In other words, in its first report HRW had uncritically accepted statements by less-than-disinterested eyewitnesses who, like the Palestinian hospital director (“CBS! CBS! CBS!”), may have been acutely conscious of the value of negative publicity against Israel. Even more disturbingly, this episode appears not to have prompted more cautious fact-finding or self-reflection, as witness the subsequent Goldstone Report debacle and the member of HRW’s Middle East advisory committee, who, without addressing – or even acknowledging – these serious factual errors only complained in a letter that Birnbaum had misrepresented the degree of divisiveness at HRW over its Israel reporting.
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Israel is not exempt from human rights scrutiny. But human rights reports on Israeli-Palestinian confrontations have lost their credibility. Unless the groups that issue such reports conduct their investigations in a more careful manner, reach more measured conclusions, and forthrightly acknowledge – as the Davis report, and my own experience, demonstrated – that Israel does seriously investigate allegations of excessive force by its soldiers, those groups are not going to get their credibility back.