Friday, September 07, 2007

Hezbollah Fighters Did Not Systematically Embed Themselves With Civilians in Lebanon

A little while back, certain commentators were jumping all over a report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) regarding the war in Lebanon last summer. According to reports:

"Human Rights Watch's report said it found numerous rockets fired by Hezbollah in which there was no apparent legitimate military target, indicating civilians were deliberately attacked.

The report also said Hezbollah's justifications that the rocket attacks were a response to Israeli fire into southern Lebanon and aimed at drawing Israel into a ground war had no legal basis under the rules of war.

"Hezbollah's explanations for why it fired rockets at Israel's civilian population utterly fail to justify these unlawful attacks," said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa division. "Hezbollah, like Israel, must respect the laws of war."

This was given as evidence, by the usual suspects (ie USS Neverdock), that Hezbollah was the only guilty party in the conduct of the war. Amongst the many other accusations of bloggers such as these, were claims that the reporting of civilian casualties in Lebanon was grossly exaggerated. Marc at USS Neverdock has gone so far as to call these claims 'lies'. Now a new report by HRW has exposed these counter-claims as lies themselves. According to The Guardian:

Israel was accused yesterday of firing indiscriminately during last year's 34-day war in Lebanon in a report by Human Rights Watch which challenged Israel's claim that the high number of civilian casualties resulted from Hizbullah shielding itself among the Lebanese population.

In a 249-page investigation, the New York-based group said its research showed that even though the militants were also guilty of serious violations of the laws of war, there was no evidence that they systematically fought from among civilians.

Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, dismissed Israel's claim to have killed 600 Hizbullah fighters. He said the best estimate was that there were 250 Hizbullah fighters among the 1,109 Lebanese deaths. About 160 Israeli civilians and soldiers were killed.

So, the levels of civilian deaths would appear to be accurate after all. Not only that, it would appear that the oft-repeated claims of elements of the mainstream media (that embedding themselves within the civilian population was part of a systematic policy) was entirely fabricated in order to support Israeli bombing raids. This report was itself buried on page 8 of the international edition of The Guardian (I would be interested to know where it was placed in the domestic edition).

Of course, we shouldn't expect this report to make an appearance on right-wing blogs, unless they attempt to discredit it. This is the problem with many right-wing commentators when they use human rights organisations' reports to support their arguments. They spend too often discrediting them, it seems hard to believe that they would then take the report as gospel just because it 'supports' their tenuous arguments. There will, no doubt, be further attacks on HRW on blogs like USS Neverdock which rather undermines their arguments when they use them as evidence. Who decides when a report by a human rights organisation is worthy or not? You either support their findings in their entirety, or you do not. You cannot pick and choose which ones are valid based on political prejudice. Those that do, can never be taken seriously as a political commentator. But then I guess these bloggers have no intention of being treated as serious commentators, they are merely interested in spreading one-sided propaganda.