hostage, even though he was captured on the Israeli side of the Gaza fence and the entire operation was meant to capture hostages. Amnesty, amazingly, ignores these facts and merely calls for Hamas to treat him humanely.

HRW is equally bad. This year they merely reproduced the joint press release, but even last year they did not call for Shalit's release:

Hamas authorities in Gaza should immediately end the cruel and inhuman treatment of Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit of Israel and allow him to communicate with his family and receive visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Human Rights Watch said today. June 25, 2010 is the fourth anniversary of his captivity.

Interestingly, they did call for his unconditional release immediately after he was abducted. One can only wonder why they have dropped that demand in the years since.

B'Tselem is not blameless either.

In its press release about the joint declaration, takes pains to note that
[L]eading Israeli, Palestinian and International Human Rights organizations issued a joint statement demanding that those holding him must immediately end his inhumane and illegal treatment.

The organizations take a variety of positions on the issue. Some call for the immediate release of Shalit, while others support a prisoner swap. Some of the organizations have not made any statements until today. It is therefore particularly significant that the organizations have united around a joint message.
It is obvious that B'Tselem was the driving force behind this declaration. It is equally obvious that they tried really hard to get PCHR, the lone Palestinian Arab "human rights" group, to sign on, and they noted to AFP that the declaration was also issued in Arabic.

However, the PCHR website is silent about this declaration!

What good is the Arabic translation of the message when even its sole Arab participant refuses to admit of its participation in its own website?

Thus we can see the incredible hypocrisy of the so-called "human rights" community. By refusing to demand Shalit's immediate and unconditional release, they are winking at Hamas' abduction of Israelis as hostages and encouraging more such raids. It is a travesty of everything they pretend to stand for.