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.

Read more at Lawfare

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

Iran’s Four-Decade Strategy to Envelope Israel in Terror

Yesterday, the head of the Shin Bet—Israel’s internal security service—was in Washington meeting with officials from the State Department, CIA, and the White House itself. Among the topics no doubt discussed are rising tensions with Iran and the possibility that the latter, in order to defend its nuclear program, will instruct its network of proxies in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and even Iraq and Yemen to attack the Jewish state. Oved Lobel explores the history of this network, which, he argues, predates Iran’s Islamic Revolution—when Shiite radicals in Lebanon coordinated with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s movement in Iran:

An inextricably linked Iran-Syria-Palestinian axis has actually been in existence since the early 1970s, with Lebanon the geographical fulcrum of the relationship and Damascus serving as the primary operational headquarters. Lebanon, from the 1980s until 2005, was under the direct military control of Syria, which itself slowly transformed from an ally to a client of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The nexus among Damascus, Beirut, and the Palestinian territories should therefore always have been viewed as one front, both geographically and operationally. It’s clear that the multifront-war strategy was already in operation during the first intifada years, from 1987 to 1993.

[An] Iranian-organized conference in 1991, the first of many, . . . established the “Damascus 10”—an alliance of ten Palestinian factions that rejected any peace process with Israel. According to the former Hamas spokesperson and senior official Ibrahim Ghosheh, he spoke to then-Hizballah Secretary-General Abbas al-Musawi at the conference and coordinated Hizballah attacks from Lebanon in support of the intifada. Further important meetings between Hamas and the Iranian regime were held in 1999 and 2000, while the IRGC constantly met with its agents in Damascus to encourage coordinated attacks on Israel.

For some reason, Hizballah’s guerilla war against Israel in Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s was, and often still is, viewed as a separate phenomenon from the first intifada, when they were in fact two fronts in the same battle.

Israel opted for a perilous unconditional withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, which Hamas’s Ghosheh asserts was a “direct factor” in precipitating the start of the second intifada later that same year.

Read more at Australia/Israel Review

More about: First intifada, Hizballah, Iran, Palestinian terror, Second Intifada