A shocking, but happy, development

In what can only be considered an amazing coincidence, two of the most biased, anti Israel/anti semitic organizations came out today with statements that literally stopped me in my tracks with their seeming change of direction.

Truth be told, one of them was not from the organization but rather its’ founder.

Robert Bernstein, founder of Human Rights Watch, an organization that for the last decade has made a mockery of its’ name, wrote an incredibly compelling piece in the NY Times today, condemning his own organization that he not only founded, but led for 20 years, in the harshest terms.

The article is reprinted below.

Perhaps even more amazing, is that an article condemning the British government for failing to support Israel in the UN Human Rights Council, was printed in the Guardian, perhaps Britains most stridently anti Israel mainstream paper. That article also appears below.

 

Rights Watchdog, Lost in the Mideast

By ROBERT L. BERNSTEIN

Published: October 19, 2009

AS the founder of Human Rights Watch, its active chairman for 20 years and now founding chairman emeritus, I must do something that I never anticipated: I must publicly join the group’s critics. Human Rights Watch had as its original mission to pry open closed societies, advocate basic freedoms and support dissenters. But recently it has been issuing reports on the Israeli-Arab conflict that are helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.

At Human Rights Watch, we always recognized that open, democratic societies have faults and commit abuses. But we saw that they have the ability to correct them — through vigorous public debate, an adversarial press and many other mechanisms that encourage reform.

That is why we sought to draw a sharp line between the democratic and nondemocratic worlds, in an effort to create clarity in human rights. We wanted to prevent the Soviet Union and its followers from playing a moral equivalence game with the West and to encourage liberalization by drawing attention to dissidents like Andrei Sakharov, Natan Sharansky and those in the Soviet gulag — and the millions in China’s laogai, or labor camps.

When I stepped aside in 1998, Human Rights Watch was active in 70 countries, most of them closed societies. Now the organization, with increasing frequency, casts aside its important distinction between open and closed societies.

Nowhere is this more evident than in its work in the Middle East. The region is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records. Yet in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region.

Israel, with a population of 7.4 million, is home to at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world — many of whom are there expressly to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Meanwhile, the Arab and Iranian regimes rule over some 350 million people, and most remain brutal, closed and autocratic, permitting little or no internal dissent. The plight of their citizens who would most benefit from the kind of attention a large and well-financed international human rights organization can provide is being ignored as Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division prepares report after report on Israel.

Human Rights Watch has lost critical perspective on a conflict in which Israel has been repeatedly attacked by Hamas and Hezbollah, organizations that go after Israeli citizens and use their own people as human shields. These groups are supported by the government of Iran, which has openly declared its intention not just to destroy Israel but to murder Jews everywhere. This incitement to genocide is a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Leaders of Human Rights Watch know that Hamas and Hezbollah chose to wage war from densely populated areas, deliberately transforming neighborhoods into battlefields. They know that more and better arms are flowing into both Gaza and Lebanon and are poised to strike again. And they know that this militancy continues to deprive Palestinians of any chance for the peaceful and productive life they deserve. Yet Israel, the repeated victim of aggression, faces the brunt of Human Rights Watch’s criticism.

The organization is expressly concerned mainly with how wars are fought, not with motivations. To be sure, even victims of aggression are bound by the laws of war and must do their utmost to minimize civilian casualties. Nevertheless, there is a difference between wrongs committed in self-defense and those perpetrated intentionally.

But how does Human Rights Watch know that these laws have been violated? In Gaza and elsewhere where there is no access to the battlefield or to the military and political leaders who make strategic decisions, it is extremely difficult to make definitive judgments about war crimes. Reporting often relies on witnesses whose stories cannot be verified and who may testify for political advantage or because they fear retaliation from their own rulers. Significantly, Col. Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan and an expert on warfare, has said that the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza “did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.” Only by returning to its founding mission and the spirit of humility that animated it can Human Rights Watch resurrect itself as a moral force in the Middle East and throughout the world. If it fails to do that, its credibility will be seriously undermined and its important role in the world significantly diminished.

Robert L. Bernstein, the former president and chief executive of Random House, was the chairman of Human Rights Watch from 1978 to 1998.

 

And Now, the Guardian piece:

A moral atrocity

Judge Goldstone has been suckered into letting war criminals use his name to pillory Israel

 

Harold Evans

The Guardian, Tuesday 20 October 2009

 

Aren’t the British sickened by the moral confusions of their government? First, we have the weasel words to justify the unjustifiable release of the Lockerbie bomber. Now we have the sickening spectacle of Britain failing to stand by Israel, the only democracy with an independent judiciary in the entire region.

 

It was to be expected that the usual suspects of the risible UN human rights council would be eager to condemn Israel for war crimes in defending itself against Hamas. If you treat people as the Chinese do the Tibetans or Uighurs (“Off with their heads!”); or as the Russians eliminate Chechen dissidents; or as the Nigerians tolerate extrajudicial killings, the evictions of 800,000, rape and cruel treatment of prisoners; or as the Egyptians get prisoners to talk (torture) and the Saudis suppress half their population …

well, go through the practices of all 25 states voting to refer Israel to the security council for the Gaza war, and you have to acknowledge they know a lot about the abuse of humans. Anything to divert attention from their own atrocities.

 

Only six refused to join the farce – Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia, Ukraine and the US. Britain didn’t just abstain. It shirked voting at all (along with those beacons of civilisation Angola, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, and surprisingly, France).

 

Of course, here the fig leaf for being scared of dictators, especially oil-rich abusers, is the report by the South African judge Richard Goldstone. Poor Judge Goldstone now regrets how his good name has been used to single out Israel. The Swiss paper Le Temps reports him complaining that “This draft [UN human rights council] resolution saddens me … there is not a single phrase condemning Hamas as we have done in the report. I hope the council can modify the text.” Fat hope.

 

The truth is he was suckered into lending his good name to a half-baked report – read its 575 pages and see. He said that, as a Jew himself, he was surprised to be invited. He shouldn’t have been, and should never have accepted leadership of a commission whose terms of reference were designed to excuse the aggressor, Hamas, and punish the defender, Israel. The council’s decision was to “dispatch an urgent, independent, international fact-finding mission … to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying power, Israel, against the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, due to the current aggression, and [it] calls upon Israel not to obstruct the process of investigation and to fully co-operate with the mission”.

 

Israel is not an “occupying power” in Gaza in either fact or international law. Four years ago it voluntarily pulled out all its soldiers and uprooted all its settlers. Here was a wonderful chance for Gaza to be the building block of a Palestinian state, and for Hamas to do what the Israelis did – take a piece of land and build a model state. They didn’t. Instead of helping the desperate Palestinians, they conducted a religious war. In signing on for the UN mission – with others who had already condemned Israel – it seems to have escaped the judge that Hamas is committed not just to fight Israeli soldiers; it is a terrorist organisation hellbent on the destruction of the state of Israel. The terms of reference he accepted validate the torment of Israeli civilians. Hamas launched 7,000 rockets – every one intended to kill as many people as possible – then contemptuously

dismissed repeated warnings from Israel to stop or face the consequences.

 

The rockets were war crimes and ought to have been universally condemned as such. While new rockets hit Israel over many months there was no rush by the world’s moralisers – including Britain – to censure Hamas, no urgency as there was in “world opinion” when Israel finally responded. Then Israel was immediately accused of a “disproportionate” response without anyone thinking: “What is a ‘proportionate’ attack against an enemy dedicated to exterminating your people?” A dedication to exterminating all of his?

 

Israel risked its own forces by imposing unprecedented restraint. In testimony volunteered to the human rights council (and ignored), Colonel Richard Kemp, a British commander in Bosnia and Afghanistan, stated: “The Israeli Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.” The “collateral damage” was less than the Nato allies inflicted on the Bosnians in the conflict with Yugoslavia.

 

No doubt there were blunders. A defensive war is still a war with all its suffering and destruction. But Hamas compounded its original war crime with another. It held its own people hostage. It used them as human shields. It regarded every (accidental) death as another bullet in the propaganda war. The Goldstone report won the gold standard of moral equivalence between the killer and the victim. Now Britain wins the silver. Who’s cheering?

 


 

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