Richard Kemp tells the UN to lay off Israel
In conclusion, in my opinion the IDF took exceptional measures to adhere to the Laws of Armed Conflict and to minimise civilian casualties in Gaza. During the conflict many politicians, UN leaders, human rights groups and NGOs called on the Israelis to take greater action to minimise civilian casualties in Gaza. Yet none of them suggested any additional ways of doing this. I conclude that this was because Israel was taking all feasible steps. I believe Israel to be world leaders in actions to minimise civilian casualties; and this is borne out by the efforts made by the US Army, the most sophisticated and powerful in the world, to learn from the IDF on this issue.
In my opinion Israel is also making strenuous efforts to investigate incidents where civilians were apparently unlawfully killed, wounded or ill-treated, and where civilian property was unlawfully damaged or stolen. I am not aware of any nation that has conducted more comprehensive or resolute investigations into its own military activities than Israel during and following the 2014 Gaza conflict.
On the other hand, Hamas and other groups in Gaza took the opposite approach to that of the IDF. Their entire strategy was based on flouting the Laws of Armed Conflict, deliberately targeting the Israeli civilian population, using their own civilian population as human shields and seeking to entice the IDF to take military action that would kill large numbers of Gaza civilians for their own propaganda purposes. There was and is of course no accountability or investigation of any allegations against Hamas and other extremist groups in Gaza.
I strongly urge the Commissioners to condemn Hamas and the other groups for their actions during this conflict. Failure to do so would be tantamount to encouraging a repeat of such actions in the future, by Hamas and other Gaza groups and by extremist groups around the world who would wish to emulate the actions in Gaza. This would undoubtedly result in further loss of life in Gaza, in Israel and elsewhere.
Similar encouragement is given to extremist groups by the lamentable tendency of some international actors to afford moral equivalence to Hamas, an internationally proscribed terrorist organization, and Israel, a liberal democratic state.
I also urge the Commissioners to give fair consideration to Israel’s actions during this conflict and not simply to jump on the over-burdened bandwagon of automatic condemnation. Where the actions of the IDF were genuinely wrong then of course the Commission should criticise them, call upon them to bring the perpetrators to justice where appropriate and to adjust future procedures as necessary. But false accusations of war crimes, as were made by the Commissioners that investigated the 2008-09 Gaza conflict (the ‘Goldstone Report’), will do nothing to advance the cause of peace and human rights. Instead, such accusations will encourage similar action by Hamas and other groups in the future, leading to further violence and loss of life.
Many people believe that your findings are a foregone conclusion, as the findings of the 2008-09 Commission regrettably proved to be. They believe that you will roundly and without foundation condemn Israel for war crimes while at best making only token criticism of Hamas and other Gaza extremist groups. If you genuinely want to contribute to peace and to improve human rights for the people of Gaza and of Israel then you must have the courage to reject the UN Human Rights Council’s persistent and discriminatory anti-Israel programme