Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Latest Amnesty report shows ignorance, bias and excuses Hamas war crimes

Here's the crux of Amnesty's latest hit job on Israel:

Families under the Rubble: Israeli attacks on inhabited homes details eight cases where residential family homes in Gaza were attacked by Israeli forces without warning during Operation Protective Edge in July and August 2014, causing the deaths of at least 104 civilians including 62 children. The report reveals a pattern of frequent Israeli attacks using large aerial bombs to level civilian homes, sometimes killing entire families.

“Israeli forces have brazenly flouted the laws of war by carrying out a series of attacks on civilian homes, displaying callous indifference to the carnage caused,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

“The report exposes a pattern of attacks on civilian homes by Israeli forces which have shown a shocking disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians, who were given no warning and had no chance to flee.”
The report contains numerous accounts from survivors who describe the horror of frantically digging through the rubble and dust of their destroyed homes in search of the bodies of children and loved ones.

In several of the cases documented in the report, possible military targets were identified by Amnesty International. However the devastation to civilian lives and property caused in all cases was clearly disproportionate to the military advantages gained by launching the attacks.

“Even if a fighter had been present in one of these residential homes, it would not absolve Israel of its obligation to take every feasible precaution to protect the lives of civilians caught up in the fighting. The repeated, disproportionate attacks on homes indicate that Israel’s current military tactics are deeply flawed and fundamentally at odds with the principles of international humanitarian law,” said Philip Luther.
I have discussed in detail the real definition of "disproportionate" under international law, and it is clear that Amnesty is more interested in damning Israel with war crimes charges than with the truth.

As we saw from the case of NATO in Yugoslavia, the lives of 15 civilians are not considered a disproportionate price to pay for taking out a communications system for a couple of hours under international law.

In this case, Amnesty allows that there were terrorists in many of the houses whose bombing they researched. I found the same.

But Amnesty stops it analysis there.

In February, Amnesty’s Secretary General Salil Shetty admitted, “We are not an expert on military matters. So we don’t want to, kind of, pontificate on issues we don’t really understand.(source here, the original quote does not seem to be at the Al Jazeera website anymore, video of the interview is not available in the US.)

What might Amnesty not understand about what happened in Gaza last summer?

Amnesty admits that terrorists, usually only one or two, were sprinkled among many family homes in Gaza. It also seems to admit that the IDF was not bombing Gaza houses randomly, because given the number of militants in Gaza and the number of buildings, you would not expect the average building to have a terrorist.

In a normal war, the combatants don't spread out like that. This was not a normal war. So why would Gaza combatants be in so many houses?

Because, as we now know, houses were sitting on top of tunnel entrances. And on top of command and control centers. And on top of weapons caches. And it makes sense to have one person to be located at military objects like these.

In the entire 50-page Amnesty report, the word "tunnels" isn't mentioned once. Neither are the phrases  "weapons caches" or "command and control" or "rocket launcher." It never even occurred to Amnesty that Israel had any physical military objectives in Gaza!

Israeli officials from Netanyahu down the line said explicitly and repeatedly that they were targeting tunnels and underground bunkers. Yet Amnesty, whose main charge of Israeli war crimes depends on knowledge of the military value of the targets (as well as what IDF commanders knew when they chose their targets,) cannot even fathom that tunnels were being targeted to begin with.

How can Amnesty pretend to be able to make a blanket statement that Israel acted with disproportionate force when Amnesty has no clue what the military targets were -and makes no attempt to investigate that question?  Their field workers went to Gaza not to investigate the targets of Israel's attacks, but rather to interview surviving family members who all give utterly irrelevant facts like that there was no fighting in the area at the time of the strikes. They make the bizarre assumption that the combatants themselves were the targets - but they do not have the slightest military knowledge to even ask the question of what the militants were doing in these houses to begin with!

Amnesty is making a statement about international law without knowing the bare minimum of information needed to make that determination, namely what the military objective was. Given that Israel's attacks weren't indiscriminate by Amnesty's own admission, then it seems obvious that the IDF felt there were military targets within those houses. Amnesty doesn't even know enough to ask the question, and makes bizarre assumptions based on nothing but its researchers' own ignorance of military matters combined with their clear anti-Israel bias.

It gets worse, though.

Amnesty is going out of its way to excuse Hamas' use of the people in these houses as human shields.

It writes:
Warring parties have obligations to take precautions to protect civilians and civilian objects under their control against the effects of attacks by the adversary. As with precautions in attack, these rules are particularly important when fighting is taking place in areas with large numbers of civilians.

Each party to the conflict must, to the extent feasible, avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas.67 The authoritative commentary of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on this provision explains that the use of the term “feasible” is used to illustrate “the fact that no one can be required to do the impossible. In this case it is clear that precautions should not go beyond the point where the life of the population would become difficult or even impossible.” And it notes: “Moreover, a Party to the conflict cannot be expected to arrange its armed forces and installations in such a way as to make them conspicuous to the benefit of the adversary.”
The only reason Amnesty would choose to quote these parts of the ICRC manuals (which are not under the "human shield" section) is to exonerate Hamas for purposefully placing military objectives directly next to and under civilian objects. They want to make it look like Hamas has no choice - that it really wants to take precautions to protect civilians, but, by golly, they can't because Gaza is too darn crowded.  This is absurd, given that we know that Hamas deliberately built not only tunnels under civilian homes but also booby-trapped homes and fake military clinics, plus it shot rockets from civilian areas and in some cases told civilians not to evacuate from areas that were about to come under fire.  In no way is this permitted under international law, but Amnesty is taking Hamas off the hook - for the very thing that caused so many civilians to die. (Indeed, the ICRC specifically instructs combatants to remove civilians from military targets as much as possible, and Hamas did the opposite - another Hamas war crime which Amnesty ignores.)

Not to mention that it didn't choose to quote parts of the ICRC documents such as "State practice indicates that an attacker is not prevented from attacking military objectives if the defender fails to take appropriate precautions or deliberately uses civilians to shield military operations." No, it only quotes the parts of the laws that it can use to damn Israel, and only the parts that excuse the terrorists.

Isn't it interesting that a supposed "human rights" organization goes out of its way to ignore Hamas violations of the human rights of Gazans?

Amnesty's report once again proves not that Israel violated international law. It proves that Amnesty International again twists international law and again ignores evidence that contradicts its predetermined agenda. Amnesty's anti-Israel bias is so strong that it spills over into a pro-terrorist bias.