Friday, February 6, 2009

AP's Israeli-centric international law

The only time international law is mentioned in Associated Press news reports is when AP can argue in defense of the overwhelmingly guilty state.

From a recent AP report, titled "Rights groups says laws of war violated in Gaza":

Human rights groups are seeking to build a case that Israel and Hamas violated the laws of war during the fighting last month in this tiny coastal territory - a charge both combatants reject. . . .

Given the clarity of Hamas' violations, such as firing rockets at Israeli cities, organizations are focusing more on Israeli actions, the facts of which they say are harder to establish.

So according to the AP editor, it is crystal-clear that one side committed war crimes. Not the side that committed collective punishment before, during, and after "the fighting" via blockade of the already starved and imprisoned population it occupies. Not the side that used anti-personnel weaponry, exploded at relatively high altitudes, over the most densely populated neighborhoods on earth, for maximum civilian-casualty effect. Not the aggressor-invader-occupier that promised another holocaust on the Palestinians, and sought to deliver it by targeting dozens of mosques, hospitals, schools, private residences, etc., with indomitable, U.S.-subsidized weaponry. No. The ghetto uprising is "clearly" guilty for its violent resistance to the "not-so-clearly" aggressive violence of the ghetto-masters.

Here is the defense argument allotted to the "too-foggy-to-be-guilty" side:

Israeli said its troops were responding to fire from militants near the school. . . .

Israel denies the army targeted the warehouse, saying the building was hit during intense combat with militants in that area. . . .

Israel says its army took great care to avoid harming civilians in Gaza. The military said it preceded some airstrikes with leaflets or phone calls warning civilians to flee - a contention confirmed by Gaza residents.

An Israeli helicopter pilot told the AP how he avoided civilians when shooting over Gaza.

"The ones I remember are when I have locked in on a target and I fire and then at the last second I see a child in my cross hairs and I divert the missile," said the 25-year-old captain, who only gave his first name, Orr, and was interviewed in the presence of a military censor.

At the same time, Israel acknowledges it loosened its rules of engagement for the Gaza war to lessen military casualties. As a result, ground troops moved under heavy covering fire from tanks and artillery, devastating entire neighborhoods.

Israel has blamed the high civilian death toll on Hamas militiamen fighting from civilian areas. . . .

Israel launched its offensive Dec. 27, calling it necessary to stop quell rocket and mortar fire that rained more than 10,000 shells on swaths of southern Israel since 2001, some hitting houses, schools and retirement homes.

The rockets had killed 24 Israelis since 2001 and injured more than 1,000, police said. Thirteen Israelis were killed during the Gaza offensive, including three civilians hit by rocket fire. . . .

The military responded to requests for comment on the specific cases in this article with a general statement saying Israeli soldiers do not target civilians. . . .

Israel's military said it used all munitions legally, but it has launched an investigation into whether troops used white phosphorus inappropriately.

And here is the total defense allotted to the "clearly guilty" side:

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum denied the group's men battled from civilian areas. He also called Hamas rocket attacks on southern Israel towns "a means of self-defense."

"Those are not civilians. They are all soldiers," Barhoum said of the residents of southern Israel. "We are firing at places that bring us the F-16s, the warplanes and the tanks."

Gee. Which will you side with? The ones with whom the editor agrees, and who give an elaborate, perceivably well-argued excuse? Or, the ones who give a short, dismissive, and perceivably callous remark, and whose guilt is stated as fact by the editor?

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Another joke of a "news report" was published recently; it was about those illegal Israeli "settlements" on Palestinian land in the West Bank. According to AP, they are only illegal when in defiance of "Israeli law."

The report — "Group: Settlement info implicates Israeli gov't" — comes very close to journalistic integrity, here:

The internationally backed "road map" peace plan, the basis for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, calls on Israel to halt all settlement activity. The settlements render the Palestinian goal of establishing a state that includes the West Bank all but impossible, and Israel will have to evacuate all or many of them as part of any peace agreement.
But, as is typical with AP, the indisputable legal status of those settlements — the elephant-in-the-room cause for why they are supposed to be "halt[ed]" and "evacuat[ed]" — is omitted.

Still, near the end of the report comes a glimmer of hope:

Michael Sfard, Yesh Din's legal counsel, called the information a "severe indictment" of Israel's military and government. Israeli authorities are "systematically violating international law and the property rights of Palestinian residents," Sfard said in a statement.
But, after all that, AP refuses to elaborate for the readers on how Israel might be "systematically violating international law and the property rights of Palestinian residents." If it was Hamas or Iran being probed for violations, the book would be thrown at them — from Hague 1907, to Nuremberg, to Geneva, to treaties, to alleged consensuses among "the international community," and on and on.

Make no mistake. What AP is doing here is deliberate misinformation by way of egregious omission. Necessary. Self-preserving. Ass-covering. Omission. The AP W. Jerusalem bureau, whence these reports come, is located on land in the West Bank that was stolen at gunpoint from Palestinians many decades ago by zionists. An untold number of the bureau's staffers are living illegally as "settlers" on the same Palestinian land on which the subjects of the report (those "settlements") were built. You don't suppose those staffers, or their bosses at editorial management, have the slightest incentive to omit certain legal facts, do you?

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