Human Rights Watch Can’t Wait to Accuse Israel

Human Rights Watch has just released a report on Israel’s recent “Pillar of Defense” operation to suppress rocket fire from Gaza. The report concludes that 18 airstrikes violated international law by not being properly targeted. I do not know if 18 is a little or a lot for an operation of this scale, as there an no good comparative data (though the report is released as Afghanistan says yet another NATO airstrike hit a house with innocent women and children inside.)

The report, by its description of its methods, appears to be a hit piece. Here is what the report said about the group’s investigative method (emphasis added):

Human Rights Watch sent detailed information about the cases to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on January 14, 2013, requesting further information. At a meeting on January 24 and in subsequent phone conversations, the military spokesperson’s office told Human Rights Watch that the military chief of staff had ordered a general (aluf) to conduct an “operational debriefing” (tahkir mivtza’i) concerning “dozens” of Israeli attacks during the conflict, including the cases Human Rights Watch investigated, which would be completed by late February.

Because previous Israeli “operational debriefings” involving attacks were not conducted by trained military police investigators or dedicated to investigating alleged laws-of-war violations, Human Rights Watch has decided to publish its findings rather than wait for their results.

In other words, HRW received high-level and consistent cooperation. A meeting between HRW and the IDF took place on Jan 24 (just 10 days after HRW asked for further information), and were told that the IDF would have a more detailed response by late February after its own investigations were over. One month is not a long time to wait, certainly not covering an incident that occurred months ago.

It is completely baffling why HRW, would rush to publish their report a mere two weeks before they could hear in full Israel’s response to their allegations. Furthermore, HRW’s explanation why they chose not to wait lacks any coherence. What is so special about designated military police as opposed to toeher investigators? And even if the IDF investigations were not conducted by trained military police, it is unquestionable that the IDF investigators would have access to sources HRW does not. One would expect that an organization whose influence is completely based on their reputation for objectivity and thoroughness would wish to have all the facts before rushing to publish.

Well-meaning observers are often puzzled why Israel sometimes does not cooperate with the multitudinous foreign investigations into its military operations. The minimal lack of procedural fairness investigations such as HRW’s is surely one reason for their reluctance.

Hat tip: Gidon Shaviv