Category Archives: Human rights

Goldstone Commission reports on Gaza-war war-crimes

The Goldstone Commission, appointed in April by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that were committed during last winter’s Gaza war, has now presented its findings to the Council.
Regarding actions undertaken by the armed forces of the State of Israel, the report states,

    The Mission found that, in the lead up to the Israeli military assault on Gaza, Israel imposed a blockade amounting to collective punishment and carried out a systematic policy of progressive isolation and deprivation of the Gaza Strip. During the Israeli military operation, code-named “Operation Cast Lead,” houses, factories, wells, schools, hospitals, police stations and other public buildings were destroyed. Families are still
    living amid the rubble of their former homes long after the attacks ended, as reconstruction has been impossible due to the continuing blockade. More than 1,400 people were killed during the military operation.
    Significant trauma, both immediate and long-term, has been suffered by the population of Gaza. The Report notes signs of profound depression, insomnia and effects such as bed-wetting among children. The effects on children who witnessed killings and violence, who had thought they were facing death, and who lost family members would be long lasting, the Mission found, noting in its Report that some 30 per cent of children screened at UNRWA schools suffered mental health problems.
    The report concludes that the Israeli military operation was directed at the people of Gaza as a whole, in furtherance of an overall and continuing policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population, and in a deliberate policy of disproportionate force aimed at the civilian population. The destruction of food supply installations, water sanitation systems, concrete factories and residential houses was the result of a deliberate and systematic policy which has made the daily process of living, and dignified living, more difficult for the civilian population.
    The Report states that Israeli acts that deprive Palestinians in the Gaza Strip of their means of subsistence, employment, housing and water, that deny their freedom of movement and their right to leave and enter their own country, that limit their rights to access a court of law and an effective remedy, could lead a competent court to find that the crime of persecution, a crime against humanity, has been committed.
    The report underlines that in most of the incidents investigated by it, and described in the report, loss of life and destruction caused by Israeli forces during the military operation was a result of disrespect for the fundamental principle of “distinction” in international humanitarian law that requires military forces to distinguish between military targets and civilians and civilian objects at all times. The report states that “Taking into account the ability to plan, the means to execute plans with the most developed technology available, and statements by the Israeli military that almost no errors occurred, the Mission finds that the incidents and patterns of events considered in the report are the result of deliberate planning and policy decisions.”

Regarding actions undertaken by Palestinian armed groups, the Commission found,

    [T]he repeated acts of firing rockets and mortars into Southern Israel by Palestinian armed groups “constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity,” by failing to distinguish between military targets and the civilian population. “The launching of rockets and mortars which cannot be aimed with sufficient precisions at military targets breaches the fundamental principle of distinction,” the report says. “Where there is no intended military target and the rockets and mortars are launched into civilian areas, they constitute a deliberate attack against the civilian population.”
    The Mission concludes that the rocket and mortars attacks “have caused terror in the affected communities of southern Israel,” as well as “loss of life and physical and mental injury to civilians and damage to private houses, religious buildings and property, thereby eroding the economic and cultural life of the affected communities and severely affecting the economic and social rights of the population.”

Three Israeli noncombatants and ten Israeli soldiers were killed during the war. Of the Palestinians killed, more than 1,000 were noncombatants, including more than 300 children.
Here are the Commission’s conclusion and recommendations (reformatted by me for clarity):

    The prolonged situation of impunity has created a justice crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory that warrants action, the Report says. The Mission found the Government of Israel had not carried out any credible investigations into alleged violations.
    * It recommended that the UN Security Council require Israel to report to it, within six months, on investigations and prosecutions it should carry out with regard to the violations identified in its Report.
    * The Mission further recommends that the Security Council set up a body of independent experts to report to it on the progress of the Israeli investigations and prosecutions.
    * If the experts’ reports do not indicate within six months that good faith, independent proceedings are taking place, the Security Council should refer the situation in Gaza to the ICC Prosecutor.
    * The Mission recommends that the same independent expert body also report to the Security Council on proceedings undertaken by the relevant Gaza authorities with regard to crimes committed by the Palestinian side.
    * As in the case of Israel, if within six months there are no good faith independent proceedings conforming to international standards in place, the Council should refer the situation to the ICC Prosecutor.

What a fascinating road-map towards accountability.
Longtime JWN readers will know that I have long reflected and written about how the demands of peacemaking and the demands of seeking full accountability for past acts can best be reconciled. This is a very important case-study in this field.
Meantime, of course, if Pres. Obama is serious about his support for the human-rights agenda and for building a new, more constructive relationship with the UN, then he needs t get behind this process of holding both parties acountable.
Including, he should immediately signal to both Israel and Hamas that he will condition all future US aid to both of them on their compliance with these recommendations.

Garlasco, part 3

His own defense of his actions is here.
He writes,

    Now I’ve achieved some blogosphere fame, not for the hours I’ve spent sifting through the detritus of war, visiting hospitals, interviewing victims and witnesses and soldiers, but for my hobby (unusual and disturbing to some, I realize) of collecting Second World War memorabilia associated with my German grandfather and my American great-uncle. I’m a military geek, with an abiding interest not only in the medals I collect but in the weapons that I study and the shrapnel I analyze. I think this makes me a better investigator and analyst. And to suggest it shows Nazi tendencies is defamatory nonsense, spread maliciously by people with an interest in trying to undermine Human Rights Watch’s reporting.
    I work to expose war crimes and the Nazis were the worst war criminals of all time. But I’m now in the bizarre and painful situation of having to deny accusations that I’m a Nazi.

It is complete garbage highly misleading for Garlasco to suggest that his obsessively pursuit of the “hobby” of collecting– and lovingly displaying with almost pornographic attention to detail– various swastika-adorned military memorabilia from the Nazi era in any way makes him a better investigator of current military events.
He claims that, “I’ve never hidden my hobby.” But when I spoke with Iain Levine, who’s the head of all HRW’s programs and thus Garlasco’s supervisor’s supervisor, he said he had no inkling that Garlasco had such a hobby “until Tuesday morning.”
Garlasco writes,

    I deeply regret causing pain and offense with a handful of juvenile and tasteless postings I made on two websites that study Second World War artifacts (including American, British, German, Japanese and Russian items).

The websites in question are titled German Combat Awards and Wehrmacht-awards. From a quick scan through them they don’t, actually, seem to cover many non-German items at all.
Also, one of those allegedly “juvenile” postings was presumably this one, made in 2005: “The leather SS jacket makes my blood go cold it is so COOL!” Garlasco was 34 or 35 years old at the time. He’d been working for HRW for two years by then. It was only four years ago.
Hard to make a claim of “youthful indiscretion”, based on such facts.
… I would like to have the opportunity to discuss these issues with Garlasco, in person. I asked Levine if I could have access to him. Hasn’t happened yet.
I’d like to make a few last points here:
1. I do not claim to know what Garlasco’s attitude is toward the Nazi-era military memorabilia that he so obsessively collects. He clearly seems to have a collector’s zeal, or obsession, and to spend a lot of time pursuing this hobby. 7,734 posts on Wehrmacht Awards since March 2004, and compiling a 450-page guide to one small sub-branch of Nazi-era badges are not the signs of a casual collector. The comment shown above, made on Wehrmacht Awards in 2005, indicates some open-ness, at the very least, to the idea that one could entertain and express fondness for specifically SS memorabilia.
Also, using ‘Flak88′ seems like a signal of possible pro-Hitler proclivities to others in that part of the collecting world, who would be quite aware that ’88’ is their insiders’ code for Heil Hitler.
To my mind, this does not prove that Garlasco’s a “Nazi sympathizer”, or an anti-Semite. But his participation on these sites– including interactions there with people who clearly do seem to be Nazi sympathizers– is extremely disturbing in itself.
2. I have had my affiliation as an Advisory Committee member with HRW for some 17 years. In that time I’ve interacted with scores of HRW staff members and advisers (though never, personally, with Garlasco.) I have never had any reason at all to suspect that any of the ones I interacted with were motivated at all in their work by anti-Semitism, or that they harbored any anti-Semitism. Indeed, it is common knowledge that a high proportion of people in the upper levels of the organization are now, and have always been, Jewish.
To suggest that Garlasco is just “the tip of the iceberg” of a whole coterie of anti-Semites working at HRW is a malicious and completely unfounded accusation.
It is probably no surprise to readers here to learn that I am a little disturbed by the degree to which the HRW powers-that-be have thus far circled their wagons round Garlasco and attempted to defend him. I have been having some communications with people in HRW, which are necessarily private, to suggest better ways forward.
3. As always, the big issue here is not Marc Garlasco and his distasteful “hobby”. It is not even Human Rights Watch, tragic though the current episode is for all of us. The big issue is the need to keep everyone’s attention focused on the effort to improve the human rights situation of the extremely vulnerable and still hard-pressed population of Gaza, while also improving the rights situation of all the peoples of the Middle East.
As I wrote in my IPS piece yesterday, the revelations about Garlasco’s “hobby” come at a pivotal point in the campaign to get some real accountability for the gross rights abuses perpetrated during last winter’s Israeli assault on Gaza.
This coming week, Judge Richard Goldstone is due to present his commission’s official report on those abuses to the UN Human Rights Council.
I do not know to what extent his report builds on investigative work done by Marc Garlasco for HRW. But certainly, HRW and Garlasco are very far from the only organizations that have done extensive work documenting the nature and extent of the violations of IHL committed during the Gaza war. So regardless of the latest revelations about Garlasco’s bizarre and troubling out-of-hours activities, Goldstone will still have plenty of good documentation to build on.
If Garlasco, through his actions, had not put his employer into the position of feeling so vulnerable at this point, we might have expected HRW to be a strong voice within the US body politic, advocating for strong support of whatever Goldstone’s recommendations might be. Now, I am sure they (we) will do what we can. But I can’t disguise the fact that I am extremely upset that Garlasco’s actions led to this.
What was he thinking? Did he think no-one would ever make the connection between “Flak88” and Marc Garlasco?
He must have known the connection would likely be made, at some point. He knew there were many staunch defenders of Israel out gunning for HRW; and if he had sat back and thought for one moment about the tracks he was leaving all over those Nazi-memorabilia websites, he must have known that he’d be “outed” one day… And surely, despite his protestations about the “innocence” of his hobby, any half-way intelligent American could have predicted the deep disgust and questioning with which such revelations would be greeted by many or most other Americans.
To his buddies on those websites, meanwhile, he made little or no attempt to hide his actual name, or even his afiliation with HRW. It was only his supervisors at HRW who were nearly all, despite his somewhat general protestation that “I’ve never hidden my hobby”, kept in the dark…
Tragic.

Garlasco, part 2

Some friends have made the point, a propos of what I wrote here yesterday, that the Iron Cross is not a specifically Nazi insignia, but a longterm insignia of the German military. Thanks for that clarification.
They also make the completely correct point that it’s important to distinguish between things German and things Nazi.
I don’t have much time to write more here, right now. But I’ve just had a 30-minute phone conversation with Iain Levine, the over-all Director of Programs at HRW, about the Garlasco affair (which I’ll report on here as soon as I have time.) Meantime, very quickly, I want to clarify what my concerns in this regard are:
1. As a Quaker, I find it very troubling that anyone spends much of their free time collecting “military memorabilia”, from any military. I do believe this represents an unhealthy obsession with matters military. If my son had done this in his teens I would have been concerned enough. If he’d continued to obsessively pursue such a hobby till his 30s I would be very seriously worried. Collecting military memorabilia is not the same as collecting old lunch-boxes.
Garlasco’s out-of-hours involvement in this has certainly not been trivial, as the heft of his book reveals.
2. “Collecting” such memorabilia– which also involves a lot of trading, discussing, cataloguing etc–is not the same as being a serious military historian. Has Garlasco’s book, which was published in 2007 January 2008, garnered any pre- or post-publication reviews from serious military historians? Has it been cited by any? I have seen no indication that it has.
3. Within the broader universe of collecting military memorabilia, if that is what a person wants to do, I think one has to put a particular red flag beside Nazi-era German memorabilia, which in Garlasco’s case included an involvement with those from both Wehrmacht and SS units.
All of us who are concerned about the integrity of HRW’s work going forward need to gain a clear understanding of the nature of Garlasco’s collection. He has told HRW officers that it contains both German and American memorabilia from the WW-2 era. But in what balance? I think that information would be helpful.
Within this question of the “balance” of his collecting and related interests, it is relevant to ask why his first book-length publication was on the German artefacts rather than American or other artefacts.
… I think my colleagues and friends at HRW need to gain a very much fuller understanding of the nature of Garlasco’s out-of-hours collecting activity. I have not yet been able to talk to Marc directly. But if, as Levine reported, Garlasco really does want to minimize the damage this affair causes to HRW’s work, then he certainly needs to cooperate very fully, honestly, and in good faith with their efforts to gain that understanding.
One last point. Last night the powers-that-be at HRW did finally send me the text of the (quiet-ish) but apparently fully authorized statement they’ve been circulating on this affair.
Levine explained that the “quiet-ish” nature of this communication is because HRW don’t want to make too much of it in public at this point. But since just about everyone else in the world except me has now been given this text, I obviously am glad to be able to publish it in full here:

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Marc Garlasco’s little “hobby”

There is a huge commotion in the blogosphere about the fact that Marc Garlasco, the senior military affairs specialist at Human Rights Watch, has long sustained a hobby of collecting and writing about Nazi memorabilia.
I’ve thought this over lot since I first learned about it yesterday. Is collecting and writing a long book about Nazi memorabilia in his spare time something an employer like Human Rights Watch ought to be concerned about?
After consideration, I say Yes.
Now, it’s true that here in the US we have very strict protections for free speech. Thus, collecting Nazi uniforms and insignia and even wearing them in public– as Garlasco apparently was in this photo— is not illegal here. (Wearing them in public would be illegal in Germany and several other places.)
But to have him doing work on human rights in the daytime, while carrying on with this intensively pursued hobby in the evening? That is bizarre, and disturbing.
Even more so when you realize that a lot of the work he has done has involved dealing with Israeli officials and citizens, and analyzing the IDF’s operations.
It would be like employing someone to do child-protection work by day who goes home and collects pictures of naked or suggestively-clad children by night. For allegedly “artistic purposes”.
As Ron Kampeas of JTA wrote about Garlasco’s very enthusiastic pursuit of his hobby, “Ewwwww.”
Now, as y’all no doubt know, I’m on the Middle East advisory committee of Human Rights Watch. And I’ve been very disturbed indeed by the attacks the young, aggressively rightwing Israeli organization NGO Monitor has launched against the work HRW has done on the IDF’s combat behavior.
But right now, I’m looking at this page on NGO Monitor’s website, and agreeing with much of what they have there on this topic.
One thing (scroll down to Footnote 1) they have is a copy of a defense of Garlasco’s actions that someone– reportedly representing HRW– has posted into several blogs in recent days.
For NGO-M to post that text is a real service, since I haven’t been able to find an HRW response anywhere else– including on their own website. (I have a request outstanding to HRW Exec. Director Ken Roth for an interview on this issue.)
That reportedly-from-HRW text concludes thus:

    Garlasco is the author of a monograph on the history of German Air Force and Army anti-aircraft medals and a contributor to websites that promote serious historical research into the Second World War (and which forbid hate speech). In the foreword he writes of telling his daughters that “the war was horrible and cruel, that Germany lost and for that we should be thankful.”
    To imply that Garlasco’s collection is evidence of Nazi sympathies is not only absurd but an attempt to deflect attention from his deeply felt efforts to uphold the laws of war and minimize civilian suffering in wartime. These falsehoods are an affront to Garlasco and thousands of other serious military historians.

Well, I’m not sure about Garlasco’s record as a “serious military historian.” By all accounts, his book, title “The Flak Badges”, seems to be an aid for collectors of such badges, not a work of serious military history.
I also share some of the concerns his critics have voiced about the actual military expertise Garlasco brought to the job at HRW, when he moved there after having worked in the Pentagon for eight years. Between 1995 and 2003 he had various jobs as a civilian employee of the Pentagon, doing military intelligence work including some work on targeting US cruise missiles.
But as I noted on JWN last year (including here), he made some serious– and very basic– mistakes during the Russian-Georgian war in identifying which country various cluster-bomb remnants came from… Even more disturbingly, perhaps, the HRW powers-that-be were frustratingly slow in correcting the incorrect accusations he originally made against Russia on this score, which were used by all the political forces in the west that were trying to mobilize public and even perhaps military support for Georgia at the time…
The crying shame of the latest revelations is, of course, that HRW is one of the most politically powerful of the numerous human-rights organizations that over the past nine months have compiled detailed documentation of the many laws-of-war violations committed by Israel (and some by Hamas) during last winter’s Israeli assault on Gaza.
So this whole series of revelations about Garlasco’s “hobby” threatens to distract a lot of attention from the well-documented claims that many excellent organizations– not just HRW– have pulled together about those violations.
And what happened to the people in Gaza last winter– and what continues to happen to them now, for goodness’ sake, as Israel still prevents them from engaging in even basic rebuilding of their shattered homes and lives– is a whole lot worse than “Ewwwww.”

Netanyahu spokesman uses racist attack against HRW

For many years now, successive governments of Israel– and their blind-love cheering sections in western countries– have tried to “shoot the messenger” when human rights groups or international bodies like, erm, the UN, have criticized official Israeli practices.
So at one level it’s nothing new that Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev yesterday slammed Human Rights Watch’s objectivity, claiming it had “lost its moral compass.”
HRW’s sin? A delegation from the organization went to Saudi Arabia in May to raise money and to work with local rights activists on brainstorming strategies for addressing some of the Kingdom’s own very large-scale human rights problems.
Oh, it’s that old “tainted Arab money” story again. How racist can Regev get?
Let’s be clear here: Neither in Saudi Arabia nor anywhere else has HRW ever raised money from governments. I’ve been on the organization’s Middle East advisory committee for 17 years. I would never have gone on if they’d been an organization that accepts government funding– from anyone.
HRW’s fund-raising dinner in Riyadh was hosted by a private individual.
The report linked to there was by Nasser Salti of Arab News. He focused a little on the part of the presentation made by the HRW team where Middle East division head Sarah Leah Whitson described some of the work HRW has done on Israel. He also noted that,

    Keeping with its mission of even-handed criticism, Human Rights Watch has also leveled criticism at other states in the region, including Saudi Arabia. The organization recently called on the Kingdom to do more to protect the human rights of domestic workers…

Knowing Sarah Leah as I do, I am confident that her presentation at the dinner was professional and even-handed.
HRW does fund-raising events like this all the time— mainly in the US, but also in other countries around the world. It has, as it happens, a particularly rich network of long-time Jewish-American donors.
So what is wrong with trying to raise money for worldwide human-rights work from people in Arab countries??
Would Mark Regev prefer that wealthy Saudis who want to engage in philanthropy do so by donating to the Taliban?
I don’t know how much money HRW netted from Sarah Leah’s visit to Saudi Arabia. But one other clear result of the brainstorming she and her colleagues were able to do with Saudi counterparts there was this well-researched report, which HRW published last week, which calls for an end to Saudi abuses of their millions of migrant workers, who face what the report called “slavery-like conditions.”
Perhaps Mark Regev is indifferent to the fate of those millions of people?
He told the Jerusalem Post,

    “If you can fundraise in Saudi Arabia, why not move on to Somalia, Libya and North Korea?… For an organization that claims to offer moral direction, it appears that Human Rights Watch has seriously lost its moral compass.”

This is a really pathetic argument. As Sarah Leah herself pointed out to the JP reporter, it is always quite necessary, in human rights work, to distinguish between a government and its people, and “Certainly not everyone is tainted by the misconduct of their government.”
Regev’s attack against HRW is, it seems, just part of a broader attack the Israeli government is planning against HRW and Amnesty International.
The JP reporter, Herb Keinon, writes,

    Regev’s comments came two weeks after Israel was ripped for alleged misconduct during Operation Cast Lead in reports issued by HRW and Amnesty International, two of the highest-profile human rights NGOs. Israel has decided to take a much more aggressive stance toward future reports issued by these organizations, the Post has learned.
    “We will make a greater effort in the future to go through their reports with a fine-tooth comb, expose the inconsistencies and their problematic use of questionable data,” one senior official said.
    “We discovered during the Gaza operation and the Second Lebanon War that these organizations come in with a very strong agenda, and because they claim to have some kind of halo around them, they receive a status that they don’t deserve,” he said.
    The Foreign Ministry is currently considering how best to expand its focus and deal more systematically with this issue, and it is assumed this will be done together with the Prime Minister’s Office, the Post has learned.

The Israeli government will probably also be working in close conjunction with a new, Jerusalem-based group called “NGO Monitor” (which is funded, for what it’s worth, by the Weschler Family Foundation, Newt Becker of Los Angeles, and Ben & Esther Rosenbloom Foundation of Baltimore.)
When I was in Israel in February/March I did make, as JWN readers knew at the time, several attempts to get myself accredited as a visiting reporter with the Israeli government’s press office in Beit Agron, West Jerusalem. Sadly, they claimed they’d never heard of The Nation (!!!) and I never got it.
But the helpful young man in the GPO office there, Jason, pressed upon me several brochures from “NGO Monitor” and urged me to do a story about their “revelations.” (He really wasn’t terribly swift… )
Anyway, Regev’s use of the old “Arab money” canard is one that should absolutely be exposed for the racist thinking that it is.

Molavi’s question

In a July 4th Washington Post oped, the excellent Iranian-American journalist Afshin Molavi writes of how Iran’s fitful struggle for freedom is well in-grained within Iran’s history and political culture.

“It’s important to recognize the Iranian struggle for what it is: a grass-roots, vital movement for greater liberty enriched by more than a century of struggle against foreign powers, autocratic kings and repressive theocrats. Iran’s rulers would have the world believe that the protesters are a minority inspired by foreigners, but this denies a fundamental piece of Iranian history.”

I agree. Molavi then asks the question of the day — “Who will stand with Iranians?”

“Last month I attended a candlelight vigil to honor those who died fighting for freedom. The gathering was somber yet hopeful, but it was still too narrowly Iranian. We need more Americans… If there is one issue that politically polarized America ought to be able to rally around, it is the gallant struggle of Iranians.”

I concur in part; most of the protests thus far are far too… “Iranian,” perhaps because of the organizational model of most Iran focused interest groups. (To get invited, it helps to be “Iranian.”) In the western protests thus far, we often can see demonstrators splitting along factional lines, sometimes violently, as largely incompatible political agendas of monarchists, mujahedin, komali, liberals, secularists, etc. come to the fore.
Yet if such divides could be surmounted in common support for Iranians, what exactly would Molavi have us do?
Human rights groups are planning mass rallies in the west for July 25th. What exactly will be the message of such solidarity? How will such rallies help?

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Amnesty’s great campaign for Israel-Hamas arms embargo

Huge kudos to Amnesty International for having pulled together a well-researched and intelligent report on the international arms suppliers who were complicit in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the recent Israel-Gaza war, and for concluding it with a forthright call to all there arms suppliers to cease their arms shipments to the belligerents forthwith.
The news release about the report is here, and the PDF of the report’s full text is here.
(Astute readers of JWN will recall that one of the first things I called for when the recent Gaza war broke out was a complete embargo on all arms shipments to the warring parties.)
Of course, the lethal and destructive capabilities of the arsenals of the two sides are completely asymmetrical. And regarding the shipments of arms to each sides by outside arms suppliers, we can recall Kathy Kelly’s poignant recent speculation regarding the sheer size of the “tunnels” that would be required if all Israel’s arms imports had to be brought in in such a way.
The Amnesty report does three things particularly well:

    1. It pulls together a lot of details about the size, nature, and provenance of the arms transfers made to each side– and, too, of the effects some of these transferred arms had on the communities targeted. And while it is careful to do this for both sides, the report makes quite clear the stark disparity between the level and lethality of the arms level on each side. In particular, though the report is careful to list all the suppliers of significant amounts of arms to srael, the figures it provides show that the overwhelming majority of these outside-supplied arms– $7.9 billion-worth in the four years 2004-2007– came from the United States. The second place was occupied by France, which provided only $59 million-worth.
    2. It provides a very clear explanation (p. 19 of the full report) of the duty all states have under international law to avoid aiding or assisting other states in the commission of unlawful acts. This duty is spelled out in Article 16 of the International Law Commission’s Articles on Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts (2001), which states: “A State which aids or assists another State in the commission of an internationally wrongful act by the latter is internationally responsible for doing so if: (a) that State does so with knowledge of the circumstances of the internationally wrongful act; and (b) the act would be internationally wrongful if committed by that State.” After the way the Israelis used their foreign-supplied weapons in and against Lebanon in 2006, surely no state officials elsewhere could thereafter argue that “they did not know” that Israel had a propensity to use such weapons in ways that were grossly disproportionate to the military task at hand and often grossly indiscriminate… Also, in addition to the duties states have under international law, most states– including the US– also have their own domestic legislation governing the end use of weapons it supplies to others. In the case of the US, such arms can be used only for defensive purposes.
    3. Finally, the Amnesty report is quite clear on the policies it advocates. It calls for the immediate imposition of a “comprehensive UN Security Council arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups until effective mechanisms are in place to ensure that weapons or munitions and other military equipment will not be used to commit serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, and the establishment of a ” thorough, independent and impartial investigation of violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including the Israeli attacks which have been directed at civilians or civilian buildings in the Gaza Strip, or which are disproportionate, and Palestinian armed groups’ indiscriminate rocket attacks against civilian centres in southern Israel.”

So now, let’s see what the AI organization in the US, and the US Campaign to End the Israeli occupation can do with this information and this campaign.
Addendum, at 2:00 p.m., EST:
I see that Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum has “slammed” Amnesty for its report, which he described as “unbalanced and unfair because it equates the criminal with the victim.” Doubtless the government of Israel won’t be far behind in denouncing the report.
Regarding Barhoum’s criticism, I would note that the provisions of international humanitarian law on which Amnesty bases its argument deal overwhelmingly with questions of how belligerent parties fight their wars rather than why they fight them. International law does, certainly, give a general right to people living under foreign military occupation to resist their occupiers, including by using military force to do so. (And also, by inviting other states to come and join them in doing so– as the Kuwaitis did, in 1990-91.) So any actions that Hamas takes that can be seen as constituting direct resistance to Israel’s military occupation of Gaza or the West Bank would be considered legitimate.
Thus, for example, just about all the military operations Hamas and others undertook against IOF forces who invaded Gaza during the war– or any actions they might have taken to defend against air or naval assaults against Gaza– would be completely legal.
You could certainly argue that if, during the recent war or in the immediate and quite evident run-up to it, the Palestinian resistance groups had sent rockets or against valid military targets inside Israel, that would have been legal too. What’s illegal as a way of war-fighting is to send out rockets or other ordnance that is not targeted as carefully as possible onto valid military targets.
One important point is that there is good evidence that in the past Hamas has tried to target military targets– mainly, military bases– inside Israel. But the Israeli censorship system forbids any reporting or mention of that. Another is that the targetability of the rockets used by Hamas and other groups is pretty darn poor in many cases. And another is that groups other than Hamas– including, as the Amnesty report notes, groups affiliated with Fateh– are also militarily active inside Gaza; and they may have targeting philosophies that are different from Hamas’s. (However, Hamas, as the predominant authority in the Gaza Strip, has a responsibility to try to curb the actions of any other groups that are committing war-crimes through the indiscriminate firing of missiles into Israel.)
… All in all, Barhoum has something of an argument, but not I think a 100% watertight argument.
Meanwhile, for myself, as a US citizen, I am most concerned with the involvement of my government in this whole business. If the US government were supplying any weapons to Hamas or other Palestinian factions, I would probably want to examine their practices and targeting philosophies much more rigorously. But it is not. It is massively supplying arms to a country that has used many of them to commit war crimes. I shall therefore focus centrally on the responsibilities that that entails.

