Sunday, June 13, 2010

Reuters misconstrues Geneva Conventions (updated)

Reuters reports that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has issued a statement accusing both Israel and Hamas of violating the Geneva Conventions.  As of the time of this writing, the ICRC statement doesn't yet appear on its website but Reuters correspondent Stephanie Nebehay reports that the ICRC has decided for the first time:
Israel's blockade constitutes a violation of international humanitarian law embodied in the Geneva Conventions.
Nebehay goes on to assert:
The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, ratified by Israel, bans collective punishment of a civilian population.
Nebehay is mistaken.  It is not the Fourth Geneva Convention but rather, Protocol II, a 1977 amendment to the Geneva Conventions, that specifically addresses the issue of collective punishment.  Neither Israel nor several other states (including the US) have ratified this additional Protocol.  Moreover:
Protocol II is a 1977 amendment protocol to the Geneva Conventions relating to the protection of victims of non-international armed conflicts. It defines certain international laws that strive to provide better protection for victims of internal armed conflicts that take place within the borders of a single country. The scope of these laws is more limited than those of the rest of the Geneva Conventions out of respect for sovereign rights and duties of national governments.
In other words, even if Israel were a signatory, the Protocol wouldn't apply in the case of the conflict between Israel and Hamas as Gaza is not a part of Israel.

Nebehay's lede, "Israel's Gaza blockade breaks law, says ICRC", and the bulk of her story attempt to assign blame for Gaza's woes to Israel but in the last few paragraphs, we can glean who is ultimately responsible for problems like fuel shortages, power cuts, and a lack of medical supplies:
"The Palestinian authorities ... must do everything within their power to provide proper health care, supply electricity and maintain infrastructure for Gaza's people," it [the ICRC] added.
Fuel reserves in Gaza, vital for keeping hospital generators running during daily power cuts, keep drying up, it [the ICRC] said.
Stocks of essential medical supplies were at an all-time low because of a halt in cooperation between authorities in Ramallah, the Fatah-ruled West Bank, and Gaza, the agency said.
If Hamas didn't confiscate for military purposes half the fuel transferred to Gaza, perhaps reserves wouldn't keep drying up.  But then the ICRC and Reuters would be deprived of an easy scapegoat.

UPDATE JUNE 14, 2010: The statement from the ICRC (actually a news release) on Gaza has now been posted on its website and lo and behold, there's no accusation that Israel has violated Geneva Conventions to which it is a signatory; indeed, there's not a single mention of the Geneva Conventions!  Assuming this is the statement to which Nebehay refers -- the language is consistent with that cited in the Reuters story -- Nebehay has simply fabricated out of whole cloth, the allegation.  The calumnies continue.

UPDATE II JUNE 14, 2010: Reuters correspondent Jeffrey Heller, who has proven himself a serial liar, takes Nebehay's lead and repeats the canard.

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