The Associated Press on Monday morning reported that “Israeli airstrikes that demolished four high-rise buildings in the Gaza Strip during the war in May apparently violated international laws of war.” The agency cited Human Rights Watch, but it’s clear from the story (Rights group: Israeli strikes on Gaza apparently broke law) that in this case, AP and HRW are practically synonymous.
Back in May, Alex Traiman wrote that the Associated Press and Al Jazeera reporters in the Gaza Strip were outraged at the fact that the IDF had dared to demolish their high riser, the 12-story Al-Jalaa, which served as headquarters for the Hamas. AP CEO Gary Pruitt released a statement saying that the world’s largest news syndication service was “shocked and horrified” by the strike (AP, Al Jazeera, and the MSM are Tools in Hamas’s War Against Israel).
In other words, the very news organization that was most directly offended by the operation is reporting on “another” group, also not a warm and cuddly friend of the Jewish State, that’s now supporting their declared position from three months ago.
They give biased journalism a bad name.
Yours truly reported on May 15 (IDF Brings Down Gaza Tower Shared by Hamas Intelligence, Al Jazeera, AP): “Following an intense barrage of Hamas rockets on central Israel on Saturday morning and afternoon, which killed one civilian, 51, in Ramat Gan, and inflicted a tremendous amount of damage on private homes, the IDF attacked the famous al Jalaa tower in Gaza City, which housed the headquarters of the Al-Jazeera network, the offices of the AP News Agency, and the headquarters of additional broadcasting outlets.
“The IDF issued a statement saying the building contained “military assets belonging to the military intelligence of the Hamas terrorist organization,” and suggested that the offices of the civilian media were used by Hamas as human shields.”
Now the AP reports that Human Rights Watch noted that “although no one was harmed in the airstrikes, the attacks damaged neighboring buildings, left dozens of people homeless and destroyed scores of businesses.”
Now, from the AP’s headline, “Israeli strikes on Gaza apparently broke law,” one would expect proof, especially since three months have passed since the event, enough time for HRW to conduct interviews with local witnesses, run forensic tests, you know, investigate. But no, the only foundation for the libelous claim, besides the fact that Gary Pruitt is still very upset, is the line: “The Israeli military should publicly produce the evidence that it says it relies on to carry out these attacks.”
HRW said it interviewed 18 Arabs who were either witnesses or victims of the airstrikes. It said it also reviewed video footage and photos after the attacks, as well as statements by “Israeli and Palestinian officials and militant groups.” It said it found no evidence that militants involved in military operations had a current or long-term presence in the buildings when they were attacked.
Here’s the thing: finding no evidence is not evidence.
This is not the first time HRW is libeling Israel without providing a smidgen of proof. On July 27, the AP ran an almost identical story, on HRW accusing the Israeli military of carrying out attacks that “apparently amount to war crimes.” How could they tell? According to the AP, “The international human rights organization issued its conclusions after investigating three Israeli airstrikes that it said killed 62 Palestinian civilians. It said ‘there were no evident military targets in the vicinity’ of the attacks.”
That was a blatant lie, of course, seeing as the AP reporters were sharing the elevators in the Al-Jalaa tower with Hamas folks.
HRW also said that “even if militants were using the buildings, making them legitimate targets, Israel is obligated to avoid disproportionate harm to civilians.”
Michael N. Schmitt, the G. Norman Lieber Distinguished Scholar at the United States Military Academy at West Point, wrote after the operation (West Point Scholar: ‘IDF Strike of the Al Jalaa Tower was Legal’) that “there is no indication that the IDF had intelligence indicating precisely which sections of the Al Jalaa Tower its opponents were using or that the IDF fielded weaponry capable of surgically neutralizing those sections and any conflict-related material therein. Therefore, if the Israeli reports of Hamas using the building are accurate, the entire building constituted a single military objective, damage to which did not have to factor into the IDF’s proportionality calculation.”
Or, to quote a popular adage, he who sleeps with dogs wakes up with fleas.
The AP’s report on Monday said the news outlet called on Israel to make public the evidence it used to justify the demolition of the al-Jalaa building. But Israel, imagine that, refused to share its intelligence, saying it did not want to reveal its sources of information. Can you imagine? Preserving Israeli security over the needs of a news organization?
According to the AP, “HRW has called on the International Criminal Court to include the recent Gaza war in its ongoing investigation into possible war crimes by Israel and Palestinian militants.”
Well, in June, Fatou Bensouda ended her nine years of inflicting chaos and instability at the head of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor. She was replaced by Karim Ahmad Khan, a British lawyer and a specialist in international criminal law and international human rights law (Bensouda was Minister of Justice and Attorney General of The Gambia). One expects his decisions to be more fact-based and less political than his predecessor’s.