Amnesty: When Criticizing Hamas Means Criticizing Israel

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Those of us who are used to seeing so-called “human rights organizations” scapegoating Israel for all of the world’s problems may have been, at first, surprised by Amnesty International’s latest report, documenting barbaric Hamas executions in Gaza last summer. At a closer look, however, we can see that even when faced, up close, with the vicious reality of who Hamas is and what it does, Amnesty still can’t stop itself from injecting its bias against the Jewish state into its report.

Amnesty’s press release, rather than keeping the focus on Hamas, the ostensible subject of the report, highlights a “pull quote” from its Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme, Philip Luther:

It is absolutely appalling that, while Israeli forces were inflicting massive death and destruction upon the people in Gaza, Hamas forces took the opportunity to ruthlessly settle scores, carrying out a series of unlawful killings and other grave abuses.”

Philip Luther of Amnesty
Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International

If only Israel would have just allowed the rocketfire on its own civilians to continue unchecked, you see, Hamas would never have had the “opportunity” to start executing people in the streets, according to Amnesty.

No surprise, of course, that this particular quote was picked up by BBC, CNNThe Guardian, and Al Jazeera America. Also sadly unsurprising is that Ynet News and Times of Israel both ran newswire service stories that prominently featured this quote. Once again, what we see is that Jews are not permitted to defend themselves, and that when they do so, they are blamed for the Palestinians’ own misdeeds.

Amnesty’s Executive Summary of its report continues the pattern of blame-shifting and denying a Jewish right to self-defense:

Hamas forces committed these abuses at the time of Israel’s 50-day military offensive against Gaza, codenamed Operation Protective Edge, which began on 8 July and ended on 26 August 2014. The offensive, the third such punitive Israeli military operation against Gaza since 2008, caused unprecedented damage and destruction to civilian life in Gaza. According to the UN, Israel inflicted the highest number of civilian casualties among Palestinians in a single year since it occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967.

Israeli military forces committed war crimes and other grave violations of international law during Operation Protective Edge. Israeli air and ground attacks killed more than 1,500 civilians, including more than 500 children, and caused massive destruction to civilian infrastructure. The impact of this devastation has been exacerbated since Operation Protective Edge by Israel’s continuing air, sea and land blockade of Gaza, which it has imposed since 2007. The extent of the casualties and destruction in Gaza wrought by Israeli forces far exceeded those caused by Palestinian attacks on Israel, reflecting Israel’s far greater firepower, among other factors. The war understandably caused public outrage in Gaza against Israel and those who supported or condoned its offensive, including other states and, specifically, Palestinians within Gaza who were accused of acting as Israeli informants or “collaborators.” During the period of Operation Protective Edge, Hamas and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza committed war crimes by firing thousands of indiscriminate rockets and other projectiles into southern Israel.

Amnesty paints a backdrop of Israeli aggression to contextualize, and thereby partially excuse, Hamas atrocities – calling Israeli actions “punitive” rather than defensive, and calling anger at Israel and alleged collaborators “understandable.” Of course, there is no similar contextualizing of Israeli actions as “understandable” responses to three days of unrelenting rocket attacks from Gaza. Amnesty admits that Hamas and other armed groups fired rockets into Israel only during Operation Protective Edge, but erases the fact that such rocket fire had been ongoing for days, reaching not just border towns but major population centers, before Operation Protective Edge began. Amnesty’s “understanding” ends at Israeli self-defense from irrational, armed terrorists.

Later on, in its Background section, Amnesty tells us

On 8 July 2014, before the deal for a “national consensus” government had been implemented, Israel launched a military operation codenamed Operation Protective Edge, the third major offensive in Gaza since 2008. By the time a final ceasefire agreement was reached on 26 August 2014, 50 days later, the Israeli offensive had killed 2,256 people in Gaza, including 1,568 civilians, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The dead included 538 children and 306 women. More than 11,000 other Palestinians were injured, many permanently. According to the UN, Israel inflicted the highest number of civilian casualties among Palestinians in a single year since it occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 9.58.21 AMAmnesty once again attributes to the UN the fallacious casualty figures whose actual source is Hamas – the same group the report itself accuses of horrific murders – without acknowledging any of the abundant evidence that these numbers were severe misrepresentations. Also unacknowledged here — despite Amnesty’s own previous findings — is that an unknowable number of Gaza casualties were caused by Hamas misfires.

There are other problems with Amnesty’s report as well. Elder of Ziyon has insightfully debunked Amnesty’s assertion that Israel is somehow responsible for Hamas misdeeds in Gaza because it occupies Gaza, despite its full withdrawal in 2005.  Evelyn Gordon at Commentary has explained how the truth about Hamas undercuts many of the worst allegations made against Israel, including that Israeli fire was responsible for all of Gaza’s casualties, and that Israel unjustifiably targeted civilian buildings. Both posts are well worth reading as well.

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