A couple of items in today’s news caught my attention today which I would classify in the category of post-Hannukah miracles (or Christmas miracles for those who are celebrating).
The first and more important item is that Human Rights Watch, the NGO generally more interested in accusing Israel of war crimes than in prosecuting the genuine and most egregious human rights abuses that are endemic in the Middle East, has finally seen fit to accuse Hamas of violating the laws of war with their indiscriminate rocket-fire into Israel:
Armed Palestinian groups firing rockets at Israeli cities violated the laws of war during Operation Pillar of Defense, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Monday.
“Palestinian armed groups made clear in their statements that harming civilians was their aim,” said HRW’s Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson. “There is simply no legal justification for launching rockets at populated areas.”
The group also found that Gazan groups, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committee, justified targeting civilian centers as reprisal for Israeli strikes, an act also banned under international law.
Furthermore, such groups “repeatedly fired rockets from densely populated areas, near homes, businesses and a hotel, unnecessarily placing civilians in the vicinity at grave risk from Israeli counter- fire,” the report said.
The detailed report included examples of rockets being launched from densely populated areas in Gaza, and noted that groups fired from underground tunnels with hatches for the first time.
I’m sure we’re all delighted and relieved that HRW have finally seen fit to condemn Hamas. However we shouldn’t get too excited. They are still managing to find fault with Israel:
A week earlier, HRW reported that Israeli attacks on journalists and media facilities during the operation also violated laws of war, saying that Israel provided no specific information to justify claims that they were military targets.
“Just because Israel says a journalist was a fighter or a TV station was a command center does not make it so,” Whitson said. “Journalists who praise Hamas and TV stations that applaud attacks on Israel may be propagandists, but that does not make them legitimate targets under the laws of war.”
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, the president of HRW watchdog group NGO Monitor, said in response to that report: “This is yet another example of HRW’s systematic lack of credibility and its biased approach to Israel.”
HRW, the group said, had lost “credibility over a number of Middle East-related issues.”
If HRW continues to focus on real human rights violations like those committed by Hamas, it will go a little way to restoring their lost credibility.
The second minor miracle was that outgoing Defence Minister Ehud Barak has given his approval granting Ariel University Center (AUC) the official status of a university. Earlier this year, AUC’s upgrade to a university was approved by the Council of Higher Education in Judea and Samaria, but the final approval from Barak was still required since Judea and Samaria have not been annexed by Israel and are still considered “disputed territory” and therefore under the command of the Defence Ministry.
From the Ynet link above:
Outgoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak has instructed GOC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon to officially recognize the Ariel University Center of Samaria as a full-fledged university, as per Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein’s recommendation.
Weinstein on Monday upheld the Judea and Samaria Higher Education Council’s decision to accredit the school.
Despite staunch opposition on the part of the national Council for Higher Education, the cabinet decided to recognize the institution as the first Israeli university beyond the Green Line this past September. The government then submitted the resolution for the approval of GOC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, pending the attorney general’s review.
Weinstein, who on Monday finally submitted his official take on the matter, said that there are “no obstacles” that could bar the accreditation, adding that the move to recognize the school was in accordance with the law.
Weinstein disregarded the national council’s opposition, noting that decisions pertaining to colleges located beyond the Green Line are within the Judea and Samaria Higher Education Council’s jurisdiction.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the school’s chancellor, Yigal Cohen-Orgad, on Monday and noted that “after decades, there is another university in Israel.” Netanyahu said the step has “empowered” the higher education system in the country.
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who chairs the Council for Higher Education, lauded the development as well: “The Ariel University Center’s certification as the eighth university in Israel is a significant step for the entire higher education system,” he said.
Of course, this being Israel, the news is not all roses and there are vociferous objections from the usual suspects, as happened when the upgrade was first announced in the summer:
The Council of Presidents of Israeli Universities blasted the decision: “It’s unfortunate that the attorney general has decided to uphold an inadequate measure that is plagued with political interests and extraneous considerations and will prove to be disastrous for higher education in Israel,” the council said.
The council claimed that no proper inquiry was made into the feasibility of the accreditation and into the college’s academic quality.
“The matter is now in the hands of the High Court of Justice and we believe this decision will be overturned,” the council said.
Hmm. Perhaps I should withhold the declaration of a miracle until after the High Court’s decision. We live in a crazy country.