Professor Heller’s remarks
Professor Heller insists that it is “excruciatingly clear” that the NYT sentence that reads “Mr. Kamaleldin, the Sreifa official, estimated that up to two-thirds of the town’s homes and buildings were demolished, leaving more than 43 people buried in the rubble” refers to casualties from the August 13 attack alone.
Perhaps it is clear to Professor Heller.
For the rest of us, since the two-thirds of the buildings were destroyed during the entire war, I would say that it should be plain that the remainder of the sentence also refers to casualties of the entire war.
In addition, this August 20 piece, which I mentioned earlier sums up the ENTIRE WAR’S DAMAGE in Srifa as 70 percent of the buildings and an estimated 45 dead (although it adds that total will probably be upped as new dead were discovered on August 18). This makes plain once again to all persons other than Professor Heller that the NYT totals of August 16 refer to then-estimates for the entire war.
Professor Heller accuses me of selective quoting by not completing the HRW sentence: “[t]he researchers saw no signs of Hezbollah military activity in the village, such as weapons, military equipment, or trenches” because “[t]hat statement is in no way inconsistent with the presence of Hezbollah fighters in Sreifa on July 31.”
If Professor Heller believes that HRW is capable of having seen plausible signs of Hezbollah presence in Sreifa on July 31, but decided not to mention it, but instead imply that Hezbollah was absent on the basis of HRW not seeing “weapons, military equipment, or trenches,” I must say that I sadly agree. Similarly, if Professor Heller says that when the report claims that HRW claims that “[a]t the sites visited by Human Rights Watch—Qana, Srifa, Tyre, and the southern suburbs of Beirut—on-site investigations did not identify any signs of military activity in the area attacked, such as trenches, destroyed rocket launchers, other military equipment, or dead or wounded fighters,” HRW was deliberately omitting the possibility that HRW saw unknown dead fighters and live known fighters, I sadly agree as well.
Most people would consider this deliberately misleading and inconsistent with HRW’s claim of Israeli attacks in violation of the rule of distinction (i.e., aimed at suspected civilians as such).
However, I take Professor Heller’s correction. It is possible that HRW’s report should be read not as making the plainly false claim of no live Hezbollah presence on July 31. It is possible the report should be read as making the statement that HRW investigators saw no “weapons, military equipment, or trenches,” and that the HRW investigators actually did see persons it believed or suspected were Hezbollah fighters and that it deliberately omitted this fact in its report, and instead attempted to mislead readers into believing that because they saw no “weapons, military equipment, or trenches,” there was no Hezbollah presence.