We are a grass roots organization located in both Israel and the United States. Our intention is to be pro-active on behalf of Israel. This means we will identify the topics that need examination, analysis and promotion. Our intention is to write accurately what is going on here in Israel rather than react to the anti-Israel media pieces that comprise most of today's media outlets.
Thursday, May 09, 2013
B’TSELEM ACKNOWLEDGES INABILITY TO ASSESS PALESTINIAN ALLEGATIONS
However, the claims in the press release are
inconsistent with the actual report, creating false perceptions in the
media. The press statement claims that the “report raises suspicions
that the military violated International Humanitarian Law (IHL).” But
these allegations are not demonstrated in the report; at best, they are
the result of conjecture, as B’Tselem itself acknowledges in the report.
Additionally, the claim to distinguish between civilian and combat
deaths in this report, as in past B’Tselem statements, is based on
manipulated definitions and speculation, and the application of existing
legal standards would result in very different conclusions.
1) The report text clearly reflects the
limited information available - largely “eyewitness interviews”
(including via telephone) in Gaza, whose accuracy cannot be
independently verified. Thus, after presenting the allegations from the
interviews, the report states, “However, the means at B’Tselem’s
disposal are too limited to determine whether or not the Israeli
military acted in accordance with the law.”
This is a very significant change and
acknowledgement by B’Tselem compared to the claims made in the 2009
reports on the previous Gaza conflict (and later repeated in thediscredited Goldstone Report). However, as noted above,reference to this central methodological limitation is not mentioned in the press release.
2) B’Tselem acknowledges that it “is unable
to investigate the lawfulness of each and every military strike during
the operation,” although the bulk of the report and press release ignore
this admission. (B’Tselem and other NGOs also bombarded the IDF with
unsupported allegations of illegal actions, overwhelming the
investigatory process. When the IDF did manage to respond, B’Tselem
dismissed the replies out of hand.)
3) The report includes a number of
fundamental distortions of international law that appear to be lifted
from the Goldstone report, including standards for operational targeting
in response to terror attacks, the concept of military necessity, and
the obligation to warn civilians prior to strikes. B’Tselem also employs
artificial definitions in the effort to distinguish between those
participating and not participating in combat.
Example: The report condemns the
IDF alleging that attacks “against the homes of senior members of Hamas
leaders” are illegitimate military targets. Factually, B'Tselem has no
knowledge of why any sites were targeted and therefore cannot draw
conclusions relating to military necessity. Moreover, many of the homes
were used to store weapons, clearly making them legitimate targets.
Example: The report condemns the
IDF alleging that “In some cases a warning was given. Yet, even in those
cases, residents were not always given sufficient time to leave their
homes, and then, after the warning, it was not ascertained that the
residents had indeed left.”
In reality, under international law, states
are required only to provide general warnings to civilians to seek
safety and only to the extent that such warnings are feasible under the
circumstances; the effectiveness of warnings is not judged on the basis
of whether the warnings were followed.
Example: B’Tselem claims that
accidental civilian deaths occurring during this military operation
might constitute a violation of international humanitarian law (IHL)
since “the military must do everything in its power to prevent such
mistakes, and when they do occur, to examine their underlying causes and
what can be done to prevent recurrences.”
This assertion is false. The standard is
“due diligence and acting in good faith,” defined as “precautions that
are feasible in the circumstances, given the information available to
the commanders and military planners.” B'Tselem and other NGOs have no
knowledge that these steps were not taken, and the evidence indicates
the opposite – that the IDF indeed took the required precautions.
4) B’Tselem’s previous reports, including the 2009 allegations regarding the Cast Lead operation,
erased the terror attacks that led to the IDF response. In this report,
however, the NGO includes “an examination of the conduct of both sides
during the operation,” including condemnations of Hamas.