There exists a symbiotic relationship between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the media. NGOs rely on the publicity and exposure that the media gives to their activities while the media are only too happy to oblige, often taking the claims of NGO reports at face value.
It’s all too easy to throw around emotive language that contributes to the demonization of Israel: “war crimes,” “excessive force,” “callous disregard for human life.”
With the release of Amnesty International’s report “Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank,” the so-called human rights organization would certainly be thrilled with headlines such as these:
- “Amnesty says some Israeli West Bank killings may be war crimes” – Reuters
- “US and EU Urged To Halt Weapons Sales To Israel” – Sky News
- “Amnesty International accuses Israel of wilfully killing of Palestinians in the West Bank” – ABC News (Australia)
According to Reuters:
Israeli forces are using excessive, reckless violence in the occupied West Bank, killing dozens of Palestinians over the past three years in what might constitute a war crime, Amnesty International said on Thursday.
In a report entitled “Trigger Happy”, the human rights group accused Israel of allowing its soldiers to act with virtual impunity and urged an independent review of the deaths.
Sky News reports:
The US and EU governments must suspend all supplies of crowd-control “weapons and devices” to Israel until the country reigns in its use of force against Palestinians on the West Bank, a report has demanded
In the report “Trigger Happy: Israel’s Use of Excessive Force on the West Bank”, Amnesty International criticises what it calls Israel’s “callous disregard for human life” in its handling of Palestinian protests against occupation.
It points to an increase in the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces – with 27 people killed last year, in comparison to eight in 2012 and 10 in 2011, according to figures from the UN.
The IDF has responded by stating that Amnesty report wholly ignores the substantial increase in Palestinian violence initiated over the past year, and shows a complete lack of understanding as to operational challenges the IDF faces:
2013 saw a sharp increase in rock hurling incidents, gravely jeopardizing the lives of civilians and military personnel. 132 Israelis were injured during that year alone, almost double the number in 2012. This is no surprise considering that over 5,000 incidents of rock hurling took place, half of which were along main roads.
Sadly, rock throwing and violent demonstrations present only part of the operational challenges posed to the IDF by Palestinian violence in Judea and Samaria. Indeed in 2013 there were 66 further terror attacks which included shootings, the planting of IEDs, blunt weapon attacks and the abduction and murder of a soldier.
The IDF operates in Judea and Samaria in order to contain violence initiated by Palestinians. When feasible, the IDF contains this life-threatening violence using riot dispersal means, including loud sirens, water cannons, sound grenades and tear gas. Only once IDF forces exhaust these tools and human life and safety remains in danger, is the use of precision munition authorized.
The IDF holds itself to the highest of professional standards and trains and equips itself as such. When there is any suspicion of wrong doing, or breach of discipline, the IDF reviews, investigates and takes action where appropriate.
Meanwhile, Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan has issued a damning verdict on the Amnesty report in the Jewish Chronicle:
Amnesty’s latest report is far from impartial. A piece of naked anti-Israel propaganda, it is a stark reminder of just how far they have lost their way. The cynical timing of the report, published during Israel Apartheid Week, can only have been intended to fuel the demonisation of the Jewish state in schools and on campuses.
There is no attempt to place the actions of the Israeli security forces in context. No mention of the willful orchestration by Palestinian extremists of violent demonstrations to provoke Israeli troops into a response intended to result in death and injury among their own people for propaganda purposes — or even to lure security forces into lethal terrorist attacks. These are criminal actions.
Salil Shetty, Amnesty’s Secretary General, said in an interview only a few days ago: “Amnesty International is not an organisation with expertise on military situations”. This report shows just how true that is.
For example, the glib dismissal of petrol bombs as posing “little or no threat” to the lives of Israeli soldiers. I have seen first-hand how horrifically a petrol bomb can wound a soldier.
Amnesty’s recommendation that the US and EU ban the transfer of crowd control devices and training not only betrays its politicised support for anti-Israel boycotts but is naively counter-productive. Such systems could only help reduce violence.
Instead of using its resources to make a serious contribution towards easing the plight of the Palestinian people, Amnesty has produced a distorted report that will be exploited as a tool to incite even more hatred.
NGO Monitor has also criticized Amnesty:
In its report, Amnesty makes numerous non-specific claims without any supporting evidence, such as “Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers did not appear to be posing a direct and immediate threat to life” and the use of “arbitrary” force. In contrast, other monitoring groups such as B’Tselem acknowledge that the majority of Palestinian casualties occurred during combat or violent clashes and confrontations with Israeli security personnel. Amnesty’s removal of this essential context and abuse of the term “civilian” further highlights the lack of credibility. Similarly, in 2009, Amnesty played a central role in the discredited Goldstone report on the Gaza conflict, as well as in a number of other allegations targeting Israel. …
In the current report, no definitions or comparative data is provided to support Amnesty’s politicized allegations that Israeli forces are “trigger happy” and “reckless.” In fact, a review of police conduct around the world reveals that Israeli police and military conduct is far more restrained, considering the constant state of armed conflict and the sheer number of lethal situations that justify the use of deadly force, including violent riots and terror attacks.
If there is any doubt as to Amnesty’s anti-Israel agenda, its hosting at its London headquarters of a book launch in March 2014 for Israel-hating extremist Ben White’s book “Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide” should dispel any doubts as to the organization’s real motivations.
Meanwhile, the recent arrest by British police of Moazzem Begg, a former Guantanamo detainee whose cause was championed by Amnesty, says much about whose human rights are prioritized by the organization. Begg was arrested in connection with alleged Syria-related terrorism offences and is accused of attending a terrorist training camp and facilitating terrorism overseas.
Why then does Amnesty International continue to benefit from the “halo effect” - whereby because of its humanitarian focus, it is insulated from scrutiny and regarded as above reproach by the media?
In response to the report and the media outlets that have given it oxygen, HonestReporting CEO Joe Hyams said:
Amnesty International has demonstrated time after time a politicized anti-Israel agenda that betrays its claim to be advocating for human rights. It’s high time that the media start to ask questions of organizations such as Amnesty.
Stop giving cheap publicity to one-sided and biased reports attacking the IDF and those soldiers tasked with protecting themselves and Israeli civilians and start acknowledging the very real and potentially deadly threat of Palestinian violence.
Keep an eye on your local media for any further coverage of Amnesty International’s report and take action if you see Israel accused.