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Human Rights Watch's Credibility--Not So Good:

HRW: "At the sites visited by Human Rights Watch—Qana, Srifa, Tyre, and the southern suburbs of Beirut—on-site investigations did not identify any signs of military activity in the area attacked, such as trenches, destroyed rocket launchers, other military equipment, or dead or wounded fighters."

It apparently raised no eyebrows among HRW staff that of the fifteen "civilian" victims in Srifa it identifies in its report, all were men, and thirteen of them were of normal fighting age (17-35).

N.Y. Times, August 16th, 2006, at 9: "Mr. Kamaleldin, the Sreifa [same as Srifa] official, estimated that up to two-thirds of the town's homes and buildings were demolished, leaving more than 43 people buried in the rubble. A majority of them were fighters belonging to Hezbollah and the allied Amal Party, residents said."

Of course, Human Rights Watch claimed that its sources are credible, and even claimed that "[a]ll cases for which Human Rights Watch could not find eyewitnesses, survivors, or other credible sources of information have been excluded from this report." Right. I'm sure the "eyewitnesses" and "survivors" who stayed in Srifa during the war had no ties to the Party of God (Hezbollah), and no incentive to lie on its behalf.

HRW's report with the false information is still on its website. Any bets as to whether Kenneth Roth will issue a correction, and an apology?

Thanks to reader Larry Rothenberg for the tip.

UPDATE: Dershowitz at the Huffington Post has much more on HRW, concluding that it is repeating "demonstrably false conclusions."

*Here's the evidence that HRW had for Israel "indiscriminately" attacking civilians in Srifa: According to a villager who was in the village at the time of the attack:

There was no Hezbollah in the neighborhood. This neighborhood is known to be partial to the Communist Party, not Hezbollah. There are no Hezbollah people living there. Hezbollah does not have a need to be in this neighborhood, because we are 40 kilometers away from Israel, and the neighborhood looks out over the sea, it is not a strategic place.

Two additional villagers told Human Rights Watch in separate interviews that Hezbollah had not been present in the neighborhood around the time of the attack. "Except for one person, who didn't even belong to Hezbollah, no one in that neighborhood knew how to handle weapons," said Hussain Nazal. He added, "If they hit some houses that belong to Hezbollah we would understand, but this is not the [Hezbollah] neighborhood."

Apparently, HRW thinks it's okay to accuse a country of war crimes based solely on hearsay evidence of male "villagers", acquired while the war was ongoing, who are hanging out in a POG stronghold during an Israeli bombardment, after being warned to leave. Even if these villagers were not POG affiliates (but maybe they are) or even sympathizers, how do you think Hezbollah would have reacted if they had been quoted in an HRW report during the war as stating that Israel was only carefully targeting POG strongholds? I certainly wouldn't issue life insurance to them under such circumstances.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Human Rights Watch's Credibility--Not So Good:
  2. The Decline of Amnesty International:
Commenterlein (mail):
Shorter DB: Any NY Times report I don't agree with is proof of their bias against Israel and obviously incorrect. Any NY Times report which reinforces my views must be perfectly correct and requires instant agreement by anyone else.
8.23.2006 11:35am
DJR:
First Amnesty, now Human Rights Watch. Any human rights organizations still credible under your view?

Also, your continued use of "party of god" really does make you seem like a crackpot. Wasn't the original reason that you came up with that because you thought liberals would be hesitant to be sympathetic to an organization calling itself "party of god"? If so, it's not working. You are the only one calling Hezbollah that. It's becoming your signature, like "feminazi" or "democrat party." You have made your point about the translation of Hezbollah, and nobody cares. Move on already.
8.23.2006 11:36am
DJR:
And by the way, for those who are not familiar with your argument, it appears that YOU believe Hezbollah is the "Party of God."
8.23.2006 11:38am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Comment, a statement against interest (like the NY Times quote) is far more believable that self-serving statements (like the info HRW gathered). If you have a good counterargument beyond juvenile snarkiness, let us know.
8.23.2006 11:43am
OrinKerr:
David,

I'm not entirely sure I understand. Is your criticism that the HRW probably didn't do a very careful job identifying military activity?
8.23.2006 11:48am
Anon1ms (mail):
Are we to assume that the NY Times is a credible source? I don't get the feeling that you agree with its reporting across the board.

Please continue to let us know which articles we are free to take at face value.
8.23.2006 11:52am
llamasex (mail) (www):
Man that far left cabal keeps growing. It seems like that far left has so many adherents that its not very far from center at all.
8.23.2006 11:58am
Commenterlein (mail):
DB,

Your last statement just shows once more how you have neatly divided your world into people and organizations who are with you (and Israel) and those who are against you and Israel, and how everything gets evaluated using this oversimplified model.

In the real world, the NY Times has both reporters who are pro-Israel and reporters who are anti-Israel, and mostly the NY Times just has semi-competent reporters trying to turn out lots of words under a lot of time pressure and who are neither for nor against Israel. So the statement from the article you quote may be correct or may be incorrect, and given the difficulty of reporting from that area should definitely be taking with a grain of salt.

You taking it as instant proof that HRW was wrong and should post a correction and an apology just shows that you are not even trying to evaluate things objectively.

And as far as the juvenile snarkiness is concerned, I'll put it back into the bottle if you make posts that deserve better.
8.23.2006 11:59am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Orin, it's that HRW rushed to write a report condemning Israel for targeting civilians, obviously without doing sufficient research (if accuracy was actually the goal), and also claiming that it was relying only on "credible" information, which is not true. IF HRW was honest, it would say that they talked to a bunch of local people, who may or may not be spouting propaganda, and who may or may not be affiliated with Hez, and THEY claim that only civilians were killed in Srifa, but we have no way of conclusively checking their assertions. Moreover, while we didn't see any overt signs of military activity, Hez fighters don't wear uniforms, and we have no way of knowing whether a body found in civilan clothes was affiliated with Hez or not.

Instead of saying something like this, which was all the evidence would allow, HRW took a couple of "eyewitness" interviews, and claimed that Israel was "indiscriminately" attacking civilians in Srifa.
8.23.2006 12:02pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
I could be wrong, but it seems unlikely that Hassan M. Fattah of the NY Times is making up quotes to absolve Israel of anything, especially since the tone of the article of a whole is about how destructive the air raids were,and how this is causing much suffering.
8.23.2006 12:09pm
frankcross (mail):
I think the mention of Mr. Fattah's name is treading close to a dangerous line.
8.23.2006 12:47pm
Seth Edenbaum (mail) (www):
That line was crossed a long time ago
8.23.2006 12:53pm
MnZ (mail):
It is well known that Hezbollah only wears military uniforms for show. Otherwise, they prefer to dress as civilians. The problem with HRW and Amnesty is that they are rapidly morphing from the Keystone Cops (e.g., bumbling incompetents) to the Inspector Cluesos (e.g., useful idiots).
8.23.2006 12:56pm
volokh groupie:
Hey snarky idiot:

The Hezbollah (Arabic: حزب الله‎ ḥizbu-llāh, meaning “party of God”)

put that in your pipe and smoke it
8.23.2006 1:02pm
Seth Edenbaum (mail) (www):
I jumped too fast on that one. Bernstsin's comment was snark as compliment: a minor sin. The major one would be arguing that Israel gives a damn about civilian casualties.

And they've carpeted the ground with cluster bombs.

And here's a map [PDF] of the bombing of Lebanon
8.23.2006 1:05pm
Cornellian (mail):
Inspector Clouseau was not a useful idiot but rather a fearsome weapon against evildoers everywhere.
8.23.2006 1:06pm
Stacy (mail):

I think the mention of Mr. Fattah's name is treading close to a dangerous line.


Did he mention it for the reason you are clearly assuming, or because Mr. Fattah is the author of the article cited?

Either way, it's hard to get worked up over David "treading close to a dangerous line" when the other side is working frankly (if not quite openly) from ethnic/religious bigotry.
8.23.2006 1:13pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
The author's name is relevant because (1) the commenter suggested that the Times has some "pro-Israel" reporters. The name is an invitation to present some evidence that this reporter fits into that category; and (2) he likely speaks Arabic, and thus if he misreported what the locals said, it was less likely to be an error, and more likely to be a conscious attempt to be pro-Israel.
8.23.2006 1:19pm
Shelby (mail):
It seems to me relatively uncontroversial to note that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are being excessively credulous of statements made and evidence presented in Hezbollah-controlled areas of Lebanon. Israel, for all its faults, has a tradition of open press that would make it impossible to hide the deaths of hundreds of its soldiers or to claim they were really civilians. A few, maybe, but not on the scale Hez does. The coverup simply wouldn't last.

The same thing happened in Jenin, with the "massacre" of Palestinians that proved to be a fiction. Hez counts on getting its propaganda out now, knowing that any subsequent corrections will be buried in the back pages. HRW and AI are not being antisemitic in buying into this; they're showing their anti-Western bias, however, by lending greater credence to Hez than to Israel. (Alternatively you could say they simply hold Israel to a higher standard, but from what I see Hez is held to no standard at all.)
8.23.2006 1:47pm
DJR:
Yes, Volokh Groupie, I understand that Bernstein thinks that the translation of Hezbollah proves something. The point I'm making is that, well, it doesn't really. It's just what they call themselves in their own language. I don't know what Bernstein thinks he is accomplishing by continuing to call them the Party of God, or, as in his update to this post, "POG." The latter is no more meaningful than Hezbollah, but at least Hezbollah is the popular name for the group.

One could insist on translating every name that originated from a foreign language, but the problem is that nobody would know what anyone else was talking about. For instance, if I called up an airline and asked if they flew from Red Stick to The Angels, they would have no idea that I was talking about cities in Louisiana and California.
8.23.2006 1:49pm
DJR:
Of course someone with an arab-sounding name likely speaks arabic. Nice.
8.23.2006 1:55pm
o' connuh j.:
DJR, what does it prove? And why are you arguing over words accurately translated? Sensitive much?
8.23.2006 1:59pm
joe (mail) (www):
What is with the moronic trolls in the comments here? Don't you even READ the posts before you unleash your devastating wit?

> Shorter DB: Any NY Times report I don't agree with is proof of their bias against Israel and obviously incorrect.

If you had read the post, you would see that he's relying on the truth of that particular NYT report. Idiot.
8.23.2006 2:01pm
JRL:

I'm not entirely sure I understand. Is your criticism that the HRW probably didn't do a very careful job identifying military activity?


