web analytics
October 30, 2014 / 6 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Why Human Rights Reporting On Israel Lacks Credibility

Gregory J. Wallance

Gregory J. Wallance

While there was certainly room for improvement in the IDF’s response to excessive-force incidents, it was not possible to conclude, at least in the cases we looked at closely, that the IDF had failed to do a serious investigation. Significantly, nothing in that room or in the case files resembled the condemnatory reports by human rights organizations on the Israeli military’s investigations.

I shared my conclusions with my colleague, a professional human rights worker with responsibility for Middle East reporting for this organization, who then prepared a draft report of our mission. I read it and concluded that we had been visiting two different countries. I brought my disagreement to the attention of the organization’s executive director and, shortly afterward, with the draft unchanged, my involvement with this mission ended. No report was issued.

* * * * *

Since the First Intifada, the human rights reporting process has suffered a breakdown eerily similar to my mission, albeit on a much larger scale. Following the Gaza War in 2008-09, the UN Human Rights Council appointed a fact-finding mission chaired by a Jewish South African jurist, Richard Goldstone. The Goldstone Report, published in September 2009, found that both Israel and Hamas had intentionally targeted civilians. A subsequent report by a UN committee of independent experts, chaired by a former New York judge, Mary McGowan Davis, followed up on the recommendations of the Goldstone Report. But the Davis experts found that “Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza” while “the de facto authorities (i.e., Hamas) have not conducted any investigations into the launching of rocket and mortar attacks against Israel.”

Then, on April 1, 2011, in an op-ed article in The Washington Post, Judge Goldstone recanted his report’s conclusion that Israel had intentionally tried to kill Palestinian civilians. “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different report.”

A month after publication of the Goldstone Report, another remarkable op-ed appeared, one in The New York Times. Robert Bernstein, the founder and former chair of Human Rights Watch (not the organization that asked me to go to Israel), publicly broke with HRW over its reporting on Israel. He accused HRW, one of the most influential human rights groups, of losing its “critical perspective” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, writing “far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region,” even though the region was “populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records,” and “helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.”

The following year, an investigative article in The New Republic by Ben Birnbaum revealed deep tensions not just between Bernstein and HRW but within HRW’s own board over the organization’s policies and reporting on Israel. One board member told Birnbaum that, following the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War, “it seemed to me that there was a commitment to a point of view – that Israel’s the bad guy here.” The article reported as well that since 2000 HRW had issued as many full-length reports on Israel as on Iran, Syria and Libya combined.

* * * * *

For many, the bias of human rights organizations against Israel is a self-evident fact of life, as immutable a force as gravity. But the recantations and criticisms do not shed much light on why, for example, a Jewish jurist with exemplary human rights credentials would make such a profound mistake. The oft-made charges of anti-Semitism against human rights groups share the same flaw as the Goldstone Report by inferring a particular state of mind from non-particularized facts – in the one case, unbalanced, if not biased, human rights reports; in the other, the fact of civilian deaths in war.

The reasons are far more complex, rooted in part in the sheer difficulty of fact-finding in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It was not rocket science, for example, to report objectively on human rights violations in the Soviet Union during the 1970s and 1980s, or in Africa in the 1990s, where political oppression and mass murder, respectively, did not involve contested facts.

By contrast, a human rights evaluation of the IDF’s response to excessive-force cases arising from Israeli-Palestinian confrontations is uniquely challenging. To bring such cases, military prosecutors must have proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Since soldiers, like policemen, rarely admit to using excessive force, witnesses must come from the community of the alleged victim. In normal investigations, for example, in the United States of a police shooting of a civilian, eyewitnesses are often forthcoming, but even when they hold back, community members act as intermediaries to obtain their cooperation.

About the Author: Gregory J. Wallance is a lawyer and writer in New York City and a long-time human rights activist. His most recent book is “America’s Soul in the Balance: The Holocaust, FDR’s State Department, and the Moral Disgrace of An American Aristocracy.”


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Why Human Rights Reporting On Israel Lacks Credibility”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Abbas and the Temple Mount: "It's mine, all mine. No Jews allowed.
Abbas Declares Closure of Al Aqsa Mosque a ‘Declaration of War’
Latest Indepth Stories
Which glass has the poison?

The White House wanted to defame Netanyahu, undermine his reputation, impugn him & his policies

Adolf Hitler and the representative of the Palestinian Arabs, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, December, 1941.

Palestinian anti-Semitism in 2014 is more extreme and mainstream than German A/S in the 1930s.

Sheldon Silver

Woven deeply through it all is the Jewish obligation to fight injustice.

Cravatts-Richard--new

Only in the inverted world of academia would Jewish professors denounce the AMCHA Initiative report.

Many poskim were and are adamant about the responsibility of every individual to vote.

Individuals who may have been abused are the “clients” in need and receiving care and protection.

An accomplished Torah scholar and ardent adherent of Bobov chassidus, he was renowned for his self-effacing dedication and skills as an international lawyer and law professor

The fact that the United States government after World War II sought to take advantage of the expertise of German scientists, even those known to have contributed to the Nazi war effort, is well known and largely accepted as having been necessary for America’s national defense. (Wernher von Braun is perhaps the most famous and […]

The New York State comptroller manages the state’s $180.7 billion pension fund, audits the spending practices of all state agencies and local governments, oversees the New York State and Local Retirement System, reviews the New York State and City budgets, and approves billions in State contracts and spending.

Rabinovich is the author of several popular books on Israel’s wars, including The Battle for Jerusalem, The Yom Kippur War, and The Boats of Cherbourg.

To say he was beloved because of the way he loved his students does not sufficiently capture the reality.

The birth I speak about is to give birth to ourselves, to our full potential.

The extreme hypocrisy, contempt & vulgarity of the attacks indicate more than a policy disagreement

More Articles from Gregory J. Wallance
Wallance-070513

How did we move so quickly from complacency to last-minute weapons deliveries and a possible no-fly zone?

Gregory J. Wallance

A just-released Israeli commission report vehemently disputes the France 2 video made in 2000 of a Palestinian father and his son crouching for shelter from bullets allegedly fired by Israeli soldiers. This is a media controversy but it parallels the decades-long dispute between Israel and the human rights organizations that have issued reports on violent clashes in the West Bank, Gaza, and Lebanon. Simply, the reporting process on these confrontations has broken down.

The debate in the Jewish community over Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his response to the Holocaust has been bitter and emotional, a family divided against itself. On the one hand, FDR was the polio-stricken man who, after being knocked flat on his back, rose and revived an America that had been knocked flat on its back and then led it to wartime triumph over Hitler and to global destiny.

During a recent trip to Rwanda, former president Bill Clinton lamented his failure in 1994 to intervene in that country’s genocidal massacres. “I don’t think we could have ended the violence, but I think we could have cut it down. And I regret it.”

This year, Holocaust Remembrance Day is the anniversary of two starkly contrasting events of April 19, 1943 – the first day of the gallant but doomed Warsaw Ghetto uprising and of the ignominious Anglo-American Bermuda Conference on the Refugee Problem, which State Department diplomats organized to deflect pressure to rescue Jews from the Nazi death machine.

Recently, the Romanian government unveiled a long overdue memorial to the 300,000 Romanian Jews and Roma who perished in World War II at the hands of their own government and the Nazis. Unfortunately, the U.S. State Department, whose wartime diplomats doomed tens of thousands of the Romanian Jews commemorated by the memorial, has yet to acknowledge its own role in the Romanian Holocaust.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/why-human-rights-reporting-on-israel-lacks-credibility/2013/05/29/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: