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Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict

An open letter to Human Rights Watch's Fred Abrahams

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About Maurice Ostroff
 
 
From Maurice Ostroff                                        August 6, 2006

Dear Mr.Abrahams,

 

While you deserve kudos for your unceasing work documenting human rights violations around the world, your appearance on Fox news on August 5, gives serious cause to doubt your methodology when applied to the Hezbollah-Israel conflict.

 

For example, you justified your accusation that Israel is attacking civilian targets because no evidence was found of rocket launchers by the time HRW got around to examining the sites. Just a little research reveals the futility of this argument. For example the neutral Global Security Organization describes mobile rocket launchers as capable of firing missiles and returning in a few minutes to protected caves or to alternate firing positions. 

 http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/dprk/m-1985-mrl.htm

 

If indeed the reasoning behind your reports about other conflicts is of the same standard, it prejudices the entire effectiveness of the Human Rights Watch organization. An independent observer of this TV interview can only conclude that your opinion is not based on direct analytical observation, but is largely influenced by the current media frenzy, which exaggerates Israeli retaliation and all but ignores the existential threat causing it.

 

Many otherwise responsible media seem blind to the fact that Israel has no choice but to react against those who have caused hundreds of thousands of Israelis to live in bomb shelters for weeks and who have killed and maimed many.  In an appalling display of unbalanced reporting they play on emotions in a one-sided manner, emphasizing personal tragedies in Lebanon, while ignoring the obvious equally poignant scenes in Israel. Mutilated babies and suffering old people are sadly to be found on both sides and the human tragedy is equally distressing.

 

You seem strangely unaware of the need to question the veracity of reports emanating from Hezbollah. Time magazine contributor Christopher Allbritton has admitted he is loath to say too much about Hezbollah, "as the Party of God has a copy of every journalist's passport, and they've already hassled a number of them and threatened one."

http://www.tomgrossmedia.com/mideastdispatches/archives/000767.html

 

CBS's Elizabeth Palmer has also commented that Hezbollah is determined that outsiders will only see what it wants them to see.

 

Surely truth-seeking Human Rights observers cannot accept uncritically media reports skewed by Hezbollah propaganda. My deliberate use of the word "propaganda' is justified by an admission by none other than CNN's senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson. Five days after placing an anti-Israel report on July 18, he wrote,  "When you hear their [Hezbollah's] claims, they have to come with more than a grain of salt, that you have to put in some journalistic integrity. That you have to point out to the audience and let them know that this was a guided tour by Hezbollah press officials along with their security, that it was a very rushed affair." (http://newsbusters.org/node/6552).

 

It would be naive to believe that HRW observers have any more freedom to observe objectively than internationally well-known journalists.

 

In a live interview on July 23, Robertson said that although taking journalists into the bombed areas is a good way for Hezbollah to get their message out, there is nevertheless no doubt that the bombs are hitting Hezbollah facilities.

 

One of Robertson's statements is particularly relevant to your TV appearance. He said "we didn't have enough time to go in, root through those houses, see if perhaps there was somebody there who was, you know, a taxi driver by day, and a Hezbollah fighter by night...."

 

When a Hezbollah fighter is indistinguishable from a civilian taxi driver to an experienced internationally recognized journalist, one must ask how you can so confidently assert that the casualties you've seen (or may have heard about), have been civilians.

 

With respect, Mr. Abrahams, I fear your lack of critical analysis of the situation actually encourages the aggressor, thereby prolonging the conflict and aggravating an already tragic situation, rather than helping to prevent human rights abuses

 

I suggest to you, as a recognized personality interested in ameliorating human rights abuses, there is one awful abuse that can be rectified very easily. Please call on Hezbollah and the Palestinians to show an ounce of humanity by allowing your organization or the Red Cross to visit the kidnapped soldiers and allowing them to call their families in the presence of third parties to indicate that they are alive; a privilege enjoyed by Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

 

Furthermore, if HRW wishes to influence the parties to end the carnage speedily, it should call on Hezbollah to allow Lebanon to implement SC resolution 1559 forthwith. It is that simple. In all seriousness, one cannot help wondering what Sheik Nasrallah's objectives are and more importantly whether he cynically considers them worth the continued suffering he continues to cause his people

 

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