I am again disappointed by your 2007 reports on Israel and the Palestinians.
It’s fine to scrutinize Israel’s actions and measure them against human rights standards. But clearly the application of any law has to take into account all of the factors influencing the actions. Amnesty insists on judging Israel as if Israel is not under constant threat of Palestinian terrorism. This makes little sense and results in highly prejudicial reports.
By insisting that Israel is almost totally responsible for the conflicts with its neighbours, Amnesty International legitimizes the serious problems in these societies which are the true source of suffering for their people – autocracy, corruption, lawlessness and criminality, militia rule and terrorism. Amnesty’s reports effectively protect criminals and extremists while obscuring the issues that must truly be resolved in order to create opportunities for peace and to improve the lives of those suffering the most, such as ordinary Palestinians.
Following is a list of several problems in Amnesty’s reports:
1. Virtually all criticism for the Arab-Israel conflict is directed at Israel.
Example: The 521 reports on Israel in the Amnesty on-line library are overwhelmingly critical of Israel. Every minor activity in defense of Israel is criticized as an infringement of Palestinian rights, with little or no mention of the violent activities of Palestinians that precede it. Israel is even blamed for mistreatment of Palestinian women by Palestinian men (Women and conflict, the untold story, 31/3/05). By contrast, all but two or three of the most glaring problems in Palestinian society are simply overlooked.
Reality: The Arab-Israel conflict is fuelled mainly by the on-going war and terrorism conducted against Israel from Palestinian territories and neighbouring states where terrorist organizations, who reject Israel’s existence, are permitted to operate freely, thus causing the suffering of their own people as well as Israelis.
2. History is distorted to depict Israel as the aggressor.
Example A: The title of your main report is "Enduring Occupation – Palestinians under siege in the West Bank".
Reality: Israel has been under siege by war and terrorism since its inception. Israel handed sovereignty to the PA for all major Palestinian cities as part of the Oslo peace process. But terrorist groups operate freely under the PA and used this freedom to build bomb factories that supplied the suicide bombers of the second intifada. Now Israel has no choice but to suppress West Bank terrorist groups. (I look forward to an Amnesty publication such as "Enduring War and Terrorism – Israelis build an ethical society despite endless attempts by their neighbours to massacre civilians".)
Example B: "Background: Since the beginning of the intifada in September 2000, Israeli-Palestinian violence has spiralled. Israeli forces have killed some 4,000 Palestinians, most of them unarmed civilians and including some 800 children. Many were killed is air strikes, artillery shelling and other attacks against refugee camps and densely populated residential areas throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Others were extrajudicially executed in attacks which killed scores of bystanders. In the same period Palestinian armed groups killed 1,100 Israelis, some 750 of them civilians and including 120 children, in suicide bombings and shooting attacks in buses, restaurants, shopping malls and other areas frequented by civilians." (Enduring Occupation, page 4)
Reality: The intifada did not spiral out from nowhere. Palestinian terrorist groups declared war on Israel. The actions of the IDF were directly caused by the massive targeting of Israeli civilians. The terrorists conducted this war from the shelter of refuges camps and densely populated residential areas, and so are mainly responsible for the high loss of life among Palestinian civilians. Since cause and effect are critical to judging the actions of the parties, misrepresenting the intifada in the background sets an incorrect context for the remainder of the report.
3. Amnesty accuses Israel of being "discriminatory", in effect racist, towards Palestinians.
Example: "The restrictions are imposed on all Palestinians because they are Palestinians". (Enduring Occupation, page 3)
Reality: Restrictions are imposed on Palestinians because terrorist organizations operate freely in areas under PA control. (I have yet to find any objection by Amnesty to the rampant racism in the state media of the PA and other Muslim countries, which openly spread hatred towards Jews, call for Israel’s destruction and glorify suicide bombing against Israelis.)
4. Israel’s military control of the West Bank is depicted as an arbitrary capture of land with on-going oppression of the local population for purposes of making the West Bank a permanent part of Israel.
Example A: "On its 40th anniversary, Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories is becoming increasingly entrenched. . For four decades Israel’s occupation of the OPT has been characterized by so-called "temporary" measures which appear, in fact, to be intended to bring about long-term demographic changes." (Israel’s 40-year occupation, June 2007)
Reality: Israel captured the West Bank in the Six-Day War after it was attacked by Jordan. Israel has maintained partial military control of the West Bank as a result of the on-going war and terror campaigns conducted by Palestinian terror groups and supported by the PA and neighboring countries. Israel has proven its willingness to trade land for peace through the creation of the PA with sovereignty for Palestinian cities during Oslo and through a comprehensive offer in 2000, rejected by the Palestinians. Israel proved its willingness to uproot settlements during the withdrawal from Gaza.
