Wednesday, July 22, 2009

B’Tselem Retracts War Crimes Accusations against IDF

Avraham Zuroff
A7 News

An Israeli human rights group quietly retracted its inaccurate coverage in which it accused the IDF of killing innocent Arab civilians, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs reports. Middle East expert and terror researcher Lt.-Col. (res.) Yehonatan Dahoah-Halevy exposed two conflicting reports that the B’Tselem-Israeli Information Center for Human Rights organization published on the group’s website. The group, which initially accused the IDF of war crimes by “butchering innocent Arabs,” has now changed its reportage of an incident that took place nearly five years ago as a legitimate “attack on a military target.” However, the group hasn’t yet officially apologized to the IDF for its slanderous statement.

The first version of the B’Tselem group’s story reported that the IDF killed 14 Palestinian Authority Arabs “not engaged in fighting” during an Israel Air Force aerial attack on a Hamas community center on September 7, 2004. Ostensibly, Arab civilians were wrongly killed while engaging in a harmless cultural activity. The casualties were included in B’Tselem’s database of Arab civilians killed by the IDF.

Now, nearly five years later, B’Tselem reports that the Arabs were “engaged in fighting” and “were stationed at a Hamas training camp.”

Dahoah-Halevy notes that on the very day of the attack, Hamas itself made an official announcement stating that the bombed target was a training camp and that the 14 Arabs that were killed were members of the Al-Kassam military brigade of Hamas.

Local and international media likewise covered the event and published the IDF’s version of the story, namely, that Hamas terrorists were killed near Jebalya at a training camp on a soccer field named after the former Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. The IDF stated that the terrorists were being trained in detonating explosive devices, launching rockets, and infiltrating into Israeli communities and military posts. The IDF added that senior Hamas members involved in deadly terror attacks against Israel had been carrying out the training.

In contrast, B’Tselem has not published an official apology or explained why it took the organization nearly five years to change the story. Dahoah-Halevy concludes that the incident reiterates the lesson that B’Tselem reports need not be blindly believed. He additionally states that the organization’s constant inaccuracy in its reportage undermines its credibility.

IDF Considers Legal Action

Israel National News asked the IDF spokesperson’s bureau whether any actions against B’Tselem have been taken in light of its inaccurate report. The IDF responded that it is currently consulting with its legal authorities on this matter.

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