On July 8, 2014, in response to unceasing rocket and missile bombardments against civilians and the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers, Israel launched an anti-terror operation in Gaza. As in previous rounds, political NGOs such as Amnesty International launched their own attacks against Israel.
Two years later, Amnesty International continues these campaigns, stripping away all context in order to level unjustifiable accusations of “war crimes”, and to pursue the prosecution of Israeli officials in the International Criminal Court. (Amnesty has obsessively published at least 18 documents on the operation in the past two years, most targeting Israel.)
Amnesty’s latest document in this series (“Time to Address Impunity: Two years after the 2014 Gaza/Israel war,” July 7, 2016) provides no new information and regurgitates previous faulty NGO claims. This is a representative example of Amnesty’s bias,chronic inaccuracy and shoddy “research” relating to Israel:
- Predetermined guilt: The publication is premised on the allegation that Israel committed war crimes, although the organization does not possess military or forensic expertise and does not have the information to makelegal claims.
Moreover, Amnesty ignores any information or exculpatory evidence that negates its premise of Israeli violations. In addition, the NGO rejects the legitimacy of Israeli investigations out of hand, although these exceed international standards and procedures
- Lack of Transparency: Like most of its publications on the 2014 Gaza War, Amnesty does not reveal which staffers worked on “Time to Address Impunity” or if any actual experts were involved.
- Absence of methodology: Amnesty fails to apply a professional methodology for evaluating compliance with the laws of armed conflict, and offers no standards, context, data, or statistics to provide a comparative baseline for analysis. Instead, the NGO substitutes invented versions of international law.
- Amnesty continues to substitute unverifiable eyewitness testimonies, graphic photos, and emotive descriptions of destruction for actual evidence. Amnesty parrots other NGOs that similarly lack credibility, especially the widely discredited digital “Gaza Platform.” Indeed, in a February 2014 interview to Al Jazeera, Amnesty’s Secretary General Salil Shetty stated, “we are not an expert (sic) on military matters. So we don’t want to, kind of, pontificate on issues we don’t really understand.” Yet, this admission has not stopped the organization from doing exactly that in this publication.
- In contrast, it ignores the findings and evidence of actual military experts such as the High Level Military Group and the Israeli investigations.
For example, Amnesty discusses the tragic incident of four Palestinian boys killed on a Gaza beach in an Israeli strike:
- Amnesty closes with the allegation that “at the very least, the attack failed to take required precautions to protect civilians, including to ensure that targets are of military nature before proceeding with an attack.” Again, Amnesty does not provide any standard for what constitutes “required precautions” nor does it possess the information to assess the actual precautions. The MAG investigation determined that, at the time the IDF acted, it did believe that the target was of a military nature.
- Amnesty also relies on these unidentified “journalists” that the targeted building was a “broken-down fisherman’s hut.” In contrast to Amnesty’s claims, Israel obtained video and documentary evidence and witness affidavits showing that the section of the beach where the boys were killed was used by Hamas combatants for naval operations and fenced off from the civilian part. On the day prior to the incident, the IDF had struck a container containing weaponry at the same location.
- The latest report repeats the claim that “journalists” stationed nearby could “clearly see” that the figures running across on the beach were “children” implying that the IDF, too, should have known they were children. Yet, Amnesty has no idea how many miles away the IDF was stationed at the time or what surveillance capabilities were available.
- Erasing terror: The 2016 publication repeats accusations of Israeli war crimes in “deliberately” attacking hospitals, ambulances and medical workers. As evidence, it graphically describes an August 1 strike where three ambulance medics were killed. Amnesty again omits the core fact that all three medics were Islamic Jihad combatants, and the NGO fails to condemn the terrorist organization for commandeering a protected vehicle in violation of the laws of armed conflict. There is also a discrepancy between Amnesty’s account (the comment of a Jaber Darabih, a “paramedic” who arrived on scene) and that of Islamic Jihad and Palestinian NGOs (Islamic Jihad issued a “martyr” poster for a Youssef Jaber Darabih, and PCHR claims he was killed in the strike). At the same time, Amnesty fails to mention the extensive evidence of Hamas’ usage of hospitals for military purposes and for launching missile attacks on Israeli civilians from with their vicinity – all gross violations of law.
