THE PLANK OCTOBER 20, 2009
To follow up on my item on Human Rights Watch, I slightly mischarcaterized HRW's reply. The organization didn't say that the vast majority of its reports were on othe countries, it said that about the vast majority of its Middle East/North Africa reports. That certainly narrows it down. But it still doesn't respond to the complaint, which is that the attention to Israel is disproportionate. A perusing of HRW's work suggests that israel receives far more criticism than any other country in the region -- a questionable use of resources, considering that Israel is the most democratic state in the region, with the most active and free press and human rights community.
Meanwhile, Matthew Yglesias writes:
The argument in the second graf I quote is, huffing and puffing aside, all there is to Bernstein’s argument. He thinks that Hamas and Hezbollah “started it” and Israel is acting in self-defense, and that countries acting in self-defense should generally be exempted from international humanitarian law and human rights norms. This is a thesis a lot of people seem eager to embrace in the specific case of Israel, but few people seem prepared to defend as a general proposition or to apply as a general matter.
But Bernstein does not argue that. He writes:
The organization is expressly concerned mainly with how wars are fought, not with motivations. To be sure, even victims of aggression are bound by the laws of war and must do their utmost to minimize civilian casualties. Nevertheless, there is a difference between wrongs committed in self-defense and those perpetrated intentionally.
By the way, if you want more debate between Yglesias and me, we will be debating J Street, the Israel lobby and Middle East Policy at J Street's conference on Tuesday, October 27 at 9:00 AM.