On February 8, 2009, B’Tselem published a “position paper” entitled “Guidelines for Israel’s Investigation into Operation Cast Lead.” The report claims to “lay out [B’Tselem’s perspective on] the principal questions that arise regarding the military’s conduct…and to outline the primary directions that Israel must investigate regarding its conduct.” The “Guidelines” devote only one general paragraph (out of 27 pages) to Hamas’ “grave breaches of international humanitarian law,” since “[a]s an Israeli organization, B’Tselem focuses on the acts of Israel and its human rights responsibilities; accordingly, this document does not address the conduct of the Palestinian side in the fighting.” The remainder of the report discusses specific incidents that raise “concerns” about Israeli war crimes violations, and includes B’Tselem’s subjective interpretation and application of international law.
B’Tselem’s explanation for the focus on Israel contradicts its mission statement:
B’Tselem does not distinguish between violations committed by Israel and those committed by the Palestinian Authority. The organization monitors the activities of the Palestinian Authority affecting human rights and deals in its publications with severe violations by the Palestinian Authority. However, as an Israeli organization, the majority of its efforts is directed at violations committed by our government on behalf of all of us.
Furthermore, the approach in the position paper is methodologically flawed: it is impossible to evaluate Israel’s responsibility without detailed information on Hamas’ “cynical use” of civilian infrastructure as a primary fighting tactic (as stated by UN official John Holmes) — including firing from populated areas, placing women and children on the roofs of targeted buildings, storing weapons in schools and mosques, and hiding in bunkers beneath hospitals.
In contrast to the “Guidelines,” a B’Tselem representative implied in a news report that “a detailed probe into Hamas’s firing of Kassam rockets at Israeli communities is not necessary, because it constitutes such a ‘blatant’ war crime.” Donatella Rovera from Amnesty International made similar statements, which patronize Palestinians by exempting them from universal moral standards, and seek to justify the anti-Israel bias.