Letters to the Editor about Gaza

April 8, 2009

Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) received a number of letters about our recent action asking the State Department why they allowed a massive shipment of arms to Israel despite clear evidence of Israel violating international law during the recent Gaza conflict.  We thought it might be useful to publish anonymously some of these letters, along with our response, so readers could better understand why we’re promoting such an action.

I think Amnesty International also needs to determine if arms shipments to Israeli may be a response to the ongoing policy of Hamas. The policy includes provocative shelling of Israeli communities and an avowed position calling for destruction of Jewish State.

Surely a more moderate coalition of Palestinian interests would be a step toward a more stable two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians.

It would be a far better policy choice than random shelling of Israeli communities and incidental suicide bombings  within Israeli borders  to disrupt the peace process and give a poltical edge to hardliners within Israel.

Those who have supported the work of Amnesty International expect more even handed and less partisan posturing in this delicate situation.

As an organization that promotes the respect of internationally recognized human rights laws and principles, AIUSA believes it is critical to address violations by all parties to the conflict.  As such Amnesty International’s International Secretariat (IS), the part of Amnesty that is engaged with most of the investigative research, has repeatedly condemned both parties to the recent conflict in Gaza for violations or abuses of human rights.    For an example of an Amnesty report on Hamas, please see: “Hamas waged a deadly campaign as war devastated Gaza dated February 12, 2009“.

Since AIUSA is the U.S. section of Amnesty International, we have a special duty to ensure the U.S. government is promoting the respect of human rights when it provides arms and other military equipment to Israel and other fighting forces around the world. Amnesty’s investigative research uncovered significant evidence that Israel violated international humanitarian law during the recent conflict in Gaza, which is why we are asking Secretary Clinton to explain why and under what conditions she approved the recent delivery of tons of weapons to Israel.

What is the history of A.I. regarding the acts of terrorism against Israel for the past 60 years?

You can find statements, reports and actions on Israel/Occupied Territories here and here.

Where can I find the report about Israel’s use of white phosphorous?  This email makes it sound like it is certain that these chemicals were used: I need to see the report because the speculation has not been proven elsewhere as fact.

Our report Foreign Arms Supplies To Israel/Gaza Fueling Conflict includes evidence of the use of white phosphorous during the most recent conflict in Gaza.

I would like to know what advice Amnesty International would provide to the United States if the United States were to unilaterally reverse the Gadsden Purchase <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gadsden_Purchase> and return this land to Mexico, and then Mexico were to use this returned land to launch missiles, several times a day, on Phoenix and other nearby cities, and if this behavior continued for several years, and if the missiles were launched from population centers, including hospitals and elementary school yards.

California, Texas, and other southwestern states were once part of Mexico and are now part of the United States, and some people may view this as a historic wrong perpetrated by the United States against Mexico. But this would not cause right-thinking people to think that Mexican terrorist groups should be allowed to continue their murderous missile attacks against the United States.

If all this were happening, I think at some point the United States might conclude that there was no choice but to invade Mexico to stop the missiles.

So, by all means, continue to spotlight human rights abuses anywhere in the world, including those perpetrated by Israel, but a little context, please. Israel does not kill Palestinians for pleasure. With respect to Israel’s late 2008 invasion of Gaza, Israel used more care in avoiding civilian casualties than just about any other country in the world has ever done. (I challenge Amnesty International to identify any other invasion by any other country that faced similar challenges of rooting out multiple missile launch sites from population centers, and achieved any bit of this objective, with a smaller impact on non-combatants.)

The fact that civilians were killed and injured is attributable not to Israel, but to the abuse of human rights on the part of Hamas and other terrorist groups that choose to locate their missile launch sites in the most sensitive population centers.

(In contrast, Israel locates its military sites far from population centers, so that attackers can attack Israel’s military sites without fear of harming civilians. But those who attack Israel always go for maximum Israeli civilian deaths and ignore Israel’s military sites.)

By not providing any context and placing all of the blame on a party that responded to years of extreme provocation, Amnesty International is marginalizing itself among many knowledgeable, compassionate people, Jews and Gentiles alike, in the United States and around the world.

As the UN Charter enshrines, governments have a clear right and duty to defend itself and its citizens and residents.  It is in when governments fail to respect international humanitarian or human rights law that Amnesty raises concerns.  In the most recent conflict in Gaza, it was clear that in some cases the Israeli military did not take the necessary precautions to avoid civilian causalities.  Responding specifically to the example you have raised, it is quite true that Hamas has launched missiles from civilian/residential areas.  It, however, is also true that it is Hama’s modus operandi to leave the area within a minute of shooting the rocket.  Thus, when the Israeli military launched attacks on these areas two hours after Hama launched the rockets, there were only civilians in the area.

I have no problem with the arm shipments to Israel,. That is a sovereign nation protecting themselves from an outside force that keeps attacking it to “push them into the sea”.

I do have a problem with AI lack of outrage and letter writing on the genocide of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka.

Tons of weapons are being shipped to that govt. and an ongoing genocide is happening right now in that country every minute…A sovereign government that is killing, maiming and starving their own citizens.!!! and your organization does not show much outrage.. and doesn’t make it a AI alert..

For as long as the conflict in Sri Lanka has been going, Amnesty has been raising concerns about both parties to conflict. Outside of arms transfers to Israel and Sri Lanka, you should also be aware that Amnesty has written reports and pushed for changes on arms transfers to many other countries such as Burma, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe.