Friday, August 14, 2009

White flags and prejudice: Latest anti-Israeli screed from Human Rights Watch lapped up by BBC

Israel
With its reputation for objective analysis on the Israel-Palestine conflict now thoroughly discredited, one might wonder why Human Rights Watch (HRW) still bothers to pretend. Then again, one turns to

the BBC website and understands why. The latest screed from HRW has top billing in the section on

the Middle East. The substance (for want of a better word) of the HRW report is that 11 Palestinian civilians, nine of them women and children, were killed by Israeli forces in seven incidents during operation Cast Lead while carrying white flags or waving them from the vehicles they were travelling in.

The report concludes that “…at the least, Israeli soldiers failed to take feasible precautions to distinguish between civilians and combatants before carrying out the attack. At worst, the soldiers deliberately fired on persons known to be civilians.”

The evidence?

Er, there isn’t any, not in any meaningful sense at least.

What Human Rights Watch will accept as evidence is the testimony of obviously biased NGOs or of Palestinians relating such accounts in the full knowledge that whatever they say will get back to the Hamas operatives who run their neighbourhoods. It does not, therefore, take a genius to see the fatal flaw in the methodology.

The BBC, however, was lapping it all up with a story which also used the opportunity to signpost readers to the now infamous report last month on Israeli “war crimes” by Breaking the Silence whose own methodology was as shoddy as HRW’s.

The invaluable watchdog organisation NGO Monitor has produced a systematic critique of the HRW report which highlights the following issues:

** “HRW had no presence in Gaza during the conflict. Therefore, the organization’s Gaza ‘reports’, including “White Flag Deaths” are based entirely on unverifiable claims wrapped in a fa├žade of research.”

** “HRW’s publication fails to investigate incidents in which “white flags”, ambulances and hospitals were used by Hamas to hide military activity. Instead, the entire report is designed to provide “evidence” of alleged Israeli war crimes (a term used 15 times).”

** “Six of the seven alleged incidents are based on the unprovable ‘evidence’ from journalists or NGOs with highly biased agendas, including Breaking the Silence, Al Mezan and Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR).”

Human Rights Watch’s reputation as an objective observer of events in the Middle East was definitively destroyed after revelations that an HRW delegation had attempted to raise funds from prominent Saudis by highlighting HRW’s ongoing battles with pro-Israel groups.

In an entry last month I related an email exchange about the matter between Jeffrey Goldberg and HRW’s director Ken Roth. In that exchange Roth referred to the “lies and deception” employed by Israel’s supporters — as clear an admission of anti-Israeli bias from the head of an NGO as one could ever hope to find.

To re-read that entry, click here:

http://www.robinshepherdonline.com/landmark-moment-in-debate-about-ngo-bias-over-israel-after-sensational-revelations-are-published-about-human-rights-watch/

To read the full critique of HRW’s latest report by NGO Monitor, click here:

http://www.ngo-monitor.org/article.php?id=2547

To read the HRW report in full, click here:

http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/ioptwf0809web_1.pdf

To read the BBC story, click here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8198863.stm



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