HRW and Israel: Ken Roth vs. Gerald Steinberg

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.

17 Responses to HRW and Israel: Ken Roth vs. Gerald Steinberg

  1. abu yussif says:

    i’m not getting why ken roth would want palestinian civilians to be condemned to subjugation under the worst cynical and callous islamic masters. it is one thing to microscopically contest military tactics, but another to serve as a “defender of human rights” to the worst abusers of human rights.

    suppose mr roth gets his wish and israel is punished, censured, whatever. all he has accomplished is giving an extra meansure of breathing room and a freer hand to hamas to brutalize and terrorize their own population (and let’s not forget what they do to israelis at the same time). he has just cemented palestinians in more misery and removed any hope that the civilian population might experience any of the human rights mr roth and his group are supposed to be “watching”.

    why does mr roth care so little about palestinian civilians in their day-to-day lives under terrorists who plainly admit they have no intention of doing anything other than enslaving the masses? it’s not for the sake of “human rights”, i’m sorry to say. maybe it’s because he loathes the palestinians and wants to ensure their suffering is maximized. if so, he’s doing an excellent job.

  2. Cynic says:

    abu yussif,
    Roth and his ilk don’t give a damn about Palestinians but are using them as weapons, just as the Arab League has done all these years, against the Jews whom they hate so much.
    While millions around the world have moved from refugee status to settled citizens with rights, only the Palestinians have been kept in misery.

    The Palestinians from day one have been the cannon fodder used against the the Israelis.
    Under the control of the International Community UNWRA has kept them leashed to their “refugee” camps (just see UN resolutions from the 1970s -e.g. UN General Assembly Resolution 31/15 of Nov. 23, 1976)

  3. abu yussif says:

    2 – if the palestinians are just a tool for HRW (and everyone) to use against israel, then whose “human rights” do they “watch” at HRW?
    (call that a rhetorical question)

  4. E.G. says:

    abu yussif,

    But it’s their own rights they carefully watch. They have to earn their living. Perpetuating misery is the means to keep their job err mission.

    Israelis have Israel (and her High Court of Justice) to take care of their rights.

  5. oao says:

    whose “human rights” do they “watch” at HRW?

    nobody’s but those of these of the “HR community” to rationalize their own nonsense.

    if you check out the recent human rights scandal in canada against steyn and ezra levant, you’ll see the same problem.

    the HR community is being used by the islamists as useful idiots through which the western society and its human rights are undermined in soft jihad.

    these idiots know that jihadis would roll of the floor laughing at any attempt to impose HR checks on them, so they attack israel.

    reminds me of the guy who was looking for his lost keys not where he lost them, but where there was enough light to look.

  6. E.G. says:


    I had the same recollection.

  7. nelson says:

    It’s time to admit it: the so-called era of human rights is over. The UN, HRW, Amnesty International, the Red Cross, hundreds of NGOs and so on have, with their hipocrisy, their willful blindness, their selective rhetoric transformed the whole idea of human rights into a tragic joke.

    They have shown, for instance, that they cared more for the fate of the Rwandan Huttu génocidaires than for their hundreds of thousands of Tutsi victims. They have much more time for the terrorists imprisioned in Guantánamo than for the relatives of the victims of 9/11.

    The whole talk about human rights has become little more than a empty slogan, a whip with which to blackmail Western democracies and a shield to be used in order to protect the perpetrators of large scale crimes from the punishments they richly deserve.

    With human rights reduced to a sorry farce, there’s no option but to return to old fashioned concepts of justice, of crime and punishment, things that can only have any kind of meaning within the borders of really functioning national states.

    Like socialism, social justice, internationalism or the brotherhood of men, the very concept of human rights, a utopic dream to begin with, became its opposite: a pathetic nightmare.

  8. JD says:

    The “Human Rights” community is a fund raising community. One of the ways they earn pledges is stirring up Western Europeans over Israel. Also, human rights groups often started as Soviet front groups or marxist apologists, like other Westerners they are still hanging on to the Soviet line on Israel.

    The White Phosphorus stuff is nonsense. They were desperate to find a “war crime” they can file in Belgium or so. White Phosphorus is banned for grenades, the slow burning time seen as inhumane. It is not banned for flares for illumination or to disguise from heat seeking missiles.

    I think this time around there is actually less Euro-left emotion for War Crimes trials on Israelis, and that the Israeli government should shut up about it.

  9. Cynic says:

    HRW are just making noise to continue getting their allotment of donations from useful idiot monies.

    In light of this:
    if you check out the recent human rights scandal in canada against steyn and ezra levant, you’ll see the same problem.

    E.G. here’s something else from Iowahawk (I made reference to his mocking of Gorbal Warmening- in the Monty Python post – in reply to your last comment) about this.

