Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hamas Finds No Wrongdoing By Hamas

We already discussed the likely shortcomings of any Israeli probe into IDF operations during the Gaza war. Now, Hamas has released the results of its "investigation" into its own conduct, finding that (surprise!), despite all appearances to the contrary, it was aiming at military targets. All those rockets raining down on Sderot (which has no military bases)? Just misfires, due to the fact that their rockets are unguided (if only they had better rockets!).

When the probe was announced, I differed with Matt Yglesias in that I thought Hamas' superficial participation in such "inquiries" was more harmful than good. Neither of us buys into the "transparent nonsense" (Matt's words) that Hamas was aiming for military targets. However, he thought that it signaled that Hamas saw its legitimacy as being tied at least to the perception that it was in adherence to human right standards. I argue that Hamas' participation was part of a larger strategy aimed at blurring human rights categories altogether, transforming them from legal principles into ambiguous tools suitable for a "lawfare" assault on Israel. Getting Hamas to superficially participate in human rights discourse is like getting Soviet-bloc states to sign human rights treaties they had no intention of upholding: a superficial, unaccountable move aimed at muddying the waters. The only way it could be seen as a positive step is if the international community holds their feet to the fire, Helsinki Watch style.

In other words, it does nobody any good (in fact, does much harm) if Hamas can simply say it is adhering to human rights standards, alongside patently ridiculous "reports" affirming the same. We will see if this report is taken by the relevant bodies with the derisive laughter it deserves, but I'm skeptical. And insofar as this dissipates pressure to hold Hamas account for its criminal acts, or serves as prop for disingenuous commentators to pretend Hamas is something it isn't, it is a qualitatively bad thing for the cause of human rights and the cause of peace.

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