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(photo credit: AP)
There's a certain asymmetry in the international demonization of Israel. Organizations like Human Rights Watch [HRW] get to make things up out of whole cloth, but Israel has to spend precious resources disproving the charges.
By the time the nonsense is debunked, the news cycle is long gone. And nobody publishes "turns out, Israel didn't commit war crimes after all" articles. In addition, anti-Israel academics just repeat the myths anyway since they can just footnote the original report.
For example, in 2006 HRW put out a report saying that Israel took potshots at Lebanese civilians waving white flags. It was dutifully picked up by the usual outlets. Of course the report was nonsense - Israel produced documents and videotapes showing the "civilians" waving white flags were Hizbullah soldiers launching missiles.
But as of 2008 the report is still being cited in academic dissertations under headings like "8.1.1 Possible war crimes committed by Israel."
EARLIER THIS month, HRW published a study pointing out that, yes, Hamas did in fact try to kill Israeli civilians. Rather than let that simmer for a while, it quickly published a brand new "Israel shot at civilians waving white flags" report. This way, it can say "we release reports on both sides" - which is what it did in its Lebanon "white flags" incident - without bringing up how its anti-Israel reports are (a) more numerous, (b) mostly false and (c) timed to starve any anti-Hizbullah or anti-Hamas reports of coverage.
The money line from the summary of the new report, helpfully boldfaced on its Web site says: "In the 11 killings documented in this report, Human Rights Watch found no evidence that the civilian victims were used by Palestinian fighters as human shields or were shot in the crossfire between opposing forces. The civilian victims were in plain view and posed no apparent security threat."
This is the same organization that also stated - flat out - that there was no evidence that civilians were used by Hizbullah fighters as human shields. Of course there was the photographic evidence and the video evidence and how Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah explicitly bragged about using human shields - but whatever.
And in Gaza, there's the photographic evidence and video evidence and how Hamas explicitly bragged about using human shields... - but whatever.
Which is not to say that HRW is outrightly making the whole thing up. It could be that its vaunted Palestinian witnesses are the ones making it up. Of course HRW representatives wrote that they used "ballistic evidence found at the scene, medical records of victims and lengthy interviews with multiple witnesses."
Except ballistic evidence and medical records can't establish anything about white flags and by "multiple" they mean "three" and by "witnesses" they mean "embittered people who hate Israel." But other than that - solid.
This is the third anti-Israel report that HRW has published on Operation Cast Lead. At least HRW's Saudi funders are getting their money's worth.
The writer is the publisher of Mere Rhetoric (www.mererhetoric.com), a blog focusing on the geopolitical, cultural, and economic dimensions of the global war between the West and political Islam. He studies rhetoric at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School forCommunication, where he is currently a PhD candidate. He can be reached at email@example.com