Jewish Right To Israel

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Has Amnesty International Seen The Light?

On September 4, the NGO Monitor came out with a report: Amnesty continues to distort human rights rhetoric to attack Israeli actions in Lebanon, documenting what they politely called "problematic statements" made by the group during Israel's war with Hezbollah:

By artificially separating Hezbollah attacks from the Israeli responses, the analysis lacks credibility, inverts the priority of core human rights values and glosses over Hezbollah's missile attacks and use of human shields. Similarly, the authors have erased the context, including Syrian and Iranian support and provision of missiles to Hezbollah, while claiming a level of military expertise where none is evident. In addition, the conclusions are based on unverifiable evidence provided by "eyewitnesses" in Lebanon, whose may be strongly influenced by support for or threats from Hezbollah. As a result, this report is internally inconsistent, lacks credibility, and should be seen as a political statement rather than a careful evaluation of human rights issues.

But then, just 10 days later, the Boston Herald reported on that very same Amnesty International, which seems to have done an abrupt about-face:

Amnesty International has introduced a comprehensive report accusing a terrorist group of war crimes.In utter defiance of the predominant American left, European and United Nations view that Israel engaged in gross war crimes against civilians and freedom fighters in Lebanon, Amnesty International has announced that in its opinion, Hezbollah is guilty of war crimes. Hezbollah purposefully and indiscriminately targeted Israeli civilians.

The AI report notes that despite Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s subsequent protestations to the contrary, he stated publicly and repeatedly during the conflict that he was firing his missiles at civilian areas to make Israeli civilians pay for their army’s actions, and with his uncontrolled Katyushas, an indiscriminate weapon, he killed 43 of them. He had advised Israeli Arabs to leave those areas.He had provoked the war with a cross border attack in which some Israeli soldiers were killed and others seized.
Now the question is whether Amnesty International, with the publication of this new report, is changing its approach or is merely trying to look respectable--after all, besides emphasizing the actions of Israel vis-a-vis Hezbollah, AI has also been a persistent if not single-minded critic of the United States as well in its war against terrorism.

Alex Margolin, NGO's publication manager, responded in an email that he believes that AI has taken a small step that distinguishes it from other groups, such as Human Rights Watch.
But despite its length and detail, the report remains incomplete as long as Amnesty fails to address the serious issues surrounding Hezbollah's use of human shields and the impact their war tactics had on the Lebanese civilians. Amnesty must follow through with detailed studies of the situation, and be open to revising their earlier claims about Israel's role in the deaths of Lebanese civilians should the facts show that Hezbollah were actually responsible.

As far as what is behind the report, I think it is a simple question of credibility. Human Rights Watch has experienced an unprecedented level of criticism for their biased work on the war in Lebanon -- the Weekly Standard ran a cover story on this, and there have been numerous op-eds. Amnesty had already released a 50-page report that focused exclusively on Israel's actions. It doesn't take an expert in international humanitarian law to know that firing 4000 Katyushas on residential areas is a war crime. If Amnesty refused to look at the situation honestly, how could it be taken seriously?
It is reassuring to see that such groups actually are not impervious to public scrutiny and criticism--and maybe we'll see a similar turn-around from HRW as well. The effectiveness of such scrutiny only emphasizes the need to keep these kinds of issues in the limelight and part of public discussion.

As for the AI report itself, according to the Boston Herald, it still did not deal with the question of the estimated 1,000 Lebanese civilians who were killed in the populated areas where Hezbollah and set up command positions. They said the issue is too complex to comment on.

It is too important not to.
AI needs to realize that.

Crossposted at Israpundit

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