I usually take the side of Human Rights Watch against its critics on both the left and right, but this piece below deserves criticism. On the whole it’s a good and useful piece, pointing out the flaw in Israel’s claim that it tries hard to avoid civilian casualties. Unfortunately, however, the piece also claims that it’s hard to believe that Israeli forces would try to kill children. It’s all well and good to stick closely to the facts and not make charges one can’t prove, but there’s no reason to lean over backwards as HRW does in this case: “Dispatches: Explaining Four Dead Boys on a Gaza Beach. The Israel Defense Force has an answer to the shelling yesterday [July 16, pictured above] that killed four children near the Gaza City port.”
Here’s the offending portion–
“Atrocious as much of the Israeli bombing campaign of Gaza has been, it is hard to imagine Israeli forces deliberately trying to kill Ismail Bakr, 9, and his three cousins, Ahed, 10, Zakariya, 10, and Mohammad, 11, with an apparent missile attack, particularly when they were directly in front of a hotel full of foreign journalists.”
Okay, why exactly is it hard to imagine individuals in the Israeli military deliberately trying to kill Palestinian children, journalists present or not? Other militaries contain murderers. Is it because Israelis are special? One doesn’t have to think that every Israeli member of the armed forces is a cold-blooded child killer, but clearly many have behaved brutally in maintaining the occupation. A few Israelis could perfectly well have decided to take a potshot at some kids on the beach for sport, knowing full well that they would probably not be punished for it.
How many members of the IDF spend long periods in prison for war crimes? And so what if journalists saw it? Just claim that it was a tragic mistake. Without a careful investigation by the Israelis themselves (yeah, right), how would anyone be able to tell for sure?
I don’t know whether the killing of the children was deliberate, or “merely” the result of reckless and indiscriminate fire, but neither does HRW. There is no reason to assume the best when children are killed in such a suspicious fashion.