Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Over the past couple of days I have documented some clear errors and missing context in B'Tselem's new, supposedly exhaustive report on casualties Operation Protective Edge. I have other examples of B'Tselem's inaccuracy, for example claiming that four of the nine people killed in a July 19 airstrike were civilians, when the Abu Rish Brigades claimed all of them - including a 15 and 16 year old - as members:

Never have any NGOs spent as much time and effort to document a single war - a war whose casualties are far fewer than most wars - as Amnesty and B'Tselem are spending on Protective Edge, even two years afterwards. What are they trying to accomplish and why are they trying to claim that so many terrorists were civilian?

The answer perhaps may be seen in the International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor Strategic Plan for 2016-2018.

The ICC now looks at NGOs as partners in determining whether war crimes were committed - and some NGOs are salivating at the idea of prosecuting Israel.

The Office of the Prosecutor (OPT) writes:

[T]here are also the first responders—international forces, human rights organisations, non-governmental organisations (“NGOs”), media, etc.—who deploy into areas where the OTP has not been able to be present (e.g. due to jurisdiction, required agreements, or security implications for staff or witnesses). While respecting each other’s mandate and independence, the Office has begun to discuss with the NGO community how first responders could support the Office in its work and what support could be expected from the Office.

In relation to investigations, the Office will continue to implement the present strategy. It will focus, in particular, on the following priority areas:
 Closing the time gap between events on the ground and the Office’s investigations by creating partnerships with first responders, creating a gateway for crime reporting and working with partners to preserve relevant information on the internet.
 Increasing its ability to collect different forms of evidence other than witness statements through continually enhancing its scientific and technology-related capabilities. Additionally, it will develop further partnerships to support this strategic need, so that in-house capacity is only developed where it is justified.
 Continuing to strengthen the Office’s analysis function through the further roll-out of the Factual Analytical Database, the upgrade of analytical software, the roll-out of the Gender Analysis, and through strengthening the use of analytical products in investigative decision-making for planning, case selection and case review.

[T]echnology is evolving so rapidly that it will be impossible for the Office to keep current if it does not combine investing in its own expertise with developing strategic partnerships for the purposes of outsourcing, when needed, and for understanding and shaping how future technology can assist it to execute its mandate. The Office has been working with the law enforcement community, NGOs and academic institutions to explore new possibilities to support the identification, collection and presentation of evidence through technology. 
The ICC is overwhelmed and need help to determine what to prosecute. But the fatal mistake it is making is that it is appearing to assume that the NGOs it chooses to partner with are unbiased.

In these cases, nothing could be further from the truth. In respect to Israel, we have documented exhaustively how each of these NGOs are advocates against the State of Israel, not objective gatherers of data that can be trusted.

But the ICC OTP document indicates that there have been talks for a while between the ICC and NGOs regarding the "help" they can give. Amnesty and B'Tselem are putting together very professional websites where their ability to present data in new and attractive ways mask the fundamental problem, known to all computer science students: garbage in, garbage out.

The ICC prosecutor, who freely admits that she does not have adequate technical expertise, can easily be fooled into mistaking flash for accuracy. Just because the B'Tselem and Amnesty sites have lots of information does not mean that the information is accurate. Their methodologies range from flawed to outright dishonesty and flagrant malice. They are hiring people to gather statistics who are themselves biased, or basing their information on questionable sources. They do not use any known methodology for fact-finding that can eliminate bias. And their data shows that they are ignoring any facts that do not conform to their pre-existing biases.

In short, biased and anti-Israel NGOs are taking advantage of an overworked, under-teched ICC to "help" it come to the conclusions that they have already decided on before they started their Gaza projects: that Israel is guilty of war crimes. Both Amnesty and B'Tselem say this or broadly imply this in their literature.

Dead children are not evidence of war crimes. Without knowing the targets and what the commanders knew at the time of the strikes, one cannot come to that conclusion. That is what international law says. But the Amnesty and B'Tselem websites hide or mis-state relevant information that could exonerate Israel. They cynically parade an army of dead Palestinian children to overwhelm the person looking at the data while purposefully hiding evidence that shows that it is Hamas, not Israel, that is responsible for their deaths.  These NGOs  are representing themselves as honest fact-finders to the ICC at the same time that they are falsely telling the world that Israel is guilty.

They should not be trusted partners to an organization that is dedicated to impartiality.

This is a cynical attempt to twist international law into a weapon against Israel. And the ICC prosecutor does not seem to realize - indeed, she simply does not have the tools to understand - that her "partners" are biased as hell. They are respected, they are praised, and one has to dig to see that there is rot in the foundation of their beautiful castles.

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