HRW Comdemns Non-Violent Protest In Gaza

Posted on Thursday, November 23 at 15:38 by bracewell
HRW: Civilians Must Not Shield Homes Against Military Attacks
“Prime Minister Haniyeh and other Palestinian leaders should be renouncing, not embracing, the tactic of encouraging civilians to place themselves at risk,” said Whitson.
......Between July and November 15 this year, the IDF destroyed 251 homes in Gaza, leaving 1577 people homeless. In 105 of these cases the IDF destroyed the home by airstrike after warning the inhabitants to leave. While the IDF generally claims that militants used those homes to store weapons, they have not presented any concrete evidence in individual cases.
......As recently as July 2006, Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups have documented the IDF’s forcible use of Palestinians as human shields in a well publicized incident during military operations in Beit Hanoun. According to the groups, the IDF blindfolded six civilians, including two minors, and forced them to stand in front of soldiers who took over civilian homes during a raid in northern Gaza.
......Human Rights Watch has also reported extensively on the coerced use of Palestinian civilians during military operations, and documented the use of Palestinian civilians as “human shields” and for military purposes during the Israeli military operations in Jenin in 2002.

Critique of Human Rights Watch Helena Cobban
I've been having a bit of an email exchange today with the director of the Middle east Division of Human Rights Watch. Her emails stressed two points:
...... (1) “Whether or not the home is a legitimate military target, knowingly asking civilians to stand in harm’s way is unlawful” and
...... (2) that for Palestinian military commanders, in particular, to ask civilians to act as "human shields" in this way represented an unlawful attempt to put civilians at potential risk.
I countered:
......1) By these lights, for Mandela to call for South Africa's non-whites to engage in nonviolent mass actions would then also have "a war crime."
......2) In addition to alleged "military commanders," many other people also joined the mobilization effort in Gaza.
......3) That there has been no suggestion of any coercion being applied on anyone to participate in this quite voluntary human-shielding action (in contrast to the situation when Israel has forced Palestinians at gunpoint to act as human shields.) ......4) I wish I'd pointed out more forcefully that it does make a significant difference whether Israel’s target was a "legitimate military target", or not...
I strongly question why Sarah Leah and the rest of HRW's rushed to get this very definitive and accusatory press release out so very quickly. Especially given that over the past four months HRW had said not one word about Israel's horrible, very harmful resumption, back in July, of the practice of demolishing large numbers family homes in the Gaza Strip for purely punitive purposes.
......HRW did have the grace to finally mention at the very end of the press release the fact and scale of Israel's resumption of undertaking punitive home demolitions in Gaza. Notably, the text completely fails to call on Israel to cease the destruction of homes! (Which is a quite evident and serious infraction of the Geneva Conventions - in the absence of any evidence at all that the homes in question were used to store weapons.)

The Israelis earlier today sent ground forces into northern Gaza, installing some into Palestinian homes thereby "converting" them into military positions. This immediately turns the people living there into coerced human shields (Sarah Leah, where's the outrage?)
......One of the homes commandeered was that of female Hamas legislator Jameela al-Shanti, one of the main organizers of the recent civilian mass actions.

Here's the AP account:
......Troops also took over the home of a Hamas legislator who earlier in the month helped to organize a women's demonstration that let dozens of militants escape an Israeli siege on a Beit Hanoun mosque, the lawmaker, Jamila Shanti, told The Associated Press.
......A bulldozer chipped away at the walls of the two-story structure so troops could enter, relatives inside the house and neighbors told her, she said. Once inside, they locked about 15 members of her family, including five children, into a single room and threw furniture and clothes out of windows, she said. ......"They are only making us more stubborn," she said. "We will resist with our last drop of blood."
Bulldozers .. also created new routes of access by knocking down greenhouses in Jebaliya, Beit Hanoun and neighboring Beit Lahiya, and two small farmers' houses.

Just a couple of weeks ago the IDF's artillery shelled Shanti’s house, killing her sister-in-law Nahla, and terrifying all the children who live there. In what possible way was the house a legitimate military target for the IOF?

And finally, on HRW's double standards regarding "human shields" issue: recall the furore back in July when Israeli parents atook their children to visit an active artillery position in northern Israel, during the war with Hizbullah. All the girls all got to write messages on the artillery shells that were standing around there, and was photographed and quite widely discussed (including here .) HRW said absolutely nothing!
......But when the Palestinians of Gaza try to undertake an unarmed action of social defense of homes unjustifiably targeted for punitive demolition, HRW can't hurry fast enough to issue its denunciation. Sarah Leah, I don't understand what they're thinking.

Note: Human Rights Watch Cond... HRW: Civilians Must N... Critique of Human Righ... sent ground forces Here's the AP account: furore back in July here

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