It takes considerable talent to describe Hamas’s firing of primitive “rockets” that to date have indirectly killed one person (she died of a heart attack) as a “war crime,” while describing Israel’s killing to date of 120 Palestinians, overwhelmingly civilians, and its systematic targeting of civilian infrastructure, as mere “collective punishment.”
But it’s what one has come to expect from HRW. In 2008 HRW issued a report entitled FLOODING SOUTH LEBANON: Israel’s use of cluster munitions in Lebanon in July and August 2006. The report found that Israel dropped as many as 4.6 million cluster submunitions on south Lebanon during the 2006 war. It was – in HRW’s words – “the most extensive use of cluster munitions anywhere in the world since the 1991 Gulf war,” while relative to the size of the targeted area the density of the attack was historically unprecedented. Some 90 percent of these cluster munitions were dropped during the final three days “when Israel knew a settlement was imminent” (HRW), the U.N. ceasefire resolution having already been passed but not yet gone into effect. But, although finding that Israel committed “extensive violations” of the laws of war, HRW did not go beyond stating that Israel’s massive resort to cluster munitions was “in some locations possibly a war crime,” even as the evidence HRW itself assembled conclusively showed that Israel was targeting civilian population centers.
HRW now says that targeting the civilian homes of Hamas militants constitutes mere collective punishment. So, let’s see. Israel prides itself on having a citizen army. Virtually every civilian dwelling in Israel contains a family member who is either in the army or the reserves. If Hamas had precision missiles, issued an official warning that henceforth it would be targeting every civilian dwelling in Israel, and then proceeded to do just that, would HRW call it mere “collective punishment”?