Summary:  Amnesty’s summary of events in Israel and the Palestinian territories draws an amoral equivalence between the terrorists and their victims, while failing to recognize the Palestinian terrorism that has necessitated IDF operations to prevent the murders of Israeli civilians.

Amnesty International has released its 2004 Annual Report, including a section covering events from January – December 2003 in Israel and the Palestinian territories. As in the past, this report is extremely simplistic, reflecting a strong political and ideological framework which undermines the credibility of this organization’s claims to be focused on human rights.

The Israeli/Palestinian section is very similar to previous versions, including a heavy emphasis on comparative death counts, and the stark assertion that mostly unarmed Palestinians were "killed by the Israeli army in random and reckless shooting, shelling and bombings or as a result of excessive use of force." Following its standard pattern, Amnesty fails to present the evidence or methodology used in this analysis, or to define "excessive use of force" in the context of defending against mass terrorism. The authors quote the figure of 600 Palestinian dead as a result of the aforementioned, and another 90 as a result of "extrajudicial executions", an emotionally laden phrase that erases the prevention of mass terror attacks through such targeted attacks. While laconically noting that "Others were killed in armed clashes with Israeli soldiers", Amnesty’s report fails to address the extent of armed Palestinians and terrorists that were killed. As a result, the responsibility of Palestinian terrorism for the conflict situation is strongly understated and hidden, as is the defensive context to the IDF’s activities.

Likewise, Amnesty mentions the cases of three members of the International Solidarity Movement killed as a result of IDF activities. The report, however, places the responsibility solely on the IDF while failing to provide any context regarding this blatantly pro-Palestinian extremist organization, whose members engaged in actions which directly or indirectly contributed to their deaths in high-risk combat zones.

The report also included a very brief section dealing with Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. While citing the death statistics on both sides (another example of amoral equivalence), no such clear data appears in a section devoted to "Attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians in the Occupied Territories", which states, without offering concrete evidence, that "Israeli settlers…repeatedly attacked Palestinians and their property." The report cites two examples – the same number used to illustrate the far higher number of Israelis murdered in Palestinian terror attacks. Thus, the basis for Amnesty’s emphasis and details in the coverage and condemnation of Israeli defensive actions, in comparison to the coverage of the impact of Palestinian terror, appears to be entirely political and ideological.

Furthermore, on the topic of "Destruction of Palestinian property", Amnesty states that incidents of destruction were carried out by the Israeli military as "a form of collective punishment…in the wake of attacks carried out by Palestinian groups." Despite examples of incidents occurring in the midst of operations against Palestinian terrorists and smuggling tunnels, the report fails to consider the wider context of Israeli activities to defend civilians against the terrorist campaign. Similarly, Amnesty repeats the unsupported claim that restrictions on the movement of Palestinians, including the construction of Israel’s security barrier, are the primary reason for the increase in poverty and unemployment in the territories. The report fails to address widespread Palestinian corruption, or the link between these restrictions and the need to prevent terrorism. The claim that "Closures and restrictions on movement were routinely increased in reprisal for attacks by Palestinian armed groups" fails to note the clear evidence that the Israeli security policy has saved many lives.

In summary, Amnesty’s 2004 Annual Report presents a very distorted image of Israel’s army as a vengeful entity, failing to recognize the context behind anti-terror activities designed to prevent the deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians by Palestinian terrorists. Unintentional civilian deaths as a result of IDF operations are treated in the same manner as the Palestinian terror attacks responsible for the deliberate and brutal murder of Israelis, thus repeated the all too common amoral equivalence between victim and perpetrator. Once again, Amnesty’s report dealing with this region is more of a political and ideological document, which is couched in the rhetoric of human rights and international law, but without the substance.