Laundering bullshit

In case you were wondering why so many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) concerned with human rights seem to spend so much time bashing Israel and ignore the multiple — and continuing — war crimes of  Hamas,

Human rights groups argued Wednesday that a detailed probe into Hamas’s firing of Kassam rockets at Israeli communities is not necessary, because it constitutes such a “blatant” war crime. By contrast, Israel’s actions are more complex, and therefore do require such investigation, they said.

War crimes, said Sarit Micha’eli of B’tselem, are those actions that violate Article III of the Geneva Convention, and it was clear that Hamas was in violation of the requirement of distinction between civilian and military targets.

“It makes it quite easy regarding Hamas. It is quite clear that they are attacking and targeting civilians. When someone straps a bomb on themselves or fire missiles at civilians, the details are less important. It is clearly a war crime without even looking at the details,” she said. “Even if they fired a Kassam missile as a military target, the fact that it is an inaccurate weapon, it would still count as an indiscriminate attack…”

“With Israel things are more complicated because Israel states it does not deliberately target civilians and that it safeguards them. With Israel, you have to investigate each specific incident because even if a civilian is killed in an attack, it doesn’t mean its necessarily a war crime. Targeting civilians is a war crime, but the damage to civilians in a given situation isn’t indicative of a war crime.”

“The Israeli authorities deny everything, so one has to prove what happened in a way that you don’t need to do with the Palestinian rockets,” said Donatella Rovera of Amnesty International. — Jerusalem Post (my emphasis)

In other words, “we know Israel is deliberately trying to kill civilians, but they lie about it.”

One might wonder how they know this, since it is manifestly not in Israel’s interest to kill civilians. The whole dynamic of the war was Israel trying to damage Hamas as severely as possible before international pressure forced an end to the fighting, while Hamas and friends tried their best to create outrage over Israeli ‘atrocities’. And as I’ve noted before, if Israel had wanted to kill Palestinians, it could have easily done it in the tens of thousands.

But the abovementioned Donatella Rovera of Amnesty International (AI) is quite prepared to bend logic when necessary. In a discussion with Alan Dershowitz in 2005, Rovera — AI’s researcher in the territories — defended an AI report which claimed that violence against Palestinian women by Palestinian men was actually Israel’s fault! Dershowitz wrote,

Here is AI’s conclusion, listing the causes of the violence directed against Palestinian women, presumably in the order of their importance: “Palestinian women in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are victims of multiple violations as a result of the escalation of the conflict, Israel’s policies, and a system of norms, traditions and laws which treat women as unequal members of society.” The “escalation of the conflict” (which AI blames primarily on Israel) and “Israel’s policies” rank higher than the “norms, traditions and laws which treat women as unequal.” The report asserts that violence against women has “increased” dramatically during the Israeli occupation and has reached “an unprecedented level” as a result of the “increased militarization of the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation.” It is as if the West Bank and Gaza Strip had been violence free for Palestinian women until the Israeli Occupation.

On August 23, 2005, I spoke with Donatella Rovera, who is AI’s researcher on Israel and the Occupied Territories and asked her to provide the data on which she had based her conclusion that violence against women had escalated to an “unprecedented level” during the occupation, and especially during its most militarized phase. I also asked her whether AI had compared violence against women in the occupied West Bank and Gaza with violence against women in unoccupied Arab-Muslim areas that have comparable populations, such as Jordan. Rovera acknowledged that AI could provide no such comparative data and confirmed that the report was based on anecdotal information, primarily from Palestinian NGOs.

Rovera’s ‘research’ seems to follow the same pattern time and again (she’s frequently quoted in news reports accusing Israel of using white phosphorus shells against civilians, summary executions of Palestinian children, etc.): Palestinians tell her that thus-and-such happened, and she repeats it to reporters along with her judgment that whatever atrocity she is describing is a violation of international law.

Ms. Rovera and other NGO representatives serve an important function in the anti-Israel propaganda machine: they provide an aura of impartiality that makes it possible for the media to repeat unverified stories which would be less convincing in the mouths of Palestinians. Some observers call this the “NGO halo effect“; I prefer the expression “bullshit laundering”.

Donatella Rovera at work

Donatella Rovera at work

Technorati Tags: , , ,

2 Responses to “Laundering bullshit”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    Why do so many NGO’s focus on Israel, and give so little time and effort to areas of conflict throughout the world, which most of us do not know much about?
    Why do they systematically understate the human rights violations of the Arab and Islamic worlds?
    Why do they really seem to want to blame the Jews?
    There are many reasons to these questions. One central and formative one is the role the Jews have played in giving Mankind a ‘conscience’. I believe there is something to the idea that many people wish to revenge themselves on the Jews for the Jews having provided mankind with ‘prophetic morality’.

  2. ME says:

    Clever. That is a great comparison.