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The Gaza War & Hamas

In Part 1 it was suggested that whereas the Martians were only able to see one of the parties to a conflict due to an equipment malfunction, B’tselem has no such excuse. Its failure to see is a product of downplaying or ignoring what it prefers not to see.

As an illustration of this, Part 1 noted that the B’tselem website covers the conflict in Gaza with only a single article devoted to Hamas out of 15 front-page articles (on 11 August 2014). This briefly comments that the Hamas practice of firing rockets from civilian areas in Gaza into civilian areas in Israel is ”morally and legally reprehensible” – but apparently this is not illegal or criminal for B’tselem.

Given the unrelenting blame heaped upon Israel by B’tselem elsewhere on its website with a variety of accusations of criminal activity, it is hard to view this mild rebuke as other than a mere token. Presumably, its inclusion is intended to provide at least some appearance of ‘balance’ in its criticism.

How else to explain that nowhere in the article, or elsewhere in its coverage of the war, or elsewhere on the B’tselem website, is there any mention that Hamas is a murderous anti-Semitic terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel and the slaughter of as many Jews as possible?

Typically, this is also absent from the coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by the mainstream mass media. But why would B’tselem want to hide it? Is it such an irrelevance that it can be ignored? Or is it information critical to understanding the conflict?

B’tselem’s View of the Palestinian–Israeli Conflict

In fact, this omission is important to B’tselem’s view of the conflict as between good/oppressed Palestinians and bad/oppressor Israelis. Unfortunately, this view also presents it with a problem. In a strap-line under its web-site heading, B’tselem claims that it aspires to:

“a future where all Israelis and Palestinians will live in freedom and dignity”.

The problem for B’tselem, and everyone else, is how can this fine aim be realized with a group of Islamic fanatics such as Hamas? And for an organization claiming to aspire to a future where all Israelis and Palestinians will live in freedom and dignity, how can this problem possibly be ignored?

To reinforce the absurdity of this, in March this year, the PLO appointed PA president-for-life, Mahmoud Abbas, secured a unanimous vote at the Arab League against any acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state. This would seem to be another important factor in need of consideration if the attempt to realize the aspirations of B’tselem were serious. So why is this also not mentioned?

In fact, given these aspirations for freedom and dignity for Palestinians and Israelis, can B’tselem demonstrate that any Palestinian political party or leader, inside or outside the PA, has accepted Israel as the nation-state of Jews? This too is unmentioned.

As a matter of integrity and seriousness, these difficulties (as they might be termed gently) to the realization of the strap-line mission-statement would seem to place an obligation on B’tselem to grapple with the issue of how its aspirations of “freedom and dignity” for all could possibly be achieved.

More specifically, after twenty five years of experience, B’tselem would surely be obliged to reflect on the question of how the existence of organizations dedicated to the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state can be reconciled with the continued existence of Israel?

This is on a par with the difficulty of reconciling a Europe free of Jews and dominated by the Nazis with a Europe free of Nazi domination where Jews could live freely.

Falsifying the Conflict

Obscuring the genocidal anti-Semitic core of Hamas and the dominance of the rejection of the Jewish state throughout Palestinian politics allows B’tselem to evade any effort to work out these problems. Unfortunately, this falsifies the conflict.

This is because from the B’tselem perspective it becomes impossible to understand the conflict except as a product of the willful Jewish mistreatment of Palestinians. It makes Israeli behavior explicable only as something bad or crazy – like the lone wrestler viewed by the Martians in Part 1.

This approach is a standard one from those hostile to Israel who ignore core information and thus whitewash Hamas. Further, by hiding from the public that all Palestinian political groups refuse to accept the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state, they effectively conceal the driving force of the conflict. As a result, blame is exclusively attributed to Israel.

It is a short and automatic step from concealing the driving force of the conflict to concealing its solution. Otherwise, B’tselem could announce to all those who share its claimed humanitarian concerns that there is a very simple way to end the Gaza conflict, stop the casualties, end the partial Israeli blockade and eliminate the threat of future war.

All that is needed to achieve this is a government in Gaza that has no interest in destroying Israel and murdering Jews. Further, this would seem to tie-in nicely with B’tselem’s stated mission for Palestinians and Israelis to live in freedom and dignity. It would also clearly distinguish B’tselem from all those who are hostile to Israel.

Yet B’tselem seems unable to make such a statement. This inability might be taken to mean that B’tselem is not merely a human rights organization devoted to exposing and preventing abuses of power, but that it is happy to act as an apologist for the enemies of Israel. This would also explain its treatment of casualty figures mimicking those of Hamas and hiding their biased sources as outlined in Part 1.

Making peace with an enemy is an idea that is often expressed. In reality, peace is only feasible with an enemy that wants peace – or that has been crushed. How an enemy that maintains its desire to obliterate Israel can be a genuine foundation stone of peace or can be a basis for B’tselem’s aspirations for Palestinians and Israelis to live in freedom and dignity has yet to be explained.

B’tselem’s View of International Law

From other articles on the B’tselem website, it can be seen that it adopts standard Palestinian narrative references. For example, it constantly refers to “occupied territories” and “illegal settlements”.

