Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Question of Hamas, Gaza, and Israel

by Elliott Abrams
May 28, 2015


Amnesty International has just issued a report on human rights violations by Hamas in Gaza during last year’s conflict between Hamas and Israel.  It has garnered a great deal of attention, in part because Amnesty has previously been very critical of Israel.

This report skewers Hamas. Here is Amnesty’s own summary:

Hamas forces in Gaza committed serious human rights abuses, including abductions, torture and summary and extrajudicial executions with impunity during the 2014 Gaza/Israel conflict. To date, no one has been held to account for committing these unlawful killings and other abuses, either by the Hamas de facto administration that continues to control Gaza and its security and judicial institutions, or by the Palestinian “national consensus” government that has had nominal authority over Gaza since June 2014.

Here is one small excerpt:

In every case Amnesty International has documented, it has uncovered evidence of Hamas forces using torture during interrogation with the apparent aim of extracting a “confession” from the detainee. Testimonies indicate that victims of torture were beaten with truncheons, gun butts, hoses, wire, and fists; some were also burnt with fire, hot metal or acid. In several cases family members of victims described to Amnesty International various injuries inflictedon the detainees, such as broken bones – including of the spine and neck bones – trauma to the eyes, as well as damage, punctures or burns to the skin.

Amnesty does not point out the implications of another key paragraph:

Hamas forces used the abandoned areas of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, including the outpatients’ clinic area, to detain, interrogate, torture and otherwise ill-treat suspects, even as other parts of the hospital continued to function as a medical centre.

Why is this so important? Evelyn Gordon explained in Commentary:

That goes to the heart of the other main allegation against Israel made by Amnesty and its fellows: that Israel repeatedly targeted civilian buildings rather sticking to military targets. Israel countered that these “civilian” buildings doubled as military facilities – weapons storehouses, command and control centers, etc. – and were, therefore, legitimate military targets, but human rights groups pooh-poohed that claim.

Now, however, Amnesty has admitted that Hamas used Gaza’s main hospital as a detention, interrogation and torture center. And if Hamas was misusing a hospital in this way, it defies belief to think it wasn’t similarly misusing other civilian buildings for military purposes. Once you admit that Hamas did so once, there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t do so again. And, in that case, the allegation that Israel wantonly attacked civilian structures also collapses.

As Gordon also notes, Amnesty’s information about the numbers of Palestinians killed by Hamas rockets inside Gaza suggests that far more were killed this way than has previously been acknowledged by any human rights group.

And that brings me to my Human Rights Watch point. I’ve previously written about HRW’s horrifying bias against Israel here and here. I’ve also criticized Amnesty, but at least with this new report it is seeking some balance. Not HRW, which has occasionally criticized Hamas but has been obsessively hostile to Israel and has never done a report such as this.

The HRW attitude is summed up in a tweet by its Executive Director Ken Roth. Everyone knows that Israel has a long and distinguished record of responding to natural disasters around the globe, often there first with the best field hospitals. So it was with Nepal after the earthquake there in April. Mr. Roth took the occasion to tweet out “Easier to address a far-away humanitarian disaster than the nearby one of Israel’s making in Gaza. End the blockade!” That’s what I call an obsession.

I’m waiting for a full HRW report such as the one Amnesty just produced. I suspect I will wait, and wait, and wait.

Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by Jassem Othman

    The truth is, the vast majority of Arabs and Muslims are terrorists and they have become not ashamed of this horrific feature. The worst thing is, those blind organizations have become a safe haven for terrorists from both “radical Islamists and Arab nationalists extremists.”

  • Posted by David Kaufman

    Pleased to see that AI is properly investigating and reporting on human rights abuses by Hamas.

    Elliott Abrams: Will AI be properly investigating and reporting on the allegations that civilians were used as human shields during Operation Protective Edge last year? I really hope so.

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