Amnesty International Should Listen to Mrs. Arafat

What can explain the distressing ailment of tone deafness on Middle Eastern affairs suffered by Amnesty International and well-meaning Human Rights Groups and Charity Organizations?

Except for rabid anti-Semites and those zealous bigots who reject the right of the Jewish People to self-determination, every rational observer favors peace, if not mutual affection, between Israel and the Arab people, including the Palestinians. Sincere advocates of a peace proceess recognize that one-sided attacks and condemnations of the State of Israel will not lead to that desired objective.

The pursuit of that objective is not helped by a new publication, a Report by Amnesty International, issued in November 2014, that ignores or minimizes the provocative militancy of the terrorist group Hamas in its continual and persisting attacks on the State of Israel and its citizens.

The Report, ignoring the provocation of the constant rocket and missile attacks – amounting to several thousand -- by Hamas on Israel, lacks impartiality by its concentration on casualties caused by Israel in Gaza. Its very title provides the clue to its thrust and purpose: "Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories: Families under the Rubble: Israeli attacks on Inhabited Homes". The report focuses specifically on eight incidents during which residential family homes in Gaza were attacked by Israeli forces during the fifty-day Operation Protective Edge, July 8 to August 26, 2014. More generally, it stresses what it calls the pattern of Israeli attacks intended to level civilian homes.

No doubt mistakes were made, and have been acknowledged, by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in its firing and that in the course of the fighting in Gaza unanticipated Palestinian civilian deaths occurred. But this is a far cry from the heated rhetoric of Amnesty International’s director of Middle East Programs, Philip Luther, who referred to Israeli forces having “brazenly flouted the rules of war… displaying callous indifference to the carnage caused.”  He considered that the “large scale destruction (by Israel) was carried out deliberately and with no military justification.”  He held that there must be accountability for any violations of international humanitarian law that have been committed. But for Luther, the accountability is one-sided because it is the Israeli authorities, not those who first fired on Israeli citizens, that must provide answers.

The hypocrisy of Amnesty International (AI) knows no limit. AI does acknowledge in its Report that in some incidents Hamas and Palestinian armed groups used civilian buildings for storing munitions. Yet, despite what it calls “extensive research,” it claims it has no evidence the Hamas or Palestinian armed groups were using the buildings mentioned in the Report for military purposes at the time of their attack. One wonders who conducts “research” at AI. The organization ignores the reality that in September 2014 Hamas officials themselves confessed that it used residential areas from which to launch missiles. It equally ignores the clear evidence that some of the schools of UNRWA were used for military purposes.

Hypocrisy goes further by misleading and disproportionate statements in the Report. AI contends that even if one apartment in a building had been used by an armed group, treating the building as a single military objective would constitute a violation of the prohibition in humanitarian international law of direct attacks on civilian objects and therefore would amount to a war crime. On this issue three facts are pertinent. Hamas used houses as command centers to fire rockets. Hamas systematically endangered the lives of civilians, both directly and indirectly, by using them as human shields. The IDF did take unusual precautions to avoid Palestinian civilian casualties by advance phone calls, dropping leaflets, and sending notices to residents.

The world anxiously awaits Amnesty International’s report on the firing of indiscriminate rockets and mortars by Hamas at Israel’s civilian population. AI is aware that direct attacks on civilians and indiscriminate attacks that kill or injure civilians are war crimes. Its new report should provide the list of charges of war crimes that Hamas has committed.

Mr. Luther must be aware that Hamas makes no secret of its intentions to commit more war crimes. Its message that another round of fighting against Israel is a likely option was shown recently both in practice and by a video. The message was on display on Sunday, December 14, 2014 when Hamas held a large-scale military rally in Gaza to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its founding. The large crowd of several thousand included Ismail Hamiyeh, senior political leader of Hamas, who carried an assault rifle. It is sadly ironic that Hamiyeh, who on October 22, 2014, praised as a “martyr” the Palestinian terrorist who had killed a three-month-old Israeli baby, had benefited only a week earlier by one of his 13 children being treated in a Tel Aviv hospital.

More than 2000 Hamas terrorists took part in the parade, including naval commandos who carried out underwater attacks on Israel. Effigies of a Jew and of a Jewish Temple were burned.  

Hamas displayed its weaponry, long-range rockets and vehicles with multiple-launcher rockets, that Amnesty International appears not to have noticed. It launched a locally made drone that made Israel scramble fighter jets. Masked gunmen performed some military skills, as did masked members of the Ezzedive al-Qassam Brigades. Those Brigades have been supplied with both weapons and money by Iran, a long-time ally and supporter of Hamas.  

Contrary to what Amnesty International might surmise, one spokesperson of Hamas, Sami Abu Zuhri, declared that Hamas had not been weakened.  In this context, much more important for Amnesty International to consider is the call by Hamas for Israel to be eliminated. One Hamas spokesperson, Khalil al-Hayya, declared that Israel will be removed by the Qassam Brigades. A video, or at least the recorded voice of Muhammad Deif, Chief Commander of the Qassam Brigades, announced that it was time to “purify the al-Aqsa mosque from Jews.” This implies removing Israel from Jerusalem.

Amnesty International and other well-meaning charity groups did not have to engage in “extensive research” to understand the Hamas objective. They surely must have read the analysis of Suha Arafat, the widow of Yasser Arafat reported in the Italian paper La Republicca on November 12, 2014.  Unlike Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat’s successor who accused Israel of committing “genocide,” Suha accused Hamas of perpetrating “genocide” in the Gaza Strip, and denounced the group for making the Strip an Islamic state and for holding its inhabitants “hostage.” Calling for Palestinian peace negotiations with Israel, she remarked, “the armed struggle today will not lead to anything.”

Philip Luther on behalf of Amnesty International need shed no bitter tears over Hamas. According to Forbes magazine, Hamas is the world’s second richest terror group with annual revenues in the billions (the first is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). It receives funds from taxing goods, from charitable contributions from foreign donors, and from Western and Arab governments, especially Qatar, the U.S. and the European Union. Mr. Luther should indicate one of the ensuing problems. In December 2013, the European Court of Auditors found that nearly $2 billion in funds purportedly given to rebuild Gaza was untraceable. He should advise his organization to do “extensive research” on tracing the missing funds.

Certainly the issue should be discussed at the forthcoming meeting of the UN Security Council in which Palestinians will call for the end to “Israeli Occupation.” Nevertheless, a more useful purpose for the “international community” is to devise procedures to end the extensive corruption in Palestinian institutions.

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