Both determinations place Israel firmly in the wrong But what could not be seen on the website was any trace of a definitive legal explanation of the use of these and similar phrases. Surely, after 25 years of work B’tselem could provide this?

For B’tselem, it is unfortunate that it cannot do this. But the reality is that neither can anyone else. This is for the simple reason that there has yet to be a legal decision on these issues. That is, the issue remains legally undecided. This means that B’tselem’s views, or those of anyone else, regarding what a legal decision would be if there were to be one are uncertain and thus speculative.

In other words, an honest description of the real legal situation would undermine B’tselem’s claimed legal certainty. It would be to admit that its claimed certainty is no more than its opinion of what a legal ruling would be, or should be, if there was one. But without a legal ruling, the legal certainty they profess is false. Naturally, to admit this would greatly weaken the force of its criticism of Israel.

Nor is B’tselem alone with this problem. In fact, it is remarkable how many of those who issue a constant stream of propaganda about the so-called illegality of Israel’s settlements insist on proclaiming this false legal certainty. Essentially, it is nothing more than a dishonest attempt to boost the credibility of their political claims.

Cavalier Accusations of Israeli Crimes

A similar point is apparent with the B’tselem Press Release and Letter from 10 Human Rights organizations, which appealed to the Attorney-General over the Gaza war. In sharp contrast to the feeble rebuke to Hamas mentioned above, this bluntly accuses Israel of “grave violations of international humanitarian law” and “violating the laws of war” and “violations of fundamental principles of the laws of war”.

But for a supposedly serious appeal by serious organizations, it was completely devoid of any legal argument. Instead, assertions were made without any supporting legal evidence or even reference to the laws of war supposedly violated.

B’tselem seems to think that all it has to do is make an assertion that X is the case for it to be accepted as if it were the case solely on the basis of its own declaration. In other words, without seeing the need to justify its legal claims by reasoned argument or legal evidence, it operates by assertion on the assumption that international law is what it thinks it ought to be.

B’tselem’s View of Human Rights

Finally, B’tselem claims in its mission statement that it has

“championed human rights in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for over two decades”.

Really? Elsewhere on the site, there is the statement that although its primary focus is on Israeli behavior in the “occupied territories”, B’tselem also,

“monitors and reports on severe violations of human rights by the Palestinian Authority against their own population, as well as terror attacks against Israel” (‘About B’tselem’).

It is an interesting comment on how seriously B’tselem takes this effort to ‘balance’ its concentration on Israel that Hamas is not mentioned.

In any case, what does the statement mean in reality? Does it mean that B’tselem advocates and campaigns to get the PA (and Hamas) to allow free elections? Does it mean that B’tselem campaigns against the PA (and Hamas), which according to Palestinian civil rights groups, routinely torture over 90% of all Palestinians arrested by their own security and police forces? Or are these issues not sufficiently “severe” to trouble B’tselem?

Does it mean that Btselem campaigns against the presence of various armed and illegal militias? Or in favor of equal rights for women and religious minorities – including Jews? Or for greater government transparency – to control, for example, the amazing disappearance of colossal amounts of financial aid (according to reports from the US Congress and the EU)? Or are these issues also not “severe” enough for B’tselem?

Does it mean that B’tselem campaigns for an end to the tidal wave of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel hatred that pervades PA (and Hamas) media, mosques, political discourse and education system? Does it campaign against the treatment of murderers of Jews as heroes and the glorification of violence against Jews?

Finally, does it mean that B’tselem campaigns for or indicates a preference for the acceptance by the Palestinians of a permanent solution to the conflict based on the mutual recognition of ‘Two States for Two Peoples’? Or does it have some other arrangement in mind to realize its aim of Palestinians and Israelis living in “freedom and dignity”?

Apparently, none of these issues is sufficiently “severe” for B’tselem to comment. Or if it does, its comments are well-hidden on its website. Alternatively, its even-handed sounding words in this regard are in practice without real content. Their purpose is purely for appearances in order to pretend a non-existent ‘balance’ in a feeble effort to disguise its one-sided hostility to Israel in the conflict.

Yet if B’tselem were to campaign on these issues as it claims and separate itself from the mass of organizations that flood the world with anti-Israel propaganda, it would immediately gain credibility in Israel. This would strengthen its effectiveness within Israel. It would convince many in Israel that B’tselem was really on its side and not merely another one-sided anti-Israel advocacy group.

Unfortunately, such honesty would probably not go down very well with many of its overseas supporters and financers.

Lord Londonderry

Sadly, all this reminded me of the unfortunate but instructive case of Lord Londonderry during the 1930’s.

As an extremely wealthy and well-connected junior government minister and cousin of Winston Churchill, Lord Londonderry believed that Britain should reach an accommodation with Hitler. As prospects for this view dimmed, he became increasingly strident in his efforts to promote his case.

As a result, when out of government, Lord Londonderry’s political position moved steadily towards Germany until his efforts took on a noticeable pro-Nazi appearance. Although he never became a fascist like Sir Oswald Mosley, by becoming an apologist for Hitler he effectively disgraced himself.
Jon Dyson

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