HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH WATCH: Today, I participated via speakerphone in a lengthy meeting of the HRW Middle East Advisory Committee. It’s an admirably diverse group of people. Perhaps a little too diverse? At one recent meeting, a member started talking with anguish about the situation faced by her Israeli friend, “who lives in a settlement– well of course I mean a neighborhood really, and anyway it’s one of those places that, well, definitely will stay attached to Israel under a final peace agreement… ”
Being Human Rights Watch, everyone there was far too polite to remind this person– a member of our committee– of the portion of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that states, “The Occupying Power shall not… transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Or of the fact that an infraction of this article is specifically described as “grave breach” of the Convention, that is a war crime.
So there our fellow committee member was, begging for sympathy for the voluntarily chosen situation of someone who is certainly the beneficiary of a war crime, and quite likely also an accessory to it.
If the friend wants to live in the same security that everyone on earth of course deserves, then maybe she could think of foreswearing the subsidized lifestyle, expropriated land, and many other benefits that are given to Israeli settlers? She could even join the many other brave Israelis who still, even in these times, continue to fight to end the entire settlement project…
But no. Apparently she wants to continue sitting where she is, enjoying someone else’s land, and have our sympathy too.

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