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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Hezbollah war crimes and the NYT

Dan invited me to post something here today about a NYT story  yesterday ("Offering Video, Israel Answers Critics on War") concerning Hezbollah war crimes committed during the summer Israel-Lebanon war (THANKS DAN).  Notwithstanding a misleading lead and title , the story accurately notes that an Israeli NGO -- the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies -- issued a lengthy report, with attached video clips, documenting Hezbollah crimes of targeting Israeli civilians and using Lebanese civilians and protected structures and persons as shields for military activity.  The state of Israel is not the issuer of the report, although it stars in the Times' headline.  The NGO was able to utilize connections by a retired lieutenant colonel (Reuven Ehrlich, who headed the research group) to get information from the Israeli army, although much of the information was already declassified and in the public domain.  The text of the report itself can be found here.  Unfortunately, the video is not available there.  A more accurate summary of the report can be found, in of all places, Haaretz.

There are two particularly interesting parts to the NYT story.  The first is open acknowledgement by some Lebanese (together with expected Hezbollah denial) of the Hezbollah practice of civilian shielding: "Elias Hanna, a retired Lebanese Army general, said of the Israeli allegations, 'Of course there are hidden invisible tunnels, bunkers of missile launchers, bunkers of explosive charges amongst civilians.' He added: 'You cannot separate the southern society from Hezbollah, because Hezbollah is the society and the society is Hezbollah... The party’s military preparations from 2000 till 2006 took place in their [civilian] areas. They were of course done with complete secrecy, but in accordance with the civilians.'"

The second is the NYT pitch itself, which makes the central defendant in the piece Israel. The report was not aimed at describing Israeli conduct, though an innocent reader of the Times headline might think it was.  All this is testament not only to the agenda of Times headline-writers but to the great success of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International this summer in inverting the legal standards of war crimes and establishing a standard of Israeli guilt unless proven innocent, alongside an assumption that Hezbollah's war crimes were largely unimportant and unworthy of extensive notice, investigation or discussion.

A final note --- the NYT story mentions, towards the end, the most striking piece of the NGO report.  Per the report: "The number of Hezbollah operatives killed during the war is estimated by the IDF Military Intelligence at some 650; in addition, over 800 operatives were injured. Four hundred and fifty of the killed operatives can be identified with certainty. The Military Intelligence has partial information about an additional 100 fatalities... According to information issued by the Lebanese government and media, 1084 civilians and 40 members of the military and the gendarmerie were killed in the war... The Lebanese announcements of the number of killed made no distinction between civilians and Hezbollah operatives. Therefore, a significant number of the civilian deaths and injuries as they appear in Lebanese government reports and media are Hezbollah operatives rather than innocent civilians."

Interestingly, the NY Times omits the fact that the Lebanese government figures do not distinguish between civilian and combatant --- all persons not members of official Lebanese armed forces were classified as civilians by Lebanon.  Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International did little better, apprently assuming all were civilian unless faced with incontrovertible proof that the deceased was not only a Hezbollah combatant but involved in shooting at the time.

Posted by Avi Bell on December 6, 2006 at 11:19 AM | Permalink


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