More like willful ignorance.


Also, your continued use of "party of god" really does make you seem like a crackpot.


If he were really trying to make a point by using "party of god," wouldn't he keep repeating it instead of using "POG?"
8.23.2006 2:02pm
joe (mail) (www):
> The major one would be arguing that Israel gives a damn about civilian casualties.


Now THAT is f'ing rich. Yeah, genius, Israel is the combatant who doesn't care about civilian casualties.

Sometimes I read the comments after a post and despair for the future of the human race. How can people so wilfully blind survive?
8.23.2006 2:05pm
magoo (mail):
"it's hard to get worked up over David "'treading close to a dangerous line'"

If this were a pro-Israel blog, I wouldn't get too worked up about it. But since it's the leading, most widely read blawg of the profession I happen to practice, I find it troubling. If I picked up National Law Journal, American Lawyer, or some similar publication and found articles making these kinds of arguments (based on a person's last name!!), I find it similarly disturbing. And, of course, if their LTE section included reader letters denouncing Lebanese 10-year-olds as war criminals (see prior comment threads), I'd cancel my subscription. The legal analysis on the blawg is first-rate, but when I contemplate the possibility that nonlawyers read the non-legal postings, I sometimes get very embarrassed for my profession.
8.23.2006 2:55pm
DJR:
JRL:

Clearly he is trying to make a point. See here. I actually took Bernstein's update, which was posted after my initial comment, as perhaps tacit acknowledgement that my criticism hit the mark. I think this is the first instance of "POG" or (in the last sentence of the post) an unqualified use of "Hezbollah," since Bernstein started his Party of God campaign last month.

A quick non-exhaustive search I judt did didn't reveal any instance where Bernstein used "Hezbollah" when not quoting another source since the original "Party of God" post.

o'connuh: I'm not sensitive. I know perfectly well what DB means when he says Party of God, but the fact is that nobody else in the universe is calling
8.23.2006 2:56pm
DJR:
. . . them that.
8.23.2006 2:56pm
joe (mail) (www):
> I sometimes get very embarrassed for my profession.

Because of this blog?? If you actually practice law, you'll find plenty of real-world reasons to be embarrassed for your (our) profession. Actually, if the comments here are being left largely by lawyers, I'm embarrassed for my profession too.
8.23.2006 2:59pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
DJR, yes, someone who has an "Arab sounding name" and who reports from the Middle East likely speaks Arabic.
8.23.2006 3:05pm
Seth Edenbaum (mail) (www):
Joe, I've done this before on this site:

Prior to the recent mess, which began either with the Israeli kidnapping of 2 Palestinian civilians in Gaza or the following attack by Hezbollah on an Israeli military post (in Israel), how many Israeli civilians had Hezbollah killed since 2000?
The largest number I've heard is "6." The lowest is "0"

You should be directing your quesions and your anger at yourself.
8.23.2006 3:06pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Seth, if you read Chomsky's interview with Ynetnews (and I know Chomsky is the source of your nonsense about Israel kidnapping two Gaza civilians), he gives you the name of these "civilians." You can then Google their names, and discover that they are terrorists arrested by Israel, and subject to a trial in Israel. Not civilians, not kidnapped.
8.23.2006 3:08pm
frankcross (mail):
I don't care for stereotyping the attitudes of those with Jewish names (or assuming they speak Hebrew) and I think the same is true of other ethnic groups.
8.23.2006 3:16pm
RBG (mail):
DJR--This argument is pure apples and oranges, bordering on idiocy
:

One could insist on translating every name that originated from a foreign language, but the problem is that nobody would know what anyone else was talking about. For instance, if I called up an airline and asked if they flew from Red Stick to The Angels, they would have no idea that I was talking about cities in Louisiana and California.


True, we generally preserve place names--thus, Beijing is not called "the Northern Capital," nor is Tokyo referred to in English as "the Eastern Capital." But for God's sake, when is the last time you heard the Japanese governing party referred to in English language media as "Jiminto," rather than by its English translation, "the Liberal Democratic Party." Or do you also insist on referring to the Tamil Tigers or Shining Path by what their local adherents call them in their local tongues? If not, why the fanatical insistence that Hizbollah be referred to in its transliterated, rather than translated, form? Is it because using the transliteration fits your ideological preferences? (I would be equally suspicious of someone who insisted on referring to the Japanese Red Army as Nihon Sekigun--the latter sounds much more innocuous to the English speaker.) Shouldn't David Bernstein be free to use the name that is more enlightening to his English--speaking readers? If "Hizbollah" meant "the wipe-the-dirty-Jews-off-the-face-of-the-earth party" would you still insist on using the transliterated form of their name? At what point does insistence on your approach shift from a concern about accuracy to an attempt at obfuscation?
8.23.2006 3:20pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
how many Israeli civilians had Hezbollah killed since 2000?
So, Seth, are you still claiming it's okay, as you did in another post, for Hezbollah to kill Israeli and American soldiers?

