Human Rights Watch has some explaining to do
Rosa Brooks’ editorial is a must-read.
It is also a non-sequitur.
The New York Sun attacked Ken Roth as an anti-Semite for Roth’s remark that Israel’s behavior was an “[a]n eye for an eye – or more accurately in this case twenty eyes for an eye — [which] may have been the morality of some more primitive moment.” Whether Mr. Roth is an anti-Semite in fact is a question I cannot answer, but the remark itself certainly sounds like an anti-Jewish slur. Ms. Brooks pretends the entire incident never occured.
What’s her answer for Mr. Roth’s behavior? Mr. Roth’s father “fled Nazi Germany.” Oh, well that settles it.
Ms. Brooks claims good faith criticism explains Human Rights Watch focusing most of its attacks on Israel in the recent south Lebanon war. Yet, Human Rights Watch, in its one and only in-depth report, “Israel’s Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon”, briefly acknowledged in the report itself that during the time of the twenty-one incidents in the report that HRW alleges constituted Israeli war crimes, Hezbollah engaged in 1,300 (!) indiscriminate attacks on Israeli civilians, each of which was a war crime. Does Human Rights Watch behave this way in other conflicts throughout the world? Does it observe side A committing 62 war crimes for every alleged war crimes of side B, and then focus most of its criticism on side B?
Another must-read editorial is Human Rights Watch board member Kathleen Peratis’ defense of HRW’s abysmal record in the Washington Post.
Kathleen Peratis says “it simply will not do to ‘rebut’ a detailed report such as the group produced [i.e., the aforementioned Israel’s Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon] by accusing Human Rights Watch or its executive director, whose father fled Nazi Germany, of anti-Semitism (or other bad motives) and let it go at that. Indeed, the critics barely mention, much less discuss, the 24 incidents [sic] described in the report.”
But of course critics have mentioned the incidents.
I’ve observed that the description of two of the recorded incidents (in Srifa) don’t make sense in light of other newspaper reports.
Another of the incidents — an alleged Israeli air strike on ambulances in Qana on July 23 — has been seriously questioned; Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer stated that “[a]fter closer study of the images of the damage to the ambulance, it is beyond serious dispute that this episode has all the makings of a hoax.” (Brit Hume of Fox News had a segment on the hoax a few days ago; the video is available here).
Yet another incident listed in the report as an Israeli war crime was an Israeli air strike on July 25 that killed four UN observers (from Austria, Canada, Finland and China), with Human Rights Watch alleging that “[t]here was no Hezbollah presence or firing near the U.N. position during the period of the attack.” However, the day after the attack Canadian Major General Lewis MacKenzie reported on CBC Toronto that the Canadian soldier killed had complained that “Hizbullah fighters were all over his position … and … [t]hey use the UN as shields knowing that they can’t be punished for it.”
This is four dubious incidents already out of the 21, and I have just culled reports from the press without any systematic research.
This doesn’t sound like good faith.
Finally, it’s worth noting that Human Rights Watch repeatedly jumped to make accusations without facts. Thus, Mr. Roth alleged in the New York Sun on July 31 that Israel had killed 42 civilians in Srifa. By the time Human Rights Watch’s report had come out on August 3, the number had shrunk to 30 (in one place in the report) and 23 (in another place in the report).
Similarly, on July 30, Human Rights Watch accused Israel of killing “at least 54 civilians” in Qana as part of “an indiscriminate bombing campaign.” By August 2, the number of dead had declined to 28, and Human Rights Watch was calling for an investigation. It must have been a quick investigation, because by August 3, the incident appeared in HRW’s report in alleged Israeli war crimes.
Human Rights Watch has some explaining to do.
Shooting the messenger will not do.