New Amnesty International war-crime report slams ... Hamas?

Amnesty International offers a rare moment of NGO oversight focus that looks at Israel’s enemies for a change, although not without ripping Israel for responding to them. Their new report on Gaza lays the blame for internal atrocities on Hamas, including abductions, torture, summary executions, and notes that Hamas — which governs Gaza — has done nothing to hold perpetrators accountable for it:

Before getting into the atrocities which this report uncovers — such as torture through “truncheons, gun butts, hoses, wire, and fists; some were also burnt with fire, hot metal or acid,” Amnesty International felt the need to preface their indictment with a paragraph or two about Israel:

Hamas forces committed these abuses at the time of Israel’s 50-day military offensive against Gaza, codenamed Operation Protective Edge, which began on 8 July and ended on 26 August 2014. The offensive, the third such punitive Israeli military operation against Gaza since 2008, caused unprecedented damage and destruction to civilian life in Gaza. According to the UN, Israel inflicted the highest number of civilian casualties among Palestinians in a single year since it occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967.

Israeli military forces committed war crimes and other grave violations of international law during Operation Protective Edge. Israeli air and ground attacks killed more than 1,500 civilians, including more than 500 children, and caused massive destruction to civilian infrastructure. The impact of this devastation has been exacerbated since Operation Protective Edge by Israel’s continuing air, sea and land blockade of Gaza, which it has imposed since 2007. The extent of the casualties and destruction in Gaza wrought by Israeli forces far exceeded those caused by Palestinian attacks on Israel, reflecting Israel’s far greater firepower, among other factors. The war understandably caused public outrage in Gaza against Israel and those who supported or condoned its offensive, including other states and, specifically, Palestinians within Gaza who were accused of acting as Israeli informants or “collaborators”. During the period of Operation Protective Edge, Hamas and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza committed war crimes by firing thousands of indiscriminate rockets and other projectiles into southern Israel.

Amnesty International gets the timing wrong on this, and nearly everything else. The rocket attacks didn’t just occur “during the period of Operation Protective Edge”; the large-scale attacks started well before the Israeli response, and continued despite repeated warnings that Israel would respond to them. Rocket attacks have been ongoing since Hamas took over Gaza after Israel’s departure, a point which this report never bothers to mention, nor Israel’s warning that the sharp increase before the war would result in a military response. It’s jolly of AI to note that these rocket attacks on Israeli civilians are in fact war crimes — other observer orgs usually ignore that — but AI also fails to mention that these rocket attacks took place from the civilian structures that AI suggests that Israel hit in fits of pique. That does constitute a war crime, but one by Hamas for staging those attacks from civilian areas and using civilians as a shield.

Nor does a nation under that kind of attack have any responsibility to respond proportionally to this kind of sustained attack on its civilian populations. They have a right to defend themselves by destroying the aggressor’s ability to make war. That’s why aggressors should choose their enemies more wisely. Finally, the blockade of Gaza was validated by the sheer number of rockets Hamas had managed to acquire for its war, armaments that they are supposed to be denied under international law.

Why include this at all in a report on Gaza? It’s almost as if AI thought it might get locked out of the club for focusing on Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and felt obliged to take a shot at Israel first.

The Washington Post looks past the nonsense to note the breadth of Hamas’ perversity in Gaza:

The human rights group Amnesty International charged Wednesday that Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist militant organization that controls the Gaza Strip, used the cover of last summer’s war with Israel to carry out abductions, torture and ­extrajudicial executions with impunity. …

In a report, Amnesty International said the killing of Palestinians alleged to have collaborated with Israel constituted war crimes. The group also extended blame beyond Hamas to include the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, saying it failed to stop or investigate the executions. …

The report said that some of those killed during the war had been arrested months or even years earlier. Those formally charged with or convicted of collaborating with the enemy faced military courts and tribunals “whose proceedings are unfair and fail to respect due process,” the report said.

For all the detail of the AI report on Hamas’ atrocities (and the PA’s failure to put an end to them), they never mention the worst war crime — deliberately staging offensive operations in civilian populations. It’s not as if the evidence of that doesn’t exist; NDTV caught them red-handed during the war, on video. That would undermine their claims against Israel, both in this report and separately, about the nature and the responsibility for civilian casualties during the war.

So in the end, one cheer for Amnesty International for at least applying some scrutiny to Hamas on human-rights violations, even if they couldn’t exhibit enough intellectual honesty to tell the full truth about the war.