The Non-Government Organization (NGO) Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, has just published a new Report. It focuses on injuries, fatalities and damage to civilians and hospitals in Gaza during the July-August, 2014 Gaza-Israel war. The Report is entitled, “Gaza 2014. Findings of an Independent Medical Fact-Finding Mission”. It was published January 20, 2014.
The Report claims to be both independent and objective. It assures us that, “PHR-Israel recruited 8 independent international medical experts, unaffiliated with Israeli or Palestinian parties involved in the conflict” (Report, p. 8). That sounds good. It suggests that independent experts went to Gaza with an open mind, free from influence by any of the combatants.
The statement continues: : “four [of the experts have] special expertise in the fields of forensic medicine and pathology; and four [are] experts in emergency medicine, public health, paediatrics and paediatric intensive care, and health and human rights” (ibid).
But a closer look at these experts reveals that they may not be so ‘independent’ after all. Yes, the Report seems to showcase their individual medical expertise. But at the end of its list of medical fields we discover, ‘health and human rights’, as if human rights was an expertise separate from the medical expertise listed. It isn’t.
For too many of these ‘experts’, medicine and human rights go together. They appear to have drunk the proverbial kool-aid of an anti-Israel Human Rights ‘humanitarianism’—along with their medical work (“Preliminary Critique of PHR-I´s "Independent Medical Fact-Finding Mission", NGO Monitor, January 21, 2015). They are, for the most part, involved with Human Rights advocacy (ibid). Many of the fact-finding members are political activists with a history of biased remarks (ibid). One is a member of the advisory board of the anti-Israel PHR (which produced this Report). They are not simply doctors. They use their medical expertise to dig for human rights violations (ibid).
Certainly, PHR-Israel is not objective. It has a bias—and it’s clear about that bias. It says on its Homepage, under the heading, ‘Who we are’, that, “It is PHR-Israel’s view that Israel’s prolonged occupation over Palestinian territory is the basis of human rights violations.”
According to this statement, PHR-Israel approaches its human rights work in Israel with three unsubstantiated assumptions: first, all of the territory claimed by ‘Palestinians’ is in fact ‘Palestinian territory’; second, all of that ‘territory’ is truly ‘occupied’ by Israel; and third, if Israel ‘occupies’ it, there will be human rights violations.
PHR-Israel is not objective. It has an agenda. That agenda is anti-Israel.
PHR-Israel isn’t even as ‘unaffiliated’ as its Report purports. This Report was completed in affiliation with Hamas and Palestinian medical organizations known for their ties to the virulently anti-Israel Hamas (NGO Monitor, ibid). These organizations ‘coordinated’ both the field work and the research completed by the experts (Report, p. 8). These organizations are political advocacy NGO’s that push delegitimization campaigns against Israel--and may lack true medical expertise (NGO Monitor, ibid).
True to its anti-Israel bias, this new PHR-Israel Report is one-sided (ibid). For example, the Report concludes that the evidence it has collected should be used to investigate Israel for violations of International human rights and humanitarian law (Report, pp 98-99). The Report does not ask if Hamas played a role in injuries to Gazans or damages to Gazan hospitals.
The Report ignores actions by Hamas that endangered both civilians and hospitals. Instead, the Report does what most Human Rights advocates do. It says, look at the damage theses Israeli bombs did to these hospitals and patients. Israel must be investigated (Report, p.99).
By contrast, a very different report appeared four months ago, in the Daily Mail, which came to very different conclusions about civilian injury and hospital damage in Gaza (“Hamas admits it DID use schools and hospitals in Gaza Strip as 'human shields' to launch rocket attacks on Israel”, September 12, 2014).
First of all, this earlier report didn’t begin with the anti-Israel bias that if Israel did something in a ‘Palestinian territory’, it must have automatically committed human rights violations. Instead, it began with a look at Hamas’ use of human shields, hospitals, and residential areas to launch rockets at Israel (ibid).
The Daily Mail reported that Hamas admitted it had used human shields and hospitals. It admitted that it had fired rockets from heavily populated areas. It admitted, in other words, that it had committed war crimes.
PHR-Israel ignored all thought about Hamas culpability in war crimes which could have led to hospital and patient damages.
The Report doesn’t bother to investigate how both combatants in this war might have caused damages to hospitals and civilians. It simply went for the Jewish jugular: it ignored Hamas and determined that Israel is no doubt guilty of humanitarian violations. It recommends that Israel alone be investigated for these violations.
The Report claims that more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed in the war, and more than 11,000 were wounded (Report, p. 8). But it demonstrates that Israel was responsible for “patterns of injury and attack” [emphasis mine] (Report, p. 26) by interviewing only 68 hospitalised patients (Report, pp. 9 and 31) and looking at digital images of only 75 killed individuals (Report p 31).
While more than 11,000 were injured in Gaza and more than 2,100 killed (Report, p. 14), these medical experts draw their anti-Israel conclusions based on interviews with only 68 injured and an examination of 75 deaths--in digital format. They learn of ‘patterns’ of injury from just 6 tenths of one per cent of total injuries. Is that a scientifically valid sampling?
The Report doesn’t say. It neglects to validate that this number of injured and dead constitutes a scientifically representative sampling of all injuries and deaths. Such a representation is significant because the Report focuses on patterns--which can only be discerned by analysing large numbers. If the injured and dead they studied do not accurately represent the total pool of injured and dead, how can one be certain that their conclusions are accurate for anyone other than the group studied?
The Report forgets something else: it neglects to tell us which of the dead and injured were civilians, combatants or human shields used by Hamas. Israel might be culpable if these injured and dead were innocent by-standers. But Israel, by international law, is not culpable for the death of combatants or human shields used by an enemy. Those are Hamas’ responsibility.
The inference of the Report, however, is that all the injured and dead are civilians. All were killed by Israeli ordinance (and not by Hamas misfires). None were human shields. We are simply asked to assume that all were innocent victims of inhumane Israeli war tactics. We are offered no evidence to suggest that such inference is true.
The Report even accuses Israel of not providing safe haven for Gazan civilians who had been exposed to danger by their own leaders’ deliberate use of civilian areas for combat purposes.
There is much about this Report that is false, misleading, unscholarly and unprofessional. It isn’t objective. It’s so badly executed, it brings professional shame to the ‘experts’ who signed it.
This Report serves only one useful purpose. It illustrates what false testimony looks like when it’s dressed up as ‘fact-finding’.