Justice Ministry slams Amnesty report

Report says Israel's W. Bank activities are illegal, calls for int'l monitors.

bilin protest 298.88 (photo credit: )
bilin protest 298.88
(photo credit: )
The Justice Ministry charged on Monday that Amnesty International's report on Israel's treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank was "immoral" and "inaccurate." In its 44-page report, "Enduring Occupation, Palestinians Under Siege in the West Bank," released earlier in the day, Amnesty in turn called Israeli restriction of Palestinian movement in the West Bank "unlawful," "disproportionate" and "discriminatory." The report was released on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War. But it focused on the last seven years of violence, in which 4,000 Palestinians and 1,100 Israelis have been killed. It opened with the story of Palestinian baby Khaled Daud Faqih, which Amnesty alleged, died because his parents were delayed at a checkpoint and could not get him to a hospital fast enough. It moved quickly from there to the security fence, which it said was illegal under international law. It further alleged that the military's destruction of private Palestinian property during the building of the fence was a "war crime." In this latest report, Amnesty called on Israel to "end the land-grabbing, blockades and other violations of international law" in the West Bank. In a statement that accompanied the report, Amnesty's director of the Middle East and North Africa program, Malcolm Smart, wrote, "For 40 years, the international community has failed adequately to address the Israeli-Palestinian problem; it cannot, must not, wait another 40 years to do so." To help remedy the situation, Amnesty called for the "urgent deployment of an effective international human rights mechanism to monitor compliance." Those who violate international law should be prosecuted, it said. The Foreign Ministry told The Jerusalem Post that it rejected the idea of international monitoring body. The Justice Ministry, along with the Foreign Ministry, condemned the report as biased. "Israel views with the utmost importance the safeguarding of human rights and invests abundant resources in doing so," the Justice Ministry said. It charged that Amnesty's report was "riddled with mistakes and numerous factual and legal inaccuracies, including scant mention of Palestinian terrorism." In particular, the ministry took the report to task for not emphasizing the centrality of Palestinian terror. "The report does not contain even a vaguely factual presentation of the initiatives taken by Israeli law-enforcement authorities... to safeguard human rights," the Justice Ministry said. But Amnesty in turn refuted Israel's claim that it was concerned with the rights of Palestinians. To support its point, it provided statistics, photographs and personal stories about Palestinians who have been killed or suffered at the hands of Israelis. None of the same photographic or personal material was included with respect to the Israelis killed by Palestinian terrorists. Still, in a nod to Israel, the report does note that Israel believed the security fence as well as the 500 roadblocks and checkpoints are necessary to prevent suicide bombings. Vice Premier Shimon Peres, in an interview with Israel Radio on Monday, faulted the report for failing to make the link between the drop in suicide bombings in the last few years and the erection of the security fence, which is still being worked on. The researcher who wrote the Amnesty report, Donatella Rovera, said her organization's issue was not with the fence, but with the placement of 80 percent of it within the West Bank rather then along the pre-1967 borders. The report charged that the restrictions against Palestinians in the West Bank had less to do with security and were instead aimed at separating Palestinians from each other. "If the intention was simply to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from entering Israel, the barrier would be located on the Green Line," said Smart. He added that "Palestinians living in the West Bank are blocked at every turn. This is not simply an inconvenience - it can be a matter of life or death." He warned that the despair created by these measures was radicalizing the Palestinian population. "It is unacceptable that women in labor, sick children, or victims of accidents on their way to hospital should be forced to take long detours and face delays which can cost them their lives," Smart said.