Example B: "Ahead of the March legislative elections, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced his intention to implement unilaterally a "convergence" plan, under which Israel would . annex some 12 percent of the occupied West Bank." (AI annual report 2007)
Reality: Amnesty constantly dwells on occupation as by far the most important human rights problem in Israel. However, when Israel unilaterally ends the occupation of Gaza and proposes to unilaterally withdraw from 88% of the West Bank, with no expectation of a reduction in terrorism, Amnesty’s annual report can only see a reason to criticize Israel (for not offering to unilaterally withdraw from the remaining 12% of the West Bank).
5. Amnesty insists that Israel unilaterally cease most defensive measures in the West Bank on the basis that they violate the rights of Palestinians. Amnesty does not in any way consider the consequences to Palestinian or Israeli civilians of additional freedom for terrorist organizations.
Example: "In light of the devastating impact on Palestinians in the OPT of Israel’s policy of closures, blockades and the building of the fence/wall . To the Israeli government: End the regime of closures in its current form, as well as other forms of restrictions on freedom of movement of people and goods, that result in collective punishment. Any restriction may only be imposed if it is necessary to respond to security threats, is non-discriminatory and proportionate in terms of its impact and duration, and is imposed on named individuals, not on whole communities." (Enduring occupation, Recommendations, page 40)
Reality: It’s hard to know where to start:
(a) Amnesty seems to assume that there are no negative consequences of Israel allowing high freedom of movement in the West Bank and Gaza. Please consider that:
– The PA has no control over the activities of terrorist organizations.
– PA sovereignty over Palestinian cities in the 1990’s resulted in a major build-up of terrorist capability, which was unleashed in the intifada of 2000.
– Israel exercises no restrictions on freedom of movement in Gaza. But since Israel’s withdrawal the human rights situation of Gazans has deteriorated due to militia activity, lawlessness and internal violence. Where is Amnesty’s full-length report on this?
(b) What is the meaning of "proportionate in terms of impact"? Does this refer to casualties? Does this mean that if Hamas conducts a suicide bombing that kills 10 Israelis, Israel cannot pursue the terrorists as long as they take refuge in a densely populated civilian area, where fighting may result in more casualties? If so, Amnesty is accepting the practice of human shields by Palestinian terrorists, even if you reject human shields in principle.
(c) The idea that checkpoints and curfews must only apply to "named individuals" is hard to understand. Has Amnesty considered whether this is possible to implement and enforce? Does this mean that a terrorist not on Israel’s suspect list is free to pass through checkpoints at will?
(d) This recommendation by Amnesty appears to be an open invitation to an increase in terrorism because it makes terrorism impossible to prevent.
(e) Israeli victims of suicide bombings will find little consolation in the fact that Amnesty acknowledges that their human rights have been violated.
(f) Palestinian civilians also suffer from domination of their society by violent groups.
(g) Does Amnesty deny other country under attack the right to defend their citizens?
6. Amnesty claims that the poor state of the economy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is due solely to movement restrictions and economic sanctions by Israel. (It’s not clear the relevance of the economy in a report on human rights, especially since Amnesty clearly has no interest in investigating other aspects of Palestinian society.)
Example: "The worsening economic situation of the Palestinian population . is largely the consequence of measures taken by the Israeli authorities" (Enduring Occupation, page 38).
Reality: Palestinians have brought upon themselves a sharp decline in standard of living that is directly attributable to the launch of the second intifada. In addition, Amnesty ignores the extent to which the economy is affected by corruption, embezzlement, lawlessness and general mismanagement by the PA. In Gaza, Israel and the international community did everything possible to encourage the Palestinians to develop their economy after Israel’s withdrawal. Instead, due to the internal violence, terrorist attacks and Qassam rockets, Israel has no choice but to restrict access.
7. Amnesty’s conclusions are a long list of denunciations of Israel followed by a single (and clearly futile) suggestion to Palestinian terror groups to desist and to the PA to try to stop them.
Example: Enduring occupation, Recommendations, chapter 11.
Reality: If human rights group truly want to improve the living conditions of Palestinians, they would focus first on reducing human rights violations against Palestinians by their own government, militia leaders, terrorist groups, etc. They may find that if civility, personal freedoms, good government and the rule of law began to take root in the Palestinian territories, the end of restrictive measures and the occupation would follow quickly behind.
Of course, Israel makes mistakes in its management of Palestinian aggression and Amnesty International is right to criticize excesses such as illegal outposts and the actions of extremist settlers. But when the overall work is so highly skewed as to only find fault with Israel and barely consider the underlying Arab aggression, general credibility is undermined and so valid points are lost.
Amnesty’s position on Israel is aligned with the far left fringe element that has consciously abandoned objectivity and has made a cult out of delegitimizing Israel. Amnesty’s credibility on Israel will continue to be low until you can start to look at the history and current situation in a more logical and even-handed manner.