And what if they didn't kill anybody? What if their regular barrage of rockets "only" destroyed buildings? Would that make it a problem for Israel to defend itself?
8.23.2006 3:24pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Frank, if you gave me the name of a reporter based in Israel, and it was an obvious Hebrew/Israeli name like "Shlomo Ben-Zion" I think it would be a safe assumption, not a "stereotype" that he spoke Hebrew (Jewish names and Hebrew names are not the same; I have a Jewish name, not a Hebrew name). Would you be willing to bet that Hassan Fattah does not speak Arabic, even though he has an Arabic name and reports from Arabic-speaking countries? If I gave you 3 to 1 odds? 10 to 1 odds? At what point do you admit that this is a logical presumption? Would it be a "stereotype" to assume that a reporter named "Frank Cross" who reports from England, the U.S., and Australia speaks English?
8.23.2006 3:29pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
By the way, Seth, nice map. You managed to find a source that describes all of Israel -- not just the so-called occupied territories -- as "Occupied Palestine." I'm sure that's a valid, unbiased source, just like you are.
8.23.2006 3:30pm
noahpraetorius (mail):
It should also be noted that Seth is a self-admitted troll.
8.23.2006 3:35pm
Al Maviva (mail) (www):
Hezbollah would never manipulate outside observers. Just ask the Green Helmet Guy - he'll tell you.
8.23.2006 3:50pm
DJR:
RBG, I'm not insisting on anything. I think Berstein's point of the translation of Hezbollah has been made. In fact, other media have noted the translation to make the point that Hezbollah does not act like a "Party of God." But it makes him look like a crackpot to call it that exclusively when everyone else in the world calls the entity "Hezbollah." Let's also note that Al Qaeda means "the base," and Al Jazeera means "the island." So what? Move on.
8.23.2006 4:07pm
frankcross (mail):
Well, I don't think English speaking is a particularly good analogy to Arabic speaking, but my real complaint was your "testimony against interest" line. I would in fact object if somebody used my name to assume that I was biased. I wouldn't assume that people with a Jewish name, whether or not they spoke Hebrew, were necessarily biased when reporting on Israel.
8.23.2006 4:12pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Frank, I see now, you misunderstood. The testimony against interest was not that Mr. Hassan wrote this, but that the people he interviewed said this. In other words, I wasn't saying it was against Mr. Hassan's interest to state that primarily POG fighters were killed in Srifa; I'm saying it was against the Srifa resident's interest, assuming, as I think is safe, that the overwhelming majority of them are more sympathetic to POG than to Israel. When they claimed that it was all civilians who were killed, they got world sympathy, including from HRW. The fact that it was mostly "fighters" who were killed suggests that this sympathy was missplaced.
8.23.2006 4:21pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
I second DB's response to frankcross. I was in the middle of drafting a much more insulting and much less concise retort, but DB beat me to it. Still, I couldn't help myself, and had to let frankcross know that, I too, think he's barking up the wrong tree.

As for "statement against interest," the reporter's (or possibly the editor's) interest can be inferred from the tone of the article.
8.23.2006 4:24pm
joe (mail) (www):
> Prior to the recent mess

Who cares what happened before the war? Your brilliant insight was that *in the war*, Israel was callous vis-a-vis civilian lives. My point is that it is simply morally cretinous to say that of these two combatants, Israel is the one that is careless about civilian casualties.

One side kills civilians when they miss targets. One side kills civilians when they hit targets. Do you know which is which?
8.23.2006 4:50pm
josh:
Gotta agree with the very first poster on this thread -- Commenterlein. It's hard to determine -- under DB's view of the world -- when the MSM is to be believed and when it is not. To the outside observer, there appears a strong link between pro-DB facts and believability and anti-DB facts and unbelievability.

Statements against interest by subjects of the article have nothing to do with it.

As to the reporter's name, I can only say that my last name is Goldberg, which obviously proves that I am inherently biased against the World Wrestling Federation.

These believe/don't believe the media debates are a hoot!!
8.23.2006 4:58pm
frankcross (mail):
Got it. Putting the pieces together now.

I was probably subconsciously recalling the old debate over the NYT and claims of its bias.
8.23.2006 5:05pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
I don't believe and don't disbelieve the media. As with other things, I'm a skeptic. But if we assume that the NY Times reporter is not outright lying about what the villagers told him, and that's a fair assumption given that he has no motivation to lie unless we think he had some secret agenda of making a very obscure pro-Israel point, the fact remains that HRW couldn't find any evidence that the dead in Srifa were civilians, but (a) the sex and age of the casaulties suggest fighters and (b) a NY Times reporter reports that he was told they were fighters. Doesn't do much for HRW's credibility, but then, one wouldn't really expect that wartime eyewitnesses in Hezbollahland are going to say anything anti-POG, would we? But HRW apparent expects otherwise.
8.23.2006 5:06pm
josh:
I will wait to apply this reasoning to the next example that inevitably will come up. From what I can understand this time, the NYT story IS to be believed because the subjects of the article had no motivation to lie (whereas, in the Qada stories, for example, they did).

Let's place a strong trackback/link/whathaveyou to this reasoning for DB because I am fairly certain (knowing that area of the world from experience) that there will soon be a story in which (1) Israel is protrayed negatively OR (2) a critic of Israel is protrayed positvely AND (3) the subjects quoted in the story have no motivation to lie.

