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Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict

LA Times and Ken Roth of Human Rights Watch

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About Maurice Ostroff
 
 
Honest Criticism of Israel is welcomed

An open letter to Rosa Brooks
 
September 4, 2006
From Maurice Ostroff

Dear Rosa Brooks

I hope you will not react to my comments on your article "Criticize Israel? You're an Anti-Semite", with "Criticize Rosa? You're anti-Brooks". (LA Times September 1).

It is an exaggeration to claim that criticizing Israeli policies automatically results in accusations of rabid anti-Semitism. Nevertheless, there have been occasions where accusations against Israel have been so blatantly prejudiced, that suspicions of anti-Semitism offer a reasonable explanation.

It would be interesting to compare the almost hysterical reaction to any suggestion of anti-Semitism, with the common apologetic reaction not only to cries of ant-Islamism, but threats of violence, whenever statements are made about say, the undeniable predominance of Muslims among perpetrators of terror.

The timidity of the media in dealing with Muslim sensitivities is an interesting phenomenon. For example "The Phoenix", a Boston newspaper admitted its reason for not publishing the Infamous fake Danish cartoons was fear of being terrorized, adding "..this may be the darkest moment in our 40-year publishing history".

Mr. Roth's glossing over convincing evidence that Hezbollah consistently used civilians as shields reflects badly on his impartiality. Accompanied by convincing photographs, Chris Tinkler, of the Australian Sunday Mail, wrote that the extremists use residential areas to launch rockets. Dressed in civilian clothing they quickly melt back into suburbia with automatic assault rifles and ride on trucks laden with cannons. Consequently, statements about absence of Hezbollah fighters and civilian casualties must be treated as assumptions, not facts.

Roth's assertion that HRW found no Hezbollah soldiers or arms anywhere in sight of a very large number of the civilians killed by Israeli bombs proves nothing. According to the Global Security Organization, mobile rocket launchers move out from underground facilities, fire from pre planned firing positions, and return in a few minutes to protected caves or to alternate firing positions. Surely it is unforgivable for a serious organization to ignore evidence of this nature

Mr. Roth's bias shows in your quotation of his statement that Hezbollah strikes on civilian areas within Israel are violations of international humanitarian law and probable war crimes. Why "probable"? Is he unsure of the fact that deliberate firing on civilian populations is a war crime? You also wrote that Roth observed that the failure by Israel to take appropriate measures to distinguish between civilians and combatants constitutes a war crime, not a probable war crime.

His singling out of Israel is incomprehensible in the glaring knowledge that Hezbollah made no effort to hide their deliberate aiming, from civilian areas at densely populated civilian areas, with the intention of killing and maiming as many as possible.

4,228 rockets fired by Hizbollah, landed in Israel. The warheads contained steel balls that spread over a wide area killing or maiming anyone in range. It was only by good luck or divine providence that each rocket did not kill at least one person

A more realistic understanding of appropriate measures to avoid hurting civilians would have been achieved if HRW investigators had interviewed and even participated in planning sessions with a number of Israeli pilots and an equal number of Hezbollah missile launchers. Evaluating the factors each of the parties considers in selecting targets, would leave no doubt about who would be judged guilty of deliberate war crimes.

There appears to be one advantage to raising the ant-Semitism accusation. It provokes an immediate voluble response. While I have read several heated responses by Mr. Roth to suggestions he is motivated by anti-Semitism, I have seen none in which he addresses the basic causes of dissatisfaction with his reports.

I wrote an open letter to Mr. Roth on August 20, dealing only with the substance of an article he had written. Evidently, as I did not accuse him of anti-Semitism, he was unable to reply crying foul. My legitimate unemotional queries about his methodology are evidently more difficult to deal with and my letter remains unanswered. (Click here for my letter to Mr.Roth, including the photographs).

May I hope that you will not avoid the substance and explain why you believe Mr. Roth is justified in ignoring evidence that contradicts some of his conclusions.

Extract from Rosa Brooks article in LA Times of Septmber 1, 2006
 
Rosa Brooks: Criticize Israel? You're an Anti-Semite!
How can we have a real discussion about Mideast peace if speaking honestly about Israel is out of bounds?


Publish something sharply critical of Israeli government policies and you'll find out. If you're lucky, you'll merely discover that you've been uninvited to some dinner parties. If you're less lucky, you'll be the subject of an all-out attack by neoconservative pundits and accused of rabid anti-Semitism.

This, at least, is what happened to Ken Roth. Roth ? whose father fled Nazi Germany ? is executive director of Human Rights Watch, America's largest and most respected human rights organization. (Disclosure: I have worked in the past as a paid consultant for the group.)

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