Israel's unwelcome visitors
US Secretary of State John FN Kerry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon are in the area today. Anne Bayefsky explains why they're not welcome right now
It is hard to imagine two more unwelcome, uninvited visitors to Israel
in the middle of a war against Palestinian terrorists than UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry. But
even more unwelcome is that they are working together.
Their common cause is that although Israel has a right of self-defense
in theory, Israel ought to be prevented from exercising this right in
On July 16, 2014, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs (OCHA) issued a report stating: “the Israeli military delivered
text messages to virtually all the residents of Ash Shuja’iyya and Az
Zaitun neighborhoods in eastern Gaza city, approximately 100,000 people,
warning them to leave their homes by 8 am today (16 July), ahead of
attacks to be launched in the area.” The Israel Defense Forces (IDF)
also made phone calls and distributed leaflets.
OCHA then describes what came next: “Subsequently, the Palestinian
Ministry of Interior in Gaza reportedly instructed the residents to…not
flee the area.” As a result, OCHA admits: “the vast majority decided to
This story tells us both that Israel adhered to the Geneva Convention
demand of providing “effective advance warning” to civilians and that
Hamas violated the rule forbidding parties to “direct the movement of
…civilians in order to shield military objectives from attack.”
What was Hamas trying to protect when it used Palestinians as human shields in Shuja’iyya?
The IDF refers to Shuja’iyya as the Hamas’ “terror fortress” in the Gaza
Strip. The IDF has found more than ten openings to tunnels in
Shuja’iyya and since July 8, Hamas has fired over 140 rockets at Israel
from this neighborhood alone. As IDF Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz
put it: “Hamas has built a war machine in residential areas.”
This is another violation of the laws of armed conflict. By deliberately
locating its terrorist infrastructure in the midst of Shuja’iyya’s
civilian population, Hamas violates the prohibition on “locating
legitimate military targets within or near densely populated areas."
Following the warnings, the IDF went into the Shuja’iyya neighborhood –
and is still there – for the purpose of destroying the tunnels that have
been designed and used to attack Israeli civilians. This is Hamas’
most basic war crime of all. In the words of the Geneva Conventions,
civilians “shall not be the object of attack.”
What is clear is the outrageous reaction of UN Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon. On July 20, 2014 he said: “dozens more civilians, including
children, have been killed in Israeli military strikes in the Shuja’iyya
neighborhood in Gaza. I condemn this atrocious action. Israel must
exercise maximum restraint and do far more to protect civilians.”
Ban Ki-moon said nothing about Hamas having failed to protect
Palestinian civilians. He said nothing about Hamas having put
Palestinian civilians directly in harm’s way. In fact he said nothing
about any “atrocious action” by Hamas. He also made no demand that
Hamas “restrain” itself from fulfilling its stated goal, namely, that
“Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will
For the UN, no move that Israel makes short of surrender to the Palestinian mob, will ever be sufficient.
When Palestinian civilians did heed Israel’s warnings and did not die,
on July 16, 2014 OCHA complained “the relocation experience has
been…traumatic…Women have reported stress due to their inability to
maintain…modesty norms…[in] overcrowded spaces...”
Five million Israelis have just seconds to run for a bomb shelter and
save their lives. Older people have died from heart failure when the
sirens go off. Small children flee rockets raining down on their
kindergartens and spend hours trapped between four walls day after day.
Let alone the parents and brothers and sisters of the 50,000 plus heroic
young men and women on the front lines who spend every waking minute
dreading a phone call, haunted by the prospect of kidnapping by very
The truth is the UN doesn’t give a damn about the suffering of Israelis.
When Ban Ki-moon comes knocking, therefore, his bona fides are non-existent. So why is Secretary Kerry by his side?
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Labels: Ban Ki-Moon, civilian casualties, Gaza, Hamas, human shields, John Kerry, Operation Protective Edge, Shejaiya