Steinberg: Human rights hypocrisy in Gaza
By Gerald M. Steinberg, National Post, November 20, 2012
Gerald Steinberg is professor of political science at Bar Ilan University and president of NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based think tank.
Human rights and international law, or at least the accompanying rhetoric, are an integral part of 21st-century warfare. In Iraq, Afghanistan and whenever Israel acts to defend its citizens, a cacophony of United Nations ideologues and their allies in groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch automatically condemn the use of force as a “war crime.” In contrast, their silence is deafening in the face of mass attacks conducted by terrorists from “the Global South,” and in which the victims are from democracies.
This moral hypocrisy is on display in the “human rights discourse” during the latest round of warfare between Israel and the Hamas terror group that controls Gaza (a member in good standing of the Global South). In the first hours following the long-delayed Israeli response to rocket attacks that terrorized millions of civilians, the flood of righteous condemnations began. Without any evidence, Israel was immediately accused of “war crimes” and “human rights violations,” and these claims are often copied in the media without thought or verification, fueling the campaigns that demonize Israel.
Amnesty International — which has a history of intense anti-Israeli ideological bias hidden behind a thin façade of human rights — immediately asserted that “Israel’s assassination of Ahmad al-Jabari, the head of Hamas’ military wing has placed civilians in Gaza and southern Israel at grave risk.” The thousands of rocket attacks targeting Israeli civilians, for which Jabari was responsible, including dozens in recent days, were ignored because they did not fit the anti-Israel straightjacket worn by many Amnesty officials. Krystian Benedict, Amnesty U.K.’s “campaigns manager,” has flooded his Twitter account with snide attacks on Israel.
Amnesty’s statement on the Jabari killing also repeated the bogus legal claims used in the previous political wars against Israel, including Lebanon (2006) and Gaza (December 2008/January 2009) and then reiterated in the discredited Goldstone report and other UN frameworks. In the latest version, they claimed to have “gathered evidence” of “indiscriminate attacks … in densely-populated residential areas that will inevitably harm civilians.”
In reality, Amnesty has no ability to “gather evidence” in a war zone — instead, they simply repeat the “eyewitness testimony” from the spokespeople of the given terror groups — whether Taliban in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon or Hamas in Gaza.
And in their warped logic, it is not Hamas — which places and launches deadly rockets from homes and schools — that is guilty of war crimes, but rather the Israeli forces defending their citizens.
Similarly, an Oxfam International statement implied that Israel was not abiding by “obligations under international law.” Oxfam, which ostensibly is a humanitarian aid organization, has no credentials to make legal judgments. To make matters worse, they repeat the immoral equivalence between deliberate Palestinian terrorist attacks launched from civilian areas and directly targeting civilians with necessary Israeli self-defence. Oxfam called on Israel to halt military operations in Gaza, while offering no alternatives to protect Israel’s population.
Indeed, Amnesty, Oxfam and other NGOs have no independent means of analyzing any military activity and determining the facts or legality. In April 2002, it was an Amnesty “expert” — Derek Pounder — who appeared on the BBC and “confirmed” the “Jenin massacre” lie. This NGO human rights expert, like many others, including Goldstone, simply repeated Palestinian claims — that is the entirety of their methodology.
The strategy of using human rights claims to attack Israel was adopted in September 2001, during the infamous NGO Forum of the UN Durban conference, in which 1,500 delegations and 5,000 officials, including officials from Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, participated. (Canadian officials under the Liberal government played a central role in promoting and funding this travesty, in which “anti-racism” was used as a grounds for racist attacks.) This forum adopted a final declaration, written during a preparatory conference held in Teheran, which used the rhetoric of “apartheid,” “genocide” and “war crimes” to promote the “complete isolation” of Israel. The Durban strategy was implemented in Jenin, Lebanon (in 2006) and Gaza on many occasions, and again in the current round.
As these and other examples demonstrate, the human rights network, including once honourable groups such as Amnesty International, Oxfam and Human Rights Watch, has lost its moral compass. These organizations, in close co-operation with the thoroughly corrupted United Nations Human Rights Council, have exploited universal ethical principles and the real suffering of black South Africans under apartheid to wage political war against Israeli democracy. By abusing allegations of “war crimes” in these ideological campaigns, they are undermining the legal structures established to bring genocidal dictators to justice.
The moral foundations of universal human rights are incompatible with these anti-democratic double standards and hypocrisy.
The phrase "right to defend herself" seems incompatible with the phrase "war crimes"...Either one has the force of consensus and both legal and political opinion or the other merits that status. If the first phrase, "right to defend" is even close to the truth of the situation, then the "war crimes" denunciation cannot apply. Playing with the words will not make their opposite true, although there are many political leaders, and some literary giants like Orwell, who remind us of our culpability in permitting, even conspiring in such "newspeak".
After ten years of rockets being fired on its territory, much of the assault organized and executed by the military leader of Hamas, killed in what appears to have been a dramatic surgical strike by an Israeli missile, Israel, admittedly in the midst of an election campaign of the Prime Minister as part of his strategy to win that election as the "security prime minister," finally retaliated against the terrorist, Iran-supported Hamas, the elected government of Gaza. Is that missile, and the hundreds that followed more worthy of denunciation as a "war crime" than those frequent rocket attacks on Israel over the last decade?
If there is truth in the charge that Hamas both fires on innocent civilians in Israel, and fires rockets from homes of terrorists in Gaza, thereby endangering the residents of those homes as targets, and then cries "war crimes" against Israel, there has to be a level of discernment both in the reporting of those events and in the negotiations that bring these hostilities to a substantive end, that differentiates the propaganda from the reality.
If the language of human rights and international law is now also the language of conflict in the twenty-first century, then, we can no longer afford to have "truth" become the first casuality in any conflict, as has been the proverbial expectation in the past.
The United Nations would serve both its mandate and the people of the planet by establishing a review panel of linguistic and legal scholars, who can observe all conflicts, including their origins, histories, context, and specific actions, call the people on such panel "truth-seekers," who could and would publish their findings simultaneously with the conflict, and not a decade later when no one is listening, reading or even remembering the specific conflict. Those reports could and would provide a spine of truth from which political and legal debate, discussion and reflection, as well as preventive steps with geopolitical appplications for debate in graduate school classrooms, in editorial board rooms, and in international tribunal courtrooms, where some progress toward both an awareness and an acceptance of the facts of any situation could conceivably result.
It was the late New York Senator, Patrick Moynihan, whose quote reminds us of his legendary insight: "You are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts!"
Unless and until we establish a body of "facts" on which to base reasoned, mature and reflective points of opinion, we are likely to continue down a path to a kind of "Alice in Wonderland" where everything and everyone is upside down, leaving us all victim of our own self-obfuscations.
It will be very hard, nigh on to impossible, to arrive at peace treaties or negotiated settlements of any conflict in those (these?) circumstances.