ICRC head Kellenberger (and Rabbani) on the Gaza crisis

Our friend Christiane writes from Lausanne, Switzerland, that she has found– and translated for us– an important interview about Gaza conducted with Jakob Kellenberger, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). You can find her great translation (very lightly edited by me), here. Big thanks for your work there, Christiane!
I assume that most JWN readers realize that the ICRC holds a very special position among international non-governmental organizations because, since the very beginning of the codification of International Humanitaran Law (IHL, aka the ‘Laws of War’) in the 1850s, all the governments that have signed onto these important treaties– the ‘Hague’ series, the ‘Geneva’ series, etc– have thereby agreed that the Geneva-based ICRC will be the depositary and, if you like, the trustee for the whole process. No other NGO occupies anything like such an authoritative role in interpreting and guarding the integrity of IHL.
The ICRC and the whole emerging body of IHL importantly predated both the establishment of the League of Nations (which occurred after World war I) and that of the UN in 1945. Thus, even before there were global inter-governmental organizations of that sort there was IHL, and there was the ICRC in a position to act as continuing guarantor of the important protections IHL provides to those who are victims of war. Granted, its performance has often in the past been flawed– most notably, during many of the vicious counter-insurgency campaigns that European powers waged against national independence movements over the first 120 years of the ICRC’s existence, and its performance during the European Holocaust against the Jewish, Roma, gays, and handicapped populations of Nazi-ruled countries. But over time the ICRC has worked much more fully to underline and work for the equal concern for all human persons that is, after all, one of its foundational values.
Kellenberger was the only head of any human-rights or humanitarian organization who made a point of going to visit Gaza in person at the earliest time he could, to assess the consequences of the Israeli assault on the Strip’s population.
Anyway, here is the link to the original French version of the Kellenberger interview, which was published in the Swiss daily 24 heures, yesterday.
Christiane writes, ” To sum it up, Kellenberger is issuing the same call as Helena concerning Gaza.” That is, I’m assuming, the point he makes about the urgency of the need for a political solution of the problem faced by Gazans (and all other Palestinians.) Though there certainly is currently a physical-needs humanitarian crisis in Gaza of the highest order, as I’ve noted before the crisis is not only, and indeed not even centrally, one of the basic human needs of Gaza’s 1.5 million people. It is quintessentially a political crisis.
Gaza’s humanitarian crisis has been deliberately caused and exacerbated by the intentional policies of siege, encirclement, and physical destruction that successive Israeli governments have pursued toward its civilian population; and it could be ended quickly and successfully if those policies were abandoned. Gaza is not the drought-torn Sahel. Its population is well educated and– until the latest Israeli assault– it had a pretty good infrastructure capable of supporting rapid socio-economic reconstruction and development. Those assets could all be rapidly reactivated if Israel would only lift the siege and agree to reasonable and sustainable terms to stabilize the very fragile parallel-ceasefire situation created on January 18.
On a related note, I have just read the sharp criticism that Mouin Rabbani (formerly with the Crisis Group) has just written, of the way that Human Rights Watch has dealt with Israel-related concerns over the years, including during the Gaza crisis.
Rabbani raises some of the same criticisms that I’ve raised about HRW in the past, though his analysis of the organization’s one-sidedness is much deeper than anything I have ever written.
Human Rights Watch does, without a doubt, do a lot of good work in the Middle East. For that reason I recently accepted an invitation from the organization to stay on their Middle East advisory committee for a further year. However, many of the criticisms that Rabbani raises are well documented, and serious. His analysis of the tentativeness of the language with which HRW raises the “possibility” of Israeli infractions of IHL, versus the often strident tone with which it denounces possible infractions by Arab actors, is particularly thought-provoking; and my advice to my colleagues and friends at HRW is that they engage very seriously with these criticisms if they want their work to be widely respected throughout the whole Middle East.