Typical Human Rights Watch Dishonesty

HRW’s website has published this piece on the Geneva Conventions and Israel by director Ken Roth.  There are many things wrong with it, but I’ll focus on one piece of blatant dishonesty.

Here’s Roth:

Instead, there is strong evidence that Israel wanted Gazan civilians to pay the price for Hamas’s abuses, and that the decision to impose that cost was taken not by junior officers in the field but by senior government officials…. [A]s the foreign minister at the time, Tzipi Livni, said during a wartime debate in parliament: “On my way here I heard that Hamas declared the man killed by a rocket in Ashkelon ‘one of the Zionists’ despite being an Israeli Arab. They don’t make a distinction, and neither should we.” With culpability running to such senior levels of government, it is no surprise that Israel wants to rewrite the rules.

Roth helpfully provides a link to his source for Livni’s quote, a newspaper article from the Israeli news site Ynet.  Put aside, for a moment, the fact that despite the seriousness of his accusation, Roth is quoting from a newspaper article that doesn’t give a transcript (and thus the full context) of Livni’s remarks.  And put aside that he is relying on an English translation, not the original Hebrew.

The Ynet article itself that Roth cites makes it clear that Livni is not talking, as Roth claims, about Israel not distinguishing between attacking Hamas and attacking ordinary innocent Gaza civilians, but about Israel not distinguishing between its Jewish and Arab citizens.

The context, from the article, is that an Arab Israeli MP lambasted Israel for the civilian casualties in Gaza, and then added . “As a humane person, I oppose targeting civilians wherever they are. Naturally, however, every time an Arab is injured it hurts me more because we are members of the same nation.”  That is when Livni responded, “On my way here I heard that Hamas declared the man killed by a rocket in Ashkelon ‘one of the Zionists’ despite being an Israeli Arab. They don’t make a distinction, and neither should we.”

She then added, “And this is also an examination for the Arab leadership in the State of Israel. You are leading the Arab public on a thin rope. You cannot cross the line between right and wrong, between legitimate and illegitimate, between what is right and what is misleading. This is not a choice between being Arabs and supporting the Jews.”

The context, in other words, could hardly be clearer. Livni is criticizing Israeli Arab MP, and other leading Israeli Arabs, for supporting Gaza Palestinians based on common ethnic heritage rather than supporting their government in combating anti-Israel terrorism that kills Israeli Jews and Arabs.

Nevertheless, Livni’s quote has shown up, out of context, as evidence of Israel’s purported disregard for civilians, on a variety of anti-Israel propaganda sites.  Unfortunately, HRW’s website meets that description.