Under DB's new structure those stories are to be believed. Got it. We'll keep watching.
8.23.2006 5:19pm
magoo (mail):
This was the first mention of Mr. Fattah's name by DB —

"I could be wrong, but it seems unlikely that Hassan M. Fattah of the NY Times is making up quotes to absolve Israel of anything, especially since the tone of the article of a whole is about how destructive the air raids were,and how this is causing much suffering."

It had nothing to do with whether he speaks Arabic. His name was highlighted as one of two reasons (the other being the tone of the article) for assuming that his reporting follows a certain ideological stripe. I hope there are no students named Fattah in DB's classes.
8.23.2006 5:40pm
Josh TK (mail):
Two points:

One, the NYT account about the Sreifa attack is a bit confusing. According to the article, there were two Israeli strikes on Sreifa; one on July 19th & one that occurred "just days ago" (the article is dated 8/15). The HRW report refers to the July attack; the NYT article focuses on the aftermath of the August strike. The NYT article seems to be saying that Hezbollah fighters moved into the town after the first attack and before/during the second one:


Just days ago, Israeli warplanes pounded the town again as Hezbollah fighters moved into the area to face off with Israeli troops who landed in the hills nearby. Fierce fighting and bombing continued even into early Monday morning, until the United Nations cease-fire took hold at 8 a.m., residents said.


It is plausible that HRW do not report Hezbollah targets in Sriefa because there were none in July, but the NYT reports on Hezbollah fighters because they moved in during August.

Second, in my opinion the burden of proof falls on Israel to demonstrate that its victims are combatants and that it is striking military targets. Because HRW is very transparent about its evidence, I do not see a problem with them reporting that its investigators could not find any evidence of a Hezbollah presence.

Bottom-line, it is not clear to me that there is anything inaccurate in HRW's report, and even if there is, it does not appear to be proof of some anti-Israeli bias that taints HRW's factual claims.
8.23.2006 6:07pm
Shelby (mail):
Josh,

I'm not sure why you're harping on this so much, but yes, basic indicia of credibility do make reporting more believable -- or rather, more likely to be accurate. Has DB stated that criticisms of Israel are inherently inaccurate? Perhaps, but if so I missed it.
8.23.2006 6:13pm
Shelby (mail):
To clarify, that was addressed to the 4:19 post.
8.23.2006 6:15pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Magoo, thanks, because you know better than I do what I meant.
8.23.2006 6:32pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Though admittedly, I could have been clearer in referring back to Comm's claim that Fattah may have either been biased in favor of Israel (is he known as, or is there any reason to believe he is a partisan of Israel, and that this is reflected in his work?), or that he was "semi-competent" (hence the relevance of Arabic knowledge; I've posted before that some inaccurate reports from Lebanon could be due to the fact that many of the Western reporters sent there don't speak Arabic).

BTW, if someone were to directly argue that someone with the name Hassan Fatah is less likely to be sympathetic to Israel than your average American reporter, I'd say that this would be making a leap without sufficient evidence (e.g., I had a Lebanese Christian friend who was extremely pro-Israel), but hardly indicative of hostile feelings toward people of Arab descent as such.
8.23.2006 6:38pm
Federal Dog:
"Wasn't the original reason that you came up with that because you thought liberals would be hesitant to be sympathetic to an organization calling itself "party of god"? If so, it's not working. You are the only one calling Hezbollah that."


Actually, Hezbollah named itself; Professor Bernstein did not "come up with" anything. I fail to understand your objection to the name Hezbollah adopted for itself. Its choice of name is not your concern, and it certainly has nothing to do with Professor Bernstein.
8.23.2006 6:45pm
magoo (mail):
Keep tap dancing DB. You used the guy’s name as an “invitation” to others to offer proof that he’s not anti-Israel: “The author's name is relevant because (1) the commenter suggested that the Times has some "pro-Israel" reporters. The name is an invitation to present some evidence that this reporter fits into that category.”

The implication is that you can tell something about his probably political views from his last name that warrants some kind of special response. Of course, there are those who think they can guess the political views of people named Goldberg. I guess you're part of that crowd, just on the other side of the room.

I have no idea what Fattsh's views on Israel are. But google suggests he is the former editor of Iraq Today, a pro-democracy weekly established in Bagdad shortly after the fall of Saddam Hussein. In other words, he appears to be one of the good guys over there, who risked his life to promote democracy during a very turbulent time.
8.23.2006 6:48pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
This is a silly argument, so here's my last go. I used his name as an invitation for evidence that he was either biased for Israel or incompetent because a previous poster had suggested that perhaps he was one or the other.
8.23.2006 6:54pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
Perhaps HRW should be more concerned about the practice of stoning homosexuals that goes on in the Arab countries that they just love to make victims of.
8.23.2006 7:18pm
Justin (mail):
Brian G, I know exactly what you mean. I mean, imagine if HRW wrote a 144 page report, on the topic you mention, just for Egypt!

The world would indeed be a different place... ::smirk::

Or maybe you have no clue what you are talking about.....that might be it also.
8.23.2006 11:41pm
Kevin Jon Heller:
Number of times Human Rights Watch has criticized Hezbollah in its press releases and reports since July 12: 13 (including three addressed solely to Hezbollah's actions; one criticizing the Human Rights Committee for singling out Israel; and one to Syria demanding that it convince Hezbollah to stop launching indiscriminate attacks on Israeli civilians).

