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Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict

Judge Goldstone's defence of Human Rights Watch

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Judge Goldstone's letter, responding to Prof. Steinbeg's article
 
Cheap shot at HRW

 

Sir, - I am concerned and disappointed by Gerald Steinberg's invocation of the ancient slur of "blood libel" to describe his disagreement with Human Rights Watch's assessment during the recent hostilities that Israel in its attacks repeatedly failed to distinguish between civilians and combatants ("Ken Roth's Blood Libel" August 27). I do not believe that a blind defense of the Israeli government warrants cheapening the memory of those myriad }ews against whom genocide was incited by grotesque demonization - that Jews killed Christian children as a ritual act.

 

As a member of its board of directors, I know that HRW has decades of experience in documenting and verifying battlefield abuses, not only in the Mideast, but also in the Balkans, Chechnya, Darfur, Rwanda, Congo, Central America and elsewhere, and that it has a well-deserved reputation for accuracy and scrupulous fairness.

 

Steinberg did not refer to any actual facts to impugn the organization's detailed findings that, although Hizbullah sometimes operated in civilian areas, there was no evidence of a Hizbullah military presence in some two dozen cases of civilian deaths Investigated.

 

So great is his animus that Stelnberg appears reluctant to admit that HRW atso condemned Hizbullah abuses, not just in passing, as he says, but repeatedly, as even a quick look at the HRW Web site (www.hrw.org) would reveal.

 

Rattling the anti-Semitism saber and name-calling will neither elevate Israel's reputation nor help it respond constructively to avoid a repetition of past mistakes. Rather than accuse Human Rights Watch of bias,  unprofessionalism and emotionalism, some introspection would be in order.

 

RICHARD J. GOLD5TONE New York

 

The writer was chief prosecutor for the international Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and a judge on the South  African  Constitutional Court.

 

jerusalempostlogoprintedition.jpg

A response to Judge Goldstone
 
Letter from Maurice Ostroff published in the Jerusalem Post September 10, 2006

Real Shots

As one of the World's foremost proponents of Human Rights and as an internationally respected jurist, I am sure Richard J. Goldstone would agree that absence of evidence of guilt is not evidence of innocence. (Cheap shot at HRW,  Letters, Jerusalem Post September.7). I refer to Human Rights Watch's findings that, there was no evidence of a Hizbullah military presence in cases of civilian casualties.

This is not surprising. According to the neutral Global Security Organization, mobile rocket launchers fire from pre-planned positions, and return in a few minutes to protected caves or to alternative firing positions. The Australian Sunday Herald published pictures showing Hizbullah men riding in on arms-laden trucks and using high-density residential areas as launch pads for rockets and heavy caliber weapons; and then, dressed as civilians, quickly melting into the background.

Moreover HRW's investigators, by HRW's own admission were not present when any of these incidents occurred, but relied on locals, who may well be biased.  ("How do we know? Through the same techniques we use In war zones around the world to cut through people's incentive to lie. We probed and cross-checked multiple eyewitnesses, many of whom talked openly of Hizbullah's presence elsewhere but were adamant that Hizbullah was not at the scene of the attack" - "Indiscriminate bombardment," Kenneth Roth, UpFront, August 17.)

If Judge Goldstone visits Gerald Steinberg's NGO Monitor site, (http://www.ngo-monitor.org/), I am sure he will be convinced that its conclusions are based on a methodology of the highest academic standards.

Professor Steinberg's article about HRW, to which Judge Goldstone replied
 
Ken Roth's blood libel

  By Gerald Steinberg

Jerusalem Post Op-Ed          August 26, 2006 

 

A Malaysian newspaper recently published an article headlined "Israel deliberately targeting civilians, says Human Rights Watch."

 

Turkish newspapers ran similar items, repeating HRW's statements that "Israel intentionally bombs civilians." During the Lebanon War HRW's press releases, opeds and interviews with officials were cited in hundreds of newspapers around the world, providing seeming legitimacy from a "neutral source" to the violent anti-Israel protests and calls for revenge.

 

For HRW and executive director Kenneth Roth, Israel is a highly emotional focus, and their reports are often biased and unreliable.

 

Roth's ideological objectives and slipshod methods are illustrated in an August 18 column published in The Jerusalem Post ("Indiscriminate Bombardment"). Rejecting claims that "the IDF was doing the best it could" or that Lebanese civilian deaths "were the result of Hizbullah hiding its rockets and fighters among civilians," Roth declared that this "assertion doesn't stand up to the facts." This modern blood libel accuses Israelis of "indifference to the taking of civilian lives."

 

But the factual basis for this article itself was glaringly absent.

 

Instead, Roth relied on the "halo effect," (the NGO version of "trust me"), claiming that HRW "investigated some two dozen bombing incidents in Lebanon… In none of those cases was Hizbullah anywhere around at the time of the attack."

 

Lacking any verifiable evidence, Roth reassures his readers that HRW research techniques "cut through people's incentive to lie." These researchers "probed and cross-checked multiple eyewitnesses," who "were adamant that Hizbullah was not at the scene of the attack. We examined bombing sites for evidence of military activity such as trenches, destroyed rocket launchers and military equipment, or dead or wounded fighters...."

 

ROTH DOES not provide names, but it is likely that Lucy Mair, HRW's researcher for Israeli/Palestinian issues, was involved. A number of HRW's statements on the Lebanon war provided Mair's name and a Beirut phone number. Before coming to HRW, she published anti-Israel propaganda in pro-Palestinian platforms such as the "Electronic Intifada." This is hardly a credible biography for an "independent" researcher.

 

Furthermore, none of Roth's other claims can be checked, and they are totally inconsistent with the hard evidence, such as the 4,000 missiles launched by Hizbullah at Israeli civilians during this period.

 

Reporters from The New York Times, The New Yorker and elsewhere had no difficulty finding reliable detailed evidence of Hizbullah's activities in these areas, but HRW's "probes" and "searches" came up empty. Perhaps they were not looking very hard.

 

And in dismissing the justification for the IDF attack on Kana, Roth relies on confused interpretations of an article by an Israeli journalist, and denigrates video footage "trotted out" by the IDF "of Hizbullah firing rockets from a village." Instead, Roth makes the patently absurd demand for a video that would show "that Hizbullah was in a civilian building or vehicle at the time of an Israeli attack…"

 

Finally, Roth admits that "Hizbullah certainly should not be let off the hook" - as if the kidnappings and massive missile bombardments by terrorists are minor footnotes in terms of human rights. His claim that HRW has conducted "detailed investigations of the militia's obvious war crimes" is also inconsistent with the evidence. Of the 24 HRW statements and opeds during this war, as listed on NGO Monitor, most targeted Israel, and the only lengthy study, of over 50 pages, also focused on allegations against Israel. HRW's very limited criticisms of Hizbullah, like its statements on Palestinian terror, appear to be little more than fig leaves.

 

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