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Former British Commander: Amnesty Report Will Incite Even More Hatred (INTERVIEW)

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Retired Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British Forces in Afghanistan.

Retired Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British Forces in Afghanistan.

“Instead of making a meaningful contribution to reducing violence, Amnesty has produced a report that will be exploited as a tool to incite even more hatred,” Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, told The Algemeiner in an interview on Friday.

Amnesty International’s report, Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank, released on Thursday, was condemned by the retired commander, who served in the British Army from 1977 to 2006 and frequently collaborated with Israel Defense Forces, who he’s credited for instructing British forces on how to defend against suicide bombings.

“The undisguised one-sidedness in this report is a technique reserved by human rights groups like Amnesty for Israel alone,” Kemp said. “No other nation on Earth is singled out for this kind of distortion of the truth, not even the worst human rights offenders, such as Syria, Sudan and Pakistan.”

Kemp said Amnesty’s report was reminiscent of the Goldstone report on Cast Lead, Israel’s 2009 operation in Gaza, produced for the United Nations that was subsequently discredited.

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“The flawed methodology of the Goldstone report has been re-cycled by Amnesty,” he said. “Both treated unsubstantiated allegations made by local people as being absolute proof of Israeli heavy-handedness and wrong-doing. Both failed to take any account of the immense pressures imposed on Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank to follow the anti-Israel line of their leaders, irresistible pressures that self-evidently have an effect on what is said to UN and Amnesty investigators, even when witnesses are guaranteed anonymity.”

Kemp said he was also very concerned about Amnesty’s lack of proficiency in investigating and assessing military operations.

“This is another area of similarity between Amnesty and Goldstone, whose team was also notable for its lack of credible military expertise,” he said. “Amnesty’s ignorance of realities on the ground permeates every page of this report.”

“In fact even Salil Shetty, the Secretary General of Amnesty admitted to this glaring weakness just days before the report was published when he said [in a February 10 Al Jazeera interview]: ‘Amnesty International is not an organization with expertise on military situations.'”

As a career military officer with deep expertise in similar regional conflicts, Kemp spoke from real world experience that he said was nowhere reflected in the Amnesty report.

“The report is so dismissive of the seriousness of violent assaults by Palestinian crowds as to imply that Israeli use of lethal and non-lethal force is unprovoked,” he said. “Amnesty suggest that petrol bombs pose little or no threat to the life of Israeli soldiers. Have the report’s authors ever been on the receiving end of petrol bombs? I have and I’ve seen how horrifically a petrol bomb can wound a soldier.”

“Amnesty also ignore the planned orchestration by extremists of violent demonstrations to provoke Israeli troops into a response intended to result in death and injury among their own people. We find such actions unthinkable, but they are designed for propaganda purposes and to stir-up anti Israel hatred.”

Kemp said that was the same technique as Hamas’s self-proclaimed use of human shields in Gaza about which he wrote a monograph in 2009 for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and testified to the United Nations Human Rights Council in response to the introduction of the Goldstone report that accused Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during the Gaza War.

At the time, Kemp acknowledged that, “of course, innocent civilians were killed. War is chaos and full of mistakes. There have been mistakes by the British, American and other forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq, many of which can be put down to human error. But mistakes are not war crimes.”

He said, “based on my knowledge and experience, I can say this: during operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defense Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in the combat zones than any other army in the history of warfare.”

Returning to the Amnesty report, Kemp described it as “often confused and contradictory.”

“For example, Amnesty conclude that Israeli troops use excessive force against Palestinians with impunity. Yet the report mentions the case of a soldier who was convicted and imprisoned by the Israeli authorities in 2013 for causing the death of a Palestinian by negligently firing against his rules of engagement.”

“The report criticizes Israel for an increase in the number of civilian deaths and injuries during 2013. Of course any such rise is a cause for grave concern, but nowhere does Amnesty even acknowledge the sharp increase in violent disorder by Palestinians in 2013 reported by the IDF, which has necessitated increased intervention by security forces.”

On Thursday, the IDF said in 2013 there were 5,000 incidents of Palestinian Arabs throwing rocks at Israelis, equivalent to 75 incidents per day, with half of those along main roads. As a result, 132 Israelis were injured last year, nearly double the count in 2012.

The IDF said, “Sadly, rock throwing and violent demonstrations present only part of the operational challenges posed to the IDF by Palestinian violence in Judea and Samaria. Indeed, in 2013 there were 66 further terror attacks which included shootings, the planting of IEDs, blunt weapon attacks and the abduction and murder of a soldier.”

Kemp said, “An objective and impartial report that gave due consideration to the overall context and examined the actions of both sides rather than an exercise in blatant Israel-bashing, could have made a contribution to easing the plight of the Palestinian people.”

Much of the content of the 85-page report relied mainly on testimonies of the families of young Arab men, such as 22-year-old Muhammad Asfur, whose friends acknowledged to Amnesty staff that he was throwing rocks at IDF soldiers, that he refused their calls to back down and then was undeterred by a round of vile-smelling teargas. The IDF responded by firing rubber bullets at Asfur from 100-feet away, hitting him in the head, causing the wound from which he died from in the hospital later that day.

“Highlighting the youth of those involved in the violence, Amnesty ignores the fact that incitement to hate is a daily feature of their lives at school – much of which is the result of official indoctrination by the Palestinian Authority through textbooks and the local media,” Kemp said. “Instead of making a meaningful contribution to reducing violence, Amnesty has produced a report that will be exploited as a tool to incite even more hatred.”

As to Amnesty’s motivation, which charity watchdog NGO Monitor also questioned, Kemp said, “The anti-Israel agenda of this report is obvious.”

“The timing of its release was both crass and cynical. Publication during Israel Apartheid Week can only have been intended to fuel the demonization of the Jewish state in schools and on campuses,” he said.

“Even the report’s language reveals the political motivation of the authors,” he said. “For example, they throw out phrases such as ‘Israel’s dispossession of Palestinians in 1948’ as if it is an undisputed historical fact.”

“The report’s recommendations expose Amnesty’s support for boycotts of Israel, even going so far as to demand that the US and EU deny crowd control equipment and training to Israel. This proposal is also evidence of Amnesty’s military incompetence as such equipment exists to control disorder while reducing the necessity for violent response.”

Kemp’s own assessment of the IDF’s actions offers a nuanced understanding that he said was absent from the 85-page Amnesty report.

“The IDF has a very tough job and the pressures faced by soldiers confronted with a violent mob are immense,” he said. “They not only have to consider the dangers of the immediate situation, but also the ever-present risk of terrorist gun or bomb attacks, and, of course, the threat of their own kidnap.”

“Soldiers in all armies make mistakes and sometimes over-react – it is impossible to always get it right in such stressful circumstances,” he said. “I am sure there have been occasions when Israeli soldiers have over-reacted and made the wrong judgement calls, as have British soldiers.”

“I know what a high priority the IDF places on preventing civilian casualties, and like the British military in such situations, the IDF will always try to use non-lethal force before having to resort to live ammunition. In my experience of observing the IDF, this need to protect civilian life and to respond proportionately is well understood from the most senior general right down to the most junior soldier.”

Upon retiring from the British Army, after completing 14 operational tours of duty around the globe, Kemp, in 2007, published the bestseller ‘Attack State Red,’ an account of the British campaign in Afghanistan.

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