Human Rights Watch absorbed a major blow to its credibility when Richard Goldstone recanted his September 2009 report on Israel’s war in Gaza. After all, the organization has been one of the report’s leading cheerleaders, and it has long stood at the center of the campaign to delegitimize Israeli self-defense against Palestinian terrorism. No one should have been surprised when Kenneth Roth, the executive director, claimed that the charge that Israel deliberately targeted civilians—now shown to be false—is somehow still true.
Writing in the Guardian, itself a hotbed of anti-Zionism, Roth first claims that Goldstone is right to say now “that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.” But then he contradicts himself by asserting that Israel’s “large-scale attacks” and use of artillery was nevertheless a war crime. Roth’s conclusion is that “this misconduct was so widespread and systematic that it clearly reflected Israeli policy.”
Roth apparently is not to be shaken from his belief that Israel’s entire campaign was illegitimate for no other reason than that the Hamas terrorists took up their positions among civilians.
To Roth it is meaningless that, as Goldstone now acknowledges, Israel investigated each individual charge of misconduct by its soldiers and punished anyone who was guilty. Roth continues to think that it is Israel’s “top brass and policymakers” who belong in the dock. Why? Because his problem is not really with the issue of whether mistakes or the fog of war led to Palestinian civilian casualties. While he concedes that Hamas has no right to fire missiles at Israeli civilians, he remains silent about the terrorists’ tactic of hiding behind its own civilians. By his twisted logic, Israel has no right to defend itself against illegal cross-border attacks since any military effort to go after Hamas would, by definition, constitute a “war crime.”
Roth’s seemingly even-handed call on both Hamas and Israel to conduct further investigations into their own conduct is a sham. He knows perfectly well (as Goldstone should have known all along) that the Islamist terrorist group is convinced of its right to kill as many Jews as possible. What is worse, the rules of conduct he demands of Israel would make it impossible for the Jewish State to defend itself at all. Roth’s high-minded rhetoric notwithstanding, Human Rights Watch seems to want nothing so much as to grant functional immunity to Hamas’s acts of terrorism. Such a stand has nothing to do with human rights and everything to do with the anti-Israel agenda of Human Rights Watch.