- Similarly, Amnesty falsely blames “Israeli restrictions on imports of construction materials” for the slow pace of reconstruction in Gaza and continuing “temporary housing.” The NGO ignores the commandeering of construction and other materials by Hamas to re-build attack tunnels, rockets, and other terror infrastructure. In fact, it was reported in May 2016 that Hamas was stealing more than 95% of civilian cement shipments from Israel. Amnesty does not mention the continuing closure of the border by Egypt or the failure by Arab states such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to make good on their pledges for reconstruction. Moreover, Amnesty does not mention the thousands of tons of food, household goods, and aid shipped by Israel into Gaza each week, despite any legal obligation to do so.
- Ignoring inconvenient evidence: In an eyewitness-based, graphic description of another case, Amnesty finally acknowledges that a Hamas operative was killed in the strike (an earlier version published by Amnesty omitted this critical detail). Amnesty however, continues to speculate without knowledge regarding the intended target, claiming it was the Hamas operative. Amnesty fails to consider that other Hamas combatants were present, that the building was being used for weapons storage or operational planning, or even that the strike was the result of a mistake. Amnesty also makes the unfounded accusation that “It should have been apparent that a large number of civilians were in the house, and the attack should have been cancelled or postponed.” Again, Amnesty has no basis to make such a claim and has no idea as to what information was available to the IDF or the targeting procedures that were implemented prior to or during the strike. Finally, although Amnesty admits the MAG is indeed conducting an investigation of the incident, Amnesty criticizes Israel for doing so because it had not provided the NGO with information as to its progress.
- Blatant bias and double standards:
- The publication was timed to coincide with “8 July 2016 …the second anniversary of Israel’s 50-day military offensive in Gaza, codenamed Operation Protective Edge, which brought unprecedented death and destruction to the Gaza Strip in 2014,” erasing the events in the weeks preceding July 8 (the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens and hundreds of rocket attacks on Israeli cities) and placing sole blame for the conflict on Israel.
- Only 5 very short paragraphs out of a 7-page document specifically address Hamas violations. Amnesty uses graphic photographs and highly emotive quotes to highlight 3 Israeli actions in extensive detail. In contrast, Amnesty does not highlight any of the thousands of Hamas attacks, only briefly mentioning two incidents in a few lines at the end of the report.
- The document is filled with highly inflammatory and subjective rhetoric, such as accusing Israel of acting “above the law,” perpetrating “relentless” attacks, “unprecedented death and destruction,” “massive bombardment,” and “unrelenting onslaught.” Amnesty accuses Israel of being motivated by “revenge.” Similar language is not used the few times the organization mentions Hamas or other Palestinian terror groups.
- While Amnesty rejects Israeli investigations throughout the report, the organization positively describes PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his “‘national consensus’ government” for establishing “the Independent National Committee for Investigation.” Without evidence, Amnesty claims that this body “is investigating Palestinian violations in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank during 2014 and 2015, including those documented by the [UN Human Rights Council] CoI. It has held meetings with human rights groups and the Palestinian authorities in both areas, created a mechanism for Palestinian citizens to submit complaints, and hopes to complete its report in the summer of 2016.”
- Amnesty’s “Recommendations” section includes five items for Israel and only two for Hamas and one for the PA. Amnesty demands Israel alone provide “full reparations,” and calls on its members to “Oppose any retaliation by Israel or other states against the Palestinian authorities or human rights NGOs for submitting information on Israeli violations to the ICC,” despite no evidence of Israeli “retaliation” and despite Palestinian harassment and attacks on NGOs. There is no record that Amnesty has ever submitted documentation to the ICC or participated in universal jurisdiction cases to bring Palestinian terrorists and war criminals to justice.