It apparently never occurred to anyone in our leading human rights organisations or the Western media that the same moral and legal standards ought be applied to the behaviour of Israel and Hizbullah during the war on Lebanon 18 months ago. Belatedly, an important effort has been made to set that right.
A new report, written by a respected Israeli human rights organisation, one representing the country’s Arab minority not its Jewish majority, has unearthed evidence showing that during the fighting Israel committed war crimes not only against Lebanese civilians — as was already known — but also against its own Arab citizens. This is an aspect of the war that has been almost entirely neglected until now.
The report also sheds a surprising light on the question of what Hizbullah was aiming at when it fired hundreds of rockets on northern Israel. Until the report’s publication last month, I had been all but a lone voice arguing that the picture of what took place during the war was far more complex than generally accepted.
The new report follows a series of inquiries by the most influential human rights groups, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, to identify the ways in which international law was broken during Israel’s 34-day assault on Lebanon. However, both organisations failed to examine, except in the most cursory and dismissive way, Israel’s treatment of its own civilians during the war. That failure may also have had serious repercussions for their ability to assess Hizbullah’s actions.