Scurrilous Accusations against Israel Encourage Terrorist Groups to Put Civilians in Harm’s Way

In a recent report, Human Rights Watch (HRW)—an organization known for its obsession with defaming the Jewish state—accused it of committing war crimes when responding to rocket attacks from Gaza in May. Perhaps to provide some semblance of balance, the report leveled the same accusation at Hamas for indiscriminately firing on civilians. Its authors, however, misconstrue the laws of war by looking solely at the outcomes—rather than the causes, motivations, and circumstances—of military operations, as Geoffrey Corn and Rachel VanLandingham write:

[The] tendency by human-rights groups to invoke war crimes based on the effects of hostilities, and to conclude that “too many” civilians were killed in a particular attack, is all too common. This frequently used approach . . . produces the perverse effect of incentivizing terrorist groups, such as Hamas and Islamic State, illegally to shield their military operations with civilians. These groups exploit the resultant deaths caused by lawful strikes by professional armed forces like the U.S. military and the IDF. Indeed, terrorist groups use civilians as legal weapons, a crucial fact HRW fails to recognize. . . .

When Palestinian militants launched missile, rocket, and mortar attacks into Israel with no plausible indication that the attacks were directed at lawful military objectives, their attacks were not merely “indiscriminate,” [as HRW puts it]. . . . Nothing suggests these attacks were directed at military objectives. Nor is there any plausible basis to support a claim of reasonable mistake, as the IDF, unlike its opponents, simply does not utilize civilian communities or buildings in support of its military operations, nor does it exploit the presence of civilians to shield its military assets. . . .

HRW’s effects-based methodology is counterproductive to the organization’s claimed goal—that of enhancing civilian protection during hostilities. It incentivizes the worst practices of armed groups like Hamas by reinforcing their expectation that increasing civilian exposure to the risks of hostilities—for example, by exploiting the presence of civilians to shield their assets—will produce a net gain in their strategic delegitimization campaign. It also penalizes commanders who engage in good-faith efforts to comply with the law by implying that their obligation is not to make reasonable judgments but, rather, that those judgments must always produce the “right” outcome. Ultimately, this flawed methodology for assessing legality is contrary to both the spirit of the law and the interests of the victims of war whom the law is intended to protect.

Get unlimited access to Mosaic: Subscribe now

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories FREE.

Register Now

Get unlimited access to Mosaic: Subscribe now

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories FREE.

Register Now

Read more at Lawfare

More about: Hamas, Human Rights Watch, IDF, Laws of war

As World Leaders Gather to Remember the Holocaust, They Should Ask How Anti-Semitism Differs from Ordinary Hatreds

Jan. 22 2020

Today, an international conference titled “Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Anti-Semitism” opens in Jerusalem, attended by representatives from some 40 governments, including the presidents of France, Russia, and Italy and the vice-president of the United States. While ample attention will no doubt be paid to the anti-Semitism of the extreme right, Fiamma Nirenstein fears that less will be paid to that of the left, and still less to the Islamic variety. She also fears that those in attendance will give in to a related, and dangerous, temptation to subsume anti-Semitism into an amorphous “hatred”:

Sign up to read more.

You've read all your free articles for this month. Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture and politics.

Register Now

Sign up to read more.

You've read all your free articles for this month. Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture and politics.

Register Now

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Anti-Semitism, Holocaust, Intersectionality, Radical Islam