    Canadian Radio Classics: Warman of the Mounted

    Indeed I did, Warman! It appears there’s oppression afoot in the West… bad oppression. Someone has been illegally distributing unflattering cartoons of Islam’s holy prophet!
    Egads! I smell Blacque Jacques Levant and his nefarious Western Standard gang!
    Precisely. And if the Canadian Muslim community learns that these ne’er-do-wells have insensitively suggested their intolerance, they will surely burn Fort Ottawa to the ground! I need you to ride there and bring Levant and his printing press to justice.

  10. Cynic says:

    I should have mentioned that, for those who don’t know much about what happened in Canada, they should read the link to Steyn’s web site in the above “radio classic”:
    Who are Canada’s biggest hatemongers?

    and just to get the feel for the hypocrisy deployed by these HR groups read the link to “The Corner”.

  11. Df says:

    Just for a bit of information, here is a link to an official statement of the ICRC on the WP issue

    Peter Herby, head of the ICRC’s Arms Unit, outlines the rules applicable to phosphorous weapons to explain the organization’s approach to the issue.

    Has the use of white phosphorous weapons by Israel in the current conflict in Gaza been confirmed?

    Yes. According to widespread media reports, images and analysis from credible experts, phosphorous weapons have been used in the conflict.
    What are the rules of international humanitarian law applicable to the use of phosphorous weapons and intended to spare civilians?

    Let me begin by saying that there are fundamental rules stipulating that civilians must be protected from the effects of all military operations and that attacking civilians with any weapon is categorically prohibited.

    The use of weapons containing white phosphorous is, like the use of any other weapon, regulated by the basic rules of international humanitarian law. These require parties to a conflict to discriminate between military objectives on the one hand and civilians and civilian objects on the other. The law also requires that they take all feasible precautions to prevent harm to civilians and civilian objects that can result from military operations. Attacks which cause “disproportionate” damage to civilians and to civilian objects are prohibited.

    Using white phosphorous as an incendiary weapon, i.e. to set fire to military targets, is subject to further restrictions. The use of such white phosphorous weapons against any military objective within concentrations of civilians is prohibited unless the military objective is clearly separated from the civilians. The use of air-dropped incendiary weapons against military objectives within a concentration of civilians is simply prohibited. These prohibitions are contained in Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

    In addition, customary international humanitarian law, which is applicable to all parties to any conflict, requires that particular care must be taken when attacking a military target with incendiary weapons containing white phosphorous, in order to avoid harm to civilians and damage to civilian objects. If this substance is used against fighters, the party using it is obliged to assess whether a less harmful weapon can be used to put the fighters out of action.

    If munitions containing white phosphorous are used to mark military targets or to spread smoke then their use is regulated by the basic rules of international humanitarian law.

    The fact that international humanitarian law does not specifically prohibit phosphorous weapons does not imply that any specific use of weapons containing this substance is legal. The legality of each incident of use has to be considered in light of all of the fundamental rules I have mentioned. It may be legal or not, depending on a variety of factors.
    Does the ICRC consider white phosphorous weapons as they have been used in Gaza to be legal under international humanitarian law?

    If ICRC delegates in the field gather credible and precise evidence of violations, or if ICRC medical personnel corroborate reports by others, the ICRC would begin by discussing this with the party concerned – rather than speaking publicly – in keeping with our standard practices. We have not commented publicly on the legality of the current use of phosphorous weapons by Israel, contrary to what has been attributed to us in recent media reports.
    Does the use of weapons containing white phosphorous, in particular incendiary weapons, in a populated area give rise to any specific humanitarian concerns?

    Yes. White phosphorous weapons spread burning phosphorous, which burns at over 800 degrees centigrade (about 1,500 degrees fahrenheit), over a wide area, up to several hundred square metres. The burning will continue until the phosphorous has been completely depleted or until it no longer is exposed to oxygen. The weapon has a potential to cause particularly horrific and painful injuries or slow painful death. Medical personnel must be specially trained to treat such injuries and may themselves be exposed to phosphorous burns. If used against military targets in or near populated areas, weapons containing this substance must be used with extreme caution to prevent civilian casualties.

  12. JD says:


    That Herby guy is a real piece. Lots of BS in there.

    1. Note he doesn’t identify what kind of weapon. And he’s a weapons expert. He knows damn well what was used, and he’s weaseling.

    2. “The use of weapons containing white phosphorous is, like the use of any other weapon, regulated by the basic rules of international humanitarian law”

    What are these “basic rules” of what “law?” He’s vague. But there is a specific one:

    “Using white phosphorous as an incendiary weapon, i.e. to set fire to military targets, is subject to further restrictions. …These prohibitions are contained in Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.”

    3. Here’s the CYA kicker:

    “If munitions containing white phosphorous are used to mark military targets or to spread smoke then their use is regulated by the basic rules of international humanitarian law.”

    They were used to spread smoke, deter heat seeking weapons, and perhaps used to mark targets. It was apparent in the supposedly convicting photos. They’re flares. But he travels all around to avoid identifying them by their plain names, which he knows. He probably thinks using the word “munitions” rather than “weapons” in the critical sentence saves him some face from scorn from experts in his field. And he also excepts them from actual Geneva Protocols, reinvoking the unspecified “basic rules.” AKA “make-up law”.

  13. JD says:

    Here’s a common definition of “munitions”:

    “military supplies, e.g. weapons and ammunition”

    IOW, not just weapons. Note the one sentence actually relevant to what Israel did, Herby shifts to the word “munitions.” It’s a great word for him, allows later denial that he said the flares were “weapons,” yet leaves most readers with the feeling, I suspect, that munitions is congruent to weapons. That Israel used phosphorus weapons.

    There is no way he or the Red Cross’ lawyers didn’t carefully construct his statement to slant against Israel. If he spoke plainly he would say “Israel used flares and illumination devices, maybe recklessly.”

  14. Eliyahu says:

    Nelson said the important things about the “human rights” and “humanitarian” and “peace” NGOs that have to be said. I agree with just about everything that he wrote.

    Now, these NGOs are not really “non-governmental” for the most part. Most are funded by govts, or groups of govts [like the EU] or by very wealthy individuals. For instance, the ICRC [int’l committee of the red cross] is a Swiss govt agency that decided not to broadcast the early information that they had about the Holocaust. They claimed then that they had no legal mandate to interfere in such matters. Then they were legalistic against the Jews. They’re sitll legalistic against the Jews.

    Anyhow, NGOs serve political purposes. They are not meant to serve the abstract ideals and lofty ends that they profess. They are instruments –indeed weapons– of diplomacy, of what Lenin called “political warfare.” Now, we know what Clausewitz said about diplomacy and war, war is an extension of diplomacy, he said. I would turn that around and say that diplomacy is also an instrument of war, and so is the propaganda produced and disseminated by the NGOs.

    In their book on the UN, A Dangerous Place [which preceded Moynihan’s book of the same title], Abraham Yeselson and Anthony Gaglione wrote that the UN has about as much relevance to peace as a battleship or an atomic bomb. The UN is a weapon of nations in conflict, they wrote. Likewise the NGOs. The propaganda emanating from them is often an insult to the intelligence and often produces results opposite to what they claim to work for. Everyone should explore the site of Steinberg’s NGO Monitor which reports –inter alia– on the sources of funding of many NGOs.

    For instance, B’Tselem, mentioned in an earlier post by RL, has received funds from jimmy carter’s Carter Center in Atlanta. The Carter Center has in turn received funds from the Bin Laden Group [Yes, Osama’s family firm] and –years ago– from the BCCI bank, mainly owned by the Sheik and govt of Abu Dhabi. So these NGOs are not so innocent, although some of their activists may be truly naive and ignorant and/or deluded, indoctrinated, brainwashed. So Mr Roth seems to be playing a role in international diplomacy, whether or not he is aware of his role.

  15. oao says:

    one has gotta be ignorant and stupid to believe in anything these NGOs. unfortunately, there is an infinite supply of such idiots, now that education has been killed.

    just look at the current POTUS!!!!

  16. […] the Augean Stables take a look at HRW and Israel: Ken Roth vs. Gerald Steinberg and Jenin Redux: Casualty Figures […]

  17. Eliyahu says:

    The anti-Israel rhetoric of hrw and the other peacemongers –politicians, other NGOs, etc– has had a very bad influence on the daily lives of Jews in various Diaspora countries. We know about France, but in Turkey the situation is much worse, as you can imagine, what with Erdogan’s fanatical incitement to hatred. Actually, Shimon Peres was too nice to him at Davos. Here’s a link to what’s going on in the land of Our Friends the Turks.

    What’s cute here is that those who scream the loudest about “innocent civilians” being harmed in Gaza by Israel, seem to forget that the Jews in Diaspora lands ought to be considered “innocent civilians” too. Aren’t they? Or are all Jews guilty, whether in the Israeli army or not, on the decision-making echelon in Israel or not?? Indeed, I would say that the pro-Arab protestors in Europe and other Western countries [inc. the USA] have killed the whole notion of the “innocent civilian” by attacking Jews in those countries physically not as part of a justified military campaign which entails harm to non-combatants because Hamas hides its weapons [meant to kill Jewish civilians] among them. Anyhow, let’s not forget how Jews in France and Turkey and elsewhere are being harassed.

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