One more word on Human Rights Watch

by Avi Bell

And, finally, in reference to Professor Heller’s piece, a little math: According to the HRW figures, at least 23 were killed in the July 13-19 Israeli attacks. According to the NYT story, on August 16, there were 43 total dead of which at list 22 (“most”) were Hezbollah/Amal fighters. 43 less 23 is 20, which means that at least 2 of the dead from the July 13-19 attacks were Hezbollah/Amal.

Professor Heller also mismatches the NYT story and the evidence. The stories clearly show that Hezbollah fighters were present in Srifa at least several weeks before the additional Hezbollah fighters moved into Srifa “just days before” August 16. Additionally, as Professor Heller acknowledges, the AFP story describes a Hezbollah commander responsible for Srifa on August 4; if all the Hezbollah fighters arrived later, just exactly whom was he commanding?

ADDENDUM/CORRECTION (added August 29): In rereading the HRW report, I see that I erred. In fact, the HRW report may have claimed 30 or more dead civilians in the July 13/19 attacks. I say “may” because in one place the report claims 19 dead civilians in the July 19 attack, and in another, the report claims 26 (and then 26 up to 42) dead civilians in the July 19 attack.

I set to the side, for the moment, the skills of Sarah Leah Whitson, who edited the report, and failed to notice that the HRW investigators couldn’t even decide how many civilians they were going to claim were slaughtered by Israel.

If HRW is serious about the figure of 26 dead on July 19, we have to ask whether it is credible for HRW and Professor Heller to claim that Israeli strikes before July 20 were aimed only at civilians and killed 30 civilians, and that this is still consistent with a NYT report that on August 16 the total dead in Srifa was 43, of which at least 22 were Hezbollah/Amal fighters (meaning, at most 21 dead civilians). Even if the lower total is the one to which HRW and Professor Heller now want to adhere, the question remains whether HRW and Professor Heller can credibly claim that the HRW report’s claim of 23 known dead civilians by July 19 is consistent with a NYT claim of a maximum of 21 dead civilians known by August 16.

I think we also have to ask whether HRW and Professor Heller can credibly maintain that an article that includes diary entries by a Hezbollah fighter on July 12, July 18 and August 9 gives no reason to suspect the presence of Hezbollah fighters during July 13 and July 19. Or that the AP story of July 19 mentioned in my original article describing Hezbollah fighters in Srifa “rush[ing] for cover whenever Israeli warplanes or pilotless aircraft appeared overhead” provides no indication of Hezbollah presence during July 13 and July 19. Or that the presence of Hezbollah fighters in Srifa throughout August (in the weeks before the arrival of reinforcements “just before” August 16 as reported by the NYT) provides no indication of a consistent Hezbollah presence.

Finally, I should note that contrary to the insinuations of Sarah Leah Whitson and the claims of Professor Heller, HRW’s claims about the absence of Hezbollah fighters were not limited to July 13 and July 19. For instance, page 28 of the report states that “[t]wo Human Rights Watch researchers visited Srifa briefly on July 31…. The researchers saw no signs of Hezbollah military activity in the village…”

6 Responses

  1. I invite our readers to read the story for themselves to see if I have “mismatched” the story and the evidence. As I explained, in my post nothing in the articles, other than the oblique reference in the Telegraph, indicates that Hezbollah fighters were Sreifa on July 13 or July 19.

  2. I don’t know about this particular story, but I suppose you are aware of this one?


    On July 23, another strike hit two clearly marked Red Cross ambulances in the village of Qana.


  3. here is the story from HRW:

    [B]Wounding of Six Ambulance Drivers and Three Patients, July 23[/B]

    On July 23, at 11:15 p.m., Israeli warplanes struck two clearly marked Red Cross ambulances in the village of Qana. The ambulances, which had Red Cross flags illuminated by a spot light mounted on the ambulance, were transferring three wounded Lebanese civilians from one ambulance to the other when the planes struck. A weapon directly hit one ambulance, and a second attack struck the second ambulance a few minutes later. All six of the Red Cross workers were injured during the attack, and the three patients they were treating suffered additional injuries. One of the patients, a middle-aged man, lost his leg in the ambulance strike, while his elderly mother was partially paralyzed. The third patient, a young boy, received multiple shrapnel wounds to the head.107

    Making medical or religious personnel, medical units or medical transports the object of attack is a war crime.108

    This is [B]clearly[/B] seen as a fraud at

  4. Here is a link to the New York Times article. If any of our readers can find a single sentence in the article that implies Hezbollah fighters “were present in Srifa at least several weeks before the additional Hezbollah fighters moved into Srifa” on August 13th, please post it here. I’ll move it to the front of the blog.

  5. Mr. Heller suggests that Hezbollah was nowhere to be found until July 20 while Israel deliberately killed civilians, and then, after Israel’s repeated bombings, Hezbollah fighters suddenly descended on Srifa in time for Israel to change its mind and start attacking Hezbollah’s fighters and score a 100% success rate.

    This sounds about as credible as Ms. Whitson’s story.

    Why does Professor Heller believe that the fighter whose diary was excerpted in the AP story was present in Srifa on July 12 to record that Israeli fighters are shooting at a school building under construction “they think … is a military center for Hezbollah,” absent on July 13, present again on July 18 to record another attack in which Israel “thought they were hitting the centers for Hezbollah,” and then absent again on July 19 to miss the HRW investigation and then return again to make more entries in August?

  6. Professor Bell’s caricature of my argument speaks for itself.

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