Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Amnesty International: As Clueless As Ever

In JPost today, Amnesty International responds to Alan Dershowitz's critique of their report condemning Israel for committing war crimes. Dershowitz accuses them of being anti-Israel, and AI offers evidence that they are evenhanded and merely interested in criticizing the conduct of both parties.

I disagree with Dershowitz that AI is anti-Israel. AI, like the ACLU, has an extreme position on human rights law and defines any "gray" conduct as illegitimate. But even more, it focuses more on states than terrorist groups. This trend is not limited to Israel, but applies in all cases of war and hostilities.

But AI is clueless. Here are some examples:

1) Amnesty cites the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions as a source for the proportionality requirement. That argument is meaningless because Israel has never signed the Protocols. AI has the burden of proof to show that the proportionality requirement (as laid out by Protocol) is either a norm or custom. The latter requires a mix of state statements (opino juris) to that effect and state conduct following the custom. The former requires that the norm be imbedded in the international legal system. I have yet to see proof that the Protocol's understanding of proportionality is either custom or a norm.

2) Dershowitz argues that if roads are used for military means, then they are legitimate targets. AI makes the shocking flawed argument that

If Dershowitz's interpretation were correct, Hizbullah's indiscriminate bombardment of Israel would be lawful, since roads in Israel are used both by military and civilians. But Hizbullah's bombing was not lawful. It was criminal.

Um, hello?!! If Hizbullah had merely targeted roads, most of us wouldn't have called it war crimes (although hopefully AI would have). But Hizbullah shot thousands of rockets indiscriminately at populated cities, intending to maximize civilian causalities.

3) AI admits that it will condemn Hizbullah in its "forthcoming report." Uh, under AI's definition of international humanitarian law, Hizbullah clearly committed war crimes by targeting civilians. We know where the missiles landed and there's absolutely zero evidence that Hizbullah intended to only target civilian infrastructure. How long does it take write a report on Hizbullah's conduct?

To repeat: I don't think AI or Human Rights Watch is anti-Israel or anti-Semitic. Those terms are often bandied around by people with little understanding of the complexities and nuances of the issues involved. But to use AI as a moral compass is simply to stick one's head into the sand.

4 Comments:

Blogger Charlie Hall said...

I agree with your assessment. Had the allies followed AI's rules of engagement, Hitler would not have been defeated.

9/13/2006 11:10 AM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

AI is starting to make up for it... finally calling Hezbollah's actions war crimes as well. It's a start.

9/14/2006 11:22 AM  
Blogger Nephtuli said...

AI already condemned Hizbollah's actions as war crimes. That's not the problem. It's that they take an unrealisitic stance on human rights and that they expect more out of countries than terrorist groups. Why else would it take them weeks to condemn Hizbollah? Why have they still not put out a report on Hizbollah's conduct?

9/14/2006 12:35 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

Oh, I agree. I was just noting the one part.

9/14/2006 4:51 PM  

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