21 Feb Misrepresenting Al-Haq’s Position on Palestinian Rocket Attacks
David Bernstein and NGO Monitor have worked themselves into a lather about Human Rights Watch’s decision to appoint Shawan Jabarin, the head of Al-Haq, a leading Palestinian human-rights group, to its Mideast Advisory Board. In support of their ire, they cite decisions of the Israeli Supreme Court that have concluded that Jabarin is also an official in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist organization.
Debating the merits of Jabarin’s appointment is pointless, given that the Israeli Supreme Court decisions are based — as HRW has pointed out — on secret evidence that Jabarin has never been able to see, much less challenge. (Illustrating his profound commitment to due process and the rule of law, Bernstein asks rhetorically, “[s]ince when is ‘secret’ a synonym for ‘baseless’?”) What is beyond debate, however, is that Bernstein and NGO Monitor’s attacks on Al-Haq grossly distort the group’s record. Here is the relevant paragraph of Bernstein’s post:
[NGO Monitor’s] Hertzberg retorts: “I have been personally monitoring Al Haq [Jabarin’s NGO] and Jabarin for nearly 5 years. I have never seen any evidence that either has condemned suicide bombings or rocket attacks.” I (Bernstein) checked Al Haq’s website, searching for, among other things, “rocket” and could find no criticism of Palestinian rocket attacks, suicide bombings, or other attacks on civilians.
That’s curious. I entered the following search into Google: al haq +”rocket attacks”. The first link is to a legal brief that Al-Haq published on 7 January 2009 entitled “Legal Aspects of Israel’s Attacks on the Gaza Strip During Operation ‘Cast Lead’.” Though certainly devoting most of its attention to Israel’s actions — as we would expect from a Palestinian human-rights group — the brief not only criticizes Palestinian rocket attacks, it even acknowledges Israel’s “right and duty” to use proportionate military force to respond to them (my emphasis):
4.2 Al-Haq acknowledges that rocket attacks by Palestinian armed groups, including Hamas, against civilian population centres within Israel are in violation of international humanitarian law. However, while Israel has the right and duty to protect its civilian population from such attacks, any response to Palestinian rocket attacks must respect the fundamental international humanitarian law principles of military necessity, proportionality and distinction. The conduct of hostilities during “Operation Cast Lead” can under no circumstances be considered to be in accordance with these principles.
That brief, not surprisingly, is also available on the Al-Haq website — just type “legal aspects” into the search engine; it’s the only result that comes up.
Bernstein and Herzberg also seem to have somehow missed this press release, published by Al-Haq on its website on 4 August 2010, concerning the Palestinian Independent Committee of Enquiry into the Goldstone Report:
The Committee’s investigations found evidence that the following violations have been committed by the P.A.: (i) arbitrary detention and torture by security forces, including the practice of subjecting civilians to the military court system, (ii) the restrictions placed on the work of NGOs and the freedom of the press, (iii) violations of the right to peaceful assembly, (iv) the dismissal of P.A. employees on the basis of their political orientation. The Committee also held that the de facto Gaza government had perpetrated unlawful killings, torture and arbitrary detention. The Committee was not able to investigate the factual circumstances related to the launch of rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel due to impeded access to relevant information. However, it condemned and provided a comprehensive analysis of the legal implications of the illegal practice.
The Committee’s findings on the violations of international law were entirely consistent with Al Haq’s documentation and repeated calls to halt and investigate violations committed by both the P.A. and the de facto Gaza government.
It took me a grand total of five minutes to find these two Al-Haq documents, both of which directly contradict Bernstein’s and NGO Monitor’s claims. Remember that the next time you are tempted to take their attacks on HRW (or any other progressive NGO) seriously.