Number of times David Bernstein has criticized Israel in his blog posts since July 12: 0 (one post expressed sadness for innocent Lebanese children killed in the fighting, but did not blame Israel for their deaths).

Remind me — whose credibility is "not so good"?
8.24.2006 1:05am
Harry Eagar (mail):
For what it's worth -- maybe nothing -- The New York Times had a foreign correspondent in Germany in the 1930s, until he was expelled, who was frankly anti-Nazi. His name was Otto Tolischus.

I thought Professor Bernstein named Fattah as the reporter because he was the reporter. Sheesh.
8.24.2006 2:54am
Omar Bradley (mail):
HRW can go pound sand. Who cares what they have to say?

DB, have a coke and a smile and don't let yourself get so worked up.

Ignore the HRW reports just like Nasrallah and Khameini do.

Do you think Nasrallah cares if HRW accuses him of war crimes? Of course not

So, you'd do yourself a favor by tretaing them with the contempt they deserve.
8.24.2006 3:36am
Omar Bradley (mail):
By the way, 1000 or so dead civilians in over a month, given the number of sorties flown by the IAF and and the ground operations launched by the IDF, is a remarkably low number and hardly indiscriminate or intentional.

The figure would be much higher had truly indiscriminate and deliberate targeting taken place.

Of course, I'm still waiting for HRW to issue their report calling for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S Truman and Dwight D Eisenhower to be posthumously brought before the ICC and tried as war criminals. After all, they killed far more civilians than Israel has, by an order of magnitude. In fact, under their leadership, the US killed more civilians in 58 minutes over cities like Tokyo, Hamburg and Wurzburg than Israel has killed in 58 years of existence.

In fact, under HRW's views, every US President since 1932 is a war criminal.

HRW's reports are nice to look at, but in the real world they have no effect.

If you want to laugh yourself silly, go to their website and read their letter to Ahmadinejad. I haven't laughed that hard in a while.
8.24.2006 3:50am
Ragout (mail):
I'm going to recycle a comment I wrote on another blog a few weeks ago, describing another newpaper report that rebuts HRW.

The HRW report describes two Israeli attacks on the Village of Srifa. The Israelis first attacked a school, eventually killing dozens of people in two strikes on July 13 and 19. HRW investigators "saw no signs of Hezbollah military activity in the village."

HRW investigators were wrong.

Last Friday, a few days after the July 31 HRW visit, the Hezbollah commander for Srifa and two surrounding villages—a school teacher—took reporters on a tour of Srifa. He provided an explanation for HRW's failure to detect any Hezbollah activity: "It's not reasonable to walk around in military uniforms and carry rifles when, for example, the Red Cross comes into town."

There are numerous fighters in the area, he told the Agence France Presse reporters. "I know my mission. I must make my rockets hit Israel," said the Hezbollah commander.
8.24.2006 4:49am
Ragout (mail):
Josh TK,

Your right that it's fine for HRW to report "that its investigators could not find any evidence of a Hezbollah presence," at least as long as they make clear the cursory nature of their investigation.

The problem is that they then go on to accuse Israel of targeting civilians and hence committing war crimes. HRW clearly had too little evidence to make that charge. And now that what little evidence they had has been undermined, they ought to retract their charges and apologize.
8.24.2006 5:04am
magoo (mail):
DB — You're right. This is a silly debate. There's no dispute that, as you put it, you "used his name as an invitation for evidence that he was biased for Israel" because you find it improbable that someone named Fattah would be pro-Israel. You make snap judgments about people's probable political views on Israel based on their last name. I find it unfortunate when people use ethnicity as a surrogate for analysis. For example, I find it similarly unfortunate when Senator Allen draws conclusions about whether people are American based on their ethnicity (regardless of what the statistical odds might be).

Fattah might be ardently anti-Israel, or ardently pro-Israel. Or perhaps his political views on Israel are more complicated than one can surmise from his name. Or perhaps he's a good reporter who keeps his own political views out of his reporting. Have a nice day.
8.24.2006 9:42am
Josh TK (mail):
Ragout,

Thank you for the AFP article, which is a useful piece of data to add to our understanding of what happened at Sriefa. While the interviews with the two Hezbollah militants suggest that Hezbollah militants do not advertise their presence to the Red Cross, and one could deduce that they would do the same with HRW, it does not address the fact that during the 7/31 visit people in the "Moscow" neighborhood told the researcher that Hezbollah was not in that particular neighborhood. Nor do the interviewed militants say outright that they were in Sriefa before/during the 7/19 strike. Maybe they were, maybe they were not. Maybe they are a couple of guys who are lying about being brave, macho Hezbollah fighters.

I am not saying that we must accept the HRW report with 100% certainty, but if Israel &its defenders want to persuasively argue that there were Hezbollah activity in the areas in which it launched strikes, it is going to have to do a better job than denying that any strike took place, which is what the IDF spokesperson quoted in the report did. As I said, the onus is on Israel to show that their killings are justified.

I do happen to think that there is very good evidence that Israel was targetting civilian areas and is in the wrong. Sriefa is just one of many incidents that HRW goes over. There have been numerous civilian causalties. There is the fact that southern Lebanon is just ruined. There are the statements of the Israeli military saying they were going after civilian targets, as reported in Amnesty Internation's latest report.
8.24.2006 12:43pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
You are right about that letter, Omar. Somehow, HRW could not quite bring itself to label Hezbollah actions 'war crimes,' the way it so freely does Israel's.

Funniest part, though: Ahmadinejad lives on Pasteur Street.

Who knew?
8.24.2006 3:50pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Josh, the AFP and NY Times reports, COMBINED with the fact that almost all the victims identified by HRW were young men of military age doesn't sway you at all? Then you can't, I think, be swayed.
8.24.2006 6:28pm
Josh TK (mail):
The accumulated evidence so far is
(a) 14 out of the 16 named victims are men of fighting age (the other two were fairly old men); we do not know the gender/age breakdown of the ten unnamed victims (HRW estimates 26 civilians killed)
(b) Journalists from the AFP &NYT have interviewed Hezbollah militants in Srifa well after the Israeli strike in July 19th took place. The NYT piece, which says that most of the people killed in a strike were Hezbollah militants, was written after a second Israeli strike in August and it is unclear if it is referring to the aftermath of the July 19th strike. The AFP article was writen two weeks after the 7/19 strike and quotes two Hezbollah militants saying something about disguising their combatant status with the Red Cross.
(c) Three informants told HRW that the "Moscow" neighborhood in Srifa was not a site of Hezbollah activity.
(d) HRW quotes the IDF denying that any strike took place.

I am open to the possibility that Hezbollah was launching rockets from the Moscow neighborhood in Srifa, but I would want much better evidence before justifying an attack that killed 26 people. And I am disturbed that the IDF spokesperson made no effort to justify its attack to the HRW investigator.

I think these facts provide little support for an argument that HRW's credibility is "not so good" or that Israel's conduct in Lebanon in general was justified.
8.24.2006 11:58pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Josh. Describe the evidence that would convince you that a strike is justified.
8.25.2006 12:37am
Josh TK (mail):
Well, I think such a case would be immensely helped if at least one person claimed to have seen/heard rocket launches from the Moscow neighborhood. If all of the victims could be identified as Hezbollah participants that would also be good.
8.25.2006 12:56am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Josh. You are talking about justifying afterwards. That's too late for various participants.

What evidence prior to an Israeli strike should Israel have to justify it?

Counterbattery radar? An outpost with a big scope seeing the rockets being fired? Drone surveillance seeing the things being fired?

But, in the afterwards scenario which persons would be claiming to have seen the launches? The local Hez folks? The local Hez supporters? A civilian who knows he'll be gruesomely murdered if he says he saw the launch? I think I see where you're going with this.

And you also want to be sure all the vics are Hez. Nice. This means, according to you, that the presence of even one civilian in the area means the bad guys are immune. I believe I'm getting something here....an impression.

I know you don't need to be told this, but you apparently think the rest of us haven't figured it out. An army which is good at hiding behind civilians and prevails because the opposition is constrained from doing anything which might endanger a civilian is an intersting concept. It means the army which wins is the army which is best at putting [sometimes their own]civilians at risk. What would you think of the way they'd be likely to treat those they occupy? That's a rhetorical question, btw. I wouldn't want to make you obfuscate this early in the morning.
8.25.2006 9:10am
Josh TK (mail):
Richard Aubrey. If it so difficult for the IDF to distinguish between neighborhoods from which rockets have been launched and neighborhoods w/ no rocket launches, then it should not be using such heavy military firepower to strike civilian areas.

I think the overall result of the Lebanon war/invasion/whatever support this conclusion. Whatever little security was won by Israel (if any) does not outweigh the toll born by the Lebanese people.
8.25.2006 9:21am
Ragout (mail):
From what I've read, rockets weren't launched from Srifa. Srifa was bombed because it was a Hezbollah stronghold. It was in a strategic position on the heights, and had Hez military positions and fighters. Missiles were stored there.

Numerous reporters visited Srifa and had little trouble finding Hezbollah. Why couldn't HRW? Why haven't they changed their conclusions in the light of this additional evidence?

Here's what Robert Fisk, no friend of Israel, found:


"What is here that Israel should destroy all this?" he asked. "We don't deny that the resistance was in Srifa. It was here before and it will be here in the future. But in this house lived only my family. So why would Israel bomb it?"

Well, I did happen to notice what appeared to be the casing of a missile hanging from the balcony of a much-damaged house facing the rubble of Ali Dakroub's home. And a group of Hizbullah militiamen, one of them with a pistol tucked into his trousers, walked past us nonchalantly and disappeared into an orchard. Was this, perhaps, where they kept some of their rockets? Mr Dakroub wasn't saying.
8.25.2006 10:24am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Josh. You don't know heavy firepower. This is limited firepower, compared to what is available. The Israelis have developed missiles for use from helicopters with smaller warheads than the thing is designed to use in order to be able to do what they need to do with less collateral damage. See if your Hez buddies would be down with that, themselves.
And there is no evidence the Israelis have any trouble telling the difference.

Anyway, what evidence in advance of firing would you think justifies firing?
8.25.2006 11:44am
Josh TK (mail):
Due to my obligations, I am afraid this will be my last comment on this post, but I just wanted to say that this exchange has been very informative for me.

