NGO Monitor Debunks 'War Crimes'

Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor has debunked recent accusations by Human Rights Watch that Israel committed “war crimes” during Operation Cast Lead.

Hillel Fendel,

Israel news photo: (file)

Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor has debunked, at length, recent accusations by Human Rights Watch (HRW) that Israel committed “war crimes” during Operation Cast Lead.

The HRW, in its official report and accompanying press releases and interviews, accuses the IDF of using drones to launch precise weapons during the Gaza operation, leading to wrongful civilian deaths. The entire case is based on allegations from only six ambiguous incidents in which 29 civilians are said to have been killed, NGO Monitor states.

HRW’s case against Israel, in which Israel is repeatedly accused of war crimes, is entirely speculative, according to NGO Monitor, “but the conclusions are stated with absolute assurance, as if the evidence was totally clear.”  Robert Hewson, editor of the prestigious Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons, is quoted as stating, “Human Rights Watch makes a lot of claims and assumptions about weapons and drones, all of which is still fairly speculative, because we have so little evidence.”

NGO Monitor’s objective, its website states, is “to end the practice used by certain self-declared 'humanitarian NGOs [non-governmental organizations]' of exploiting the label 'universal human rights values' to promote politically and ideologically motivated anti-Israel agendas.”

Inconclusive Nature of Arab Testimony
For instance, the report accuses of war crimes the Israelis who operated the drones that were allegedly involved in the attacks. Much of the evidence against them, however, is based on Arab eyewitnesses who claim to have not seen Israelis or Hamas targets in the area at the times of the attacks. HRW takes these claims at face value, despite the inconclusive nature of this testimony, and despite details provided by the Israeli government’s report on the Gaza combat that refute this speculation.

These eyewitnesses are “not likely to have known whether there were legitimate military targets in the area,” NGO Monitor states. “These [targets] could have included command and control centers, weapons’ storage sites, and other Hamas facilities… HRW’s reliance on this evidence reflects two highly speculative assumptions: (1) that the presence or absence of visible Israeli forces in an area is a central criteria; (2) that there were no legitimate targets (Hamas fighters, weapons, communications assets, etc.) in the area, visible or not visible… HRW propagates the misleading concept that there were no legitimate targets unless locals, UN staff, journalists or human rights activists (unnamed) claim to have observed ‘active” local fighters or fighting.”

No Proof About Weapons
NGO Monitor further shows that HRW accuses without proof that Israel used Spike missiles and that they were launched from drones. Regarding warheads claimed to have been found at the sites of the attacks, “this claim rests on the assumption that the fragments found by HRW were actually from Spike missiles, [and] that they were recovered from missiles used in this conflict, rather than earlier engagements in Gaza, and that they were found in situ, rather than having been collected elsewhere by Palestinians. None of these claims can be proven; all may be incorrect.”

Mis-Comparing Static and Moving Targets
As “evidence” that the IDF should have been able to prevent civilian deaths, HRW quotes an interview with an Israeli drone operator in the Israeli online military journal Shavuz. However, the interview discusses identification capabilities regarding a static target, while the HRW report on Gaza deals with rapidly moving targets in a battle zone – a completely different situation. “The attempt to transfer static capabilities to a dynamic context demonstrates the professional incompetence or the deliberate distortions of the authors of the HRW report,” NGO Monitor states.

Entrapping the IDF
HRW also accuses the IDF of not responding to its queries. Regarding this, NGO Monitor states simply that “the uncertainty and speculative nature of HRWs claims is reflected in the questions that they sent to the IDF. If HRW knew the answers, why ask the questions, other than to make the claim that the IDF did not provide classified information to a hostile organization.”

Illogical Argument
Referring to an attack on oxygen tanks that looked like Grad Katyusha missiles – a mistake acknowledged by the IDF – HRW says that though oxygen tanks are also used for the manufacture of rockets, dual-use objects of this nature should be presumed to be civilian. NGO monitor says this argument is “clearly illogical.”

Who are the Witnesses?
NGO Monitor notes that “a large portion of the case study material is dedicated to the testimony of Palestinians interviewed by HRW. Of the 34 footnotes in the case studies section, 13 are citations to HRW interviews with Palestinian witnesses, including family members of the deceased, one is to an UNRWA security guard, name withheld on request, and many others cite journalists and NGOs that quote Palestinian claims.”

Hamas Fires From Within Civilian Population, Israel is Blamed
The HRW report focuses on the IDF’s use of technology that HRW admits enhances accuracy and minimizes collateral damage.  NGO Monitor writes: “HRW discounts the relevance of the fact that the urban battle zone was chosen by Hamas when it based itself within the civilian population, and that Israel actions are entirely responsive. HRW also ignores the irony in the juxtaposition of the use by Hamas of indiscriminate rockets aimed at civilian areas, in contrast to the IDF’s precision weapons designed to avoid such indiscriminate attacks.”