A recent debate in the pages the Jerusalem Post between Ken Roth and Gerald Steinberg illustrate what’s at stake (and what’s wrong) with the Human Rights community. First Ken Roth’s conclusion:
Some might argue that the IDF’s unlawful use of white phosphorous and high-explosive shells is justified by Hamas’s deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on Israeli cities and towns. But illegality by one side to a conflict does not excuse illegality by the other. And as should be obvious, it is hardly in Israel’s interest to degrade international law protecting civilians.
The IDF holds Hamas wholly responsible for civilian casualties in Gaza, alleging that Hamas combatants stored weapons in mosques and fought from among civilians. Those allegations may or may not be true. Long experience, as during the 2006 war in Lebanon, shows that we must take such ritual IDF pronouncements with a grain of salt. We will not know exactly how Hamas waged the war until human rights monitors can conduct on-the-ground investigations. The IDF’s refusal during the fighting to allow journalists and human rights monitors into Gaza suggests that it did not want its claims tested by independent inquiry.
Israelis seem dismayed that the world has not embraced the justness of its latest war in Gaza. Of course Israel is entitled to defend itself from Hamas’s rocket attacks, but when it does so in violation of its d
Then Gerald Steinberg’s response:
THE WHITE phosphorus issue – Roth’s main weapon in attacking the IDF regarding Gaza – is only one aspect in this complex war. Once again, Roth has crafted a highly misleading case worthy of an aggressive prosecution, based on the allegation that the IDF caused unnecessary or indiscriminate harm to civilians. Does Roth claim to be privy to the details of Hamas military deployments in houses, schools, mosques and hospitals, as well as the targeting decisions of the IDF? And how did HRW’s “military expert” (apparently Marc Garlasco, whose ideological bias and lack of expertise were evident in “Razing Rafah” and in the 2006 “Gaza beach incident”), make such determinations while observing from an unnamed distance and location outside of Gaza?
Roth justifies HRW’s disproportionate campaign on the white phosphorous issue by claiming that illegal actions by terrorists do not justify “illegal” defense measures. But as Prof. Avi Bell, an international legal expert, states, “When a combatant hides in a civilian house, the house ceases to be a civilian target and becomes a military target… [The] use of civilian shields is very relevant to the legal standard to be applied.”
In contrast, HRW’s flood of condemnations suggests that all weapons used in self-defense are somehow illegitimate.
In the complexities of defense against well-armed terror organizations like Hamas and Hizbullah, mistakes are made, and these should be corrected. But the checks and balances in Israel’s democratic process are clearly more credible than Roth’s emotional outbursts, HRW’s ideological “experts” and the counterproductive exploitation of international legal rhetoric. Beyond the demonization of Israel’s right to defend its citizens from attack, such cynical distortions undermine the moral foundation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This moral destruction is antithetical to the worthy objectives envisioned by the founders of HRW.
Read the whole articles and let me know what you think.