It is possible for Hez to have a stronghold in the village but not have much of a presence in the Moscow neighborhood. If this is the case, it becomes a situation of Israel accidentally hitting a civilian area in the course of trying to strike a military target (which is pretty bad in itself).

Regardless, I agree that if Srifa was a Hez stronghold, it should have included in the report. However, HRW did ask the IDF for their own account, and the IDF blew them off. So it is hard to impugn HRW's integrity based on this one incident.

Moreover, HRW was accusing Israel of war crimes not solely based on Srifa, but on other incidents where civilians were killed. As I have said, the overall pattern does not look good for Israel's conduct. And Amnesty International's 8/23 report has also assembled statements from the Israeli military that sound pretty close to advocating collective punishment for Lebanon.

So even if you are right about Srifa, I do not see that necessitating HRW revising its conclusions about Israel's conduct.
8.25.2006 11:56am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Josh left without telling us what evidence in advance would justify a strike.

Pretty slick, that guy is.
8.25.2006 2:17pm
lyarbrou (mail):
Citizens are often provided very divergent information regarding events in Lebanon. The report below just appeared in the Washington Post. Who are we to believe and on what do we base our decision? How does the citizen who wants to be objective sort these things out? Is it propaganda or an honest attempt at reporting the facts?

Lebanese recover from Kafkaesque trip to Israel

By Jonathan Wright
Reuters
Friday, August 25, 2006; 12:49 PM

BAALBEK, Lebanon (Reuters) - Wellwishers gathered in Hassan Nasrallah's garden above the ancient Lebanese town of Baalbek on Friday, delighted to see him and four relatives back from a Kafkaesque three-week adventure in Israeli detention.

Nasrallah, a modest shopkeeper who happens to have the same name as the leader of the Lebanese guerrilla movement Hizbollah, shook hands with his visitors and seated them under the trees as the family prepared a feast of grilled lamb.

Some of them had not seen Nasrallah and the other four men since Israeli commandos descended on his house on August 1, marched them up into the hills, put them on a helicopter and flew them to a secret location in Israel.

The Israelis dumped them on the Lebanese border at Naqoura on Monday after 20 days, without an apology or even an explanation of what was behind their bizarre experience.

Bilal Nasrallah, Hassan's 31-year-old son and partner in the grocery business, told Reuters on Friday that in the 18 hours of interrogation the Israelis never offered any reason for the raid and refused to answer any questions from the Lebanese.

"But the basis of their interrogation was that we had some connection with Hizbollah. In fact, we have nothing at all to do with it," he said. Neighbors and a Hizbollah official also denied that any of the men were members of the organization.

Israel and Hizbollah fought a five-week war until a truce came into effect on August 14. Nearly 1,200 Lebanese, mainly civilians, were killed in the bombing and fighting, along with 157 Israelis, mainly soldiers inside Lebanon.

ADDRESS ON THE INTERNET?

"My theory is that the Israelis were trying to use us to deceive public opinion, to give the impression they had achieved some great success," Bilal Nasrallah said.

Al-Hajj Ahmed Raya, the Hizbollah spokesman in the Baalbek region, in the Bekaa valley northeast of the capital Beirut, said the Israelis had probably found Hassan Nasrallah's name and address on the Internet.

"It's another sign of Israeli impotence, that they should resort to kidnapping someone and his relatives, a builder, a tiler, a plasterer and a supermarket owner, and pretend that they had captured a Hizbollah leader," he added.

The five men were Hassan Nasrallah, 55, and his son Bilal, Mohammed Jaafar Ali Diab, a family friend, Hassan al-Burji and Ahmed Outa, who are relatives of the Nasrallahs by marriage.

The Israelis also took Hassan Nasrallah's 13-year-old son, Mohammed, but when the helicopters arrived they had second thoughts about him and set him free in the mountains in the middle of the night, Bilal said.

Bilal Nasrallah and Diab complained that the Israelis had roughed them up, knocking out some of Diab's teeth, and during the 20 days of detention never allowed them any contact with lawyers, the Red Cross, a judge or anyone else other than the interrogators and jailers.

Before releasing them on August 21, the Israeli military called in still photographers and video cameramen to take pictures of them, again without any explanation, Bilal said.

The Israelis drove them in a bus to the border, where U.N. peacekeepers and representatives of the International Red Cross were waiting. "They left us without any apology," he added.
© 2006 Reuters
8.25.2006 4:01pm
Federal Dog:
"As I said, the onus is on Israel to show that their killings are justified."


Israel reacted to repeated Hezbollah missile attacks against unarmed Israeli civilians. Nothing more is needed.
8.25.2006 5:31pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Question for you international lawyers:

According to David Anderson, lawyer and former HRW staffer, it is impermissible to use human shields, even if the shields are voluntary.

Hmmm. There was quite a bit about voluntary human shields in the runup to the invasion of Iraq. I do not recall HRW (or anybody else) advising either the Iraq government or the shields themselves that they were on the brink of committing a war crime.

Similarly, there has been much talk on these threads about the practice of Hezbollah of operating in inhabited areas (which is pretty much the story of war all through history), and HRW apparently did make one of its mild, grudging statements against the practice.

It would be helpful if HRW and similar accusation-flinging groups would fling in all directions. It would enhance their credibility with me, which is right now pretty low.
8.25.2006 7:37pm