(David Bernstein) As I noted a few days ago, Justice Goldstone wrote a Washington Post op-ed last week in which he states that contrary to the implications of his eponymous report, Israel did not deliberately target civilians in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. Human Rights Watch contributed heavily to the content of the Goldstone Report, and has been among the heaviest promoters of the Report. Kenneth Roth, HRW's director, suggests that HRW has nothing to apologize for because "HRW promoted the Goldstone report's recommendation for investigations, pushing both Hamas and Israel to investigate its own war crimes. We never endorsed the report's finding of an Israeli policy to target civilians." Well, maybe lying isn't quite right. Roth chose his words carefully, and I suppose it's technically true that HRW never explicitly endorsed a Goldstone Report finding that Israel had a policy of targeting civilians. But let's review some of the statements [I read some, but not all, of HRW's reports on Cast Lead to find these] that HRW did make, and see whether a reasonable observer would conclude that HRW publicly and loudly agreed with the premise that Israel deliberately targeted civilians during Operation Cast Lead. I think the answer is obvious, and it's yet another blow to HRW's credibility, both because of its conflict with Goldstone's current position, and because of Roth's current misrepresentation of HRW's views. (In none of the statements excerpted below did HRW provide any caveats to the effect that the incidents in question may have involved rogue soldiers or units, as opposed to being Israeli policy). Let's start with Mr. Roth himself, writing in the Jerusalem Post on Aug. 25, 2009: Israel could have conducted the war by targeting only combatants and taking all feasible precautions to spare civilians, as required by international humanitarian law. That is mandated even though Hamas often violated these rules, because violations by one side do not justify violations by the other. Instead, as Human Rights Watch has shown through detailed, on-the-ground investigations, Israeli forces fired white phosphorous munitions indiscriminately over civilian areas, shot and killed Palestinian civilians waving white flags, attacked children playing on rooftops with precision missiles fired from aerial drones and needlessly destroyed civilian property. Now let's move on to various HRW reports. HRW, April 23, 2009:" Human Rights Watch's investigation into the fighting in Gaza concluded that Israeli forces were responsible for serious violations of the laws of war, including the use of heavy artillery and white phosphorus munitions in densely populated areas, the apparent targeting of people trying to convey their civilian status… HRW, Aug. 13 2009 [After discussing alleged "white flag" killings by Israeli soldiers]: "The Israel Defense Forces have for years permitted a pervasive culture of impunity regarding unlawful Palestinian deaths" HRW, Sept. 16, 2009: "The 575-page report, released on September 15, 2009, documented serious violations of international humanitarian law by Israel, with some incidents amounting to war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, including willful killings." HRW, November 3, 2009: "It also found that Israeli forces unlawfully used white phosphorous munitions and heavy artillery in densely populated areas, fired upon civilians holding white flags." HRW, April 11, 2010: "Between December 27, 2008 and January 18, 2009, Israel's "Operation Cast Lead" in Gaza killed several hundred Palestinian civilians and wounded many more, some during Israeli attacks that were indiscriminate, disproportionate or at times seemingly deliberate, in violation of the laws of war." HRW, Feb. 7, 2010: "Human Rights Watch documented 53 civilian deaths in 19 incidents in which Israeli forces appeared to have violated the laws of war. Six of these incidents involved the unlawful use of white phosphorus munitions; six were attacks by drone-launched missiles that killed civilians; and seven involved soldiers shooting civilians who were in groups holding white flags." HRW, Feb. 26, 2010: "Nor has [Israel] conducted credible investigations into military policies that may have contravened the laws of war or facilitated war crimes. These include the targeting of Hamas political institutions and Gaza police; the use of heavy artillery and white phosphorus munitions in populated areas; and the rules of engagement for aerial drone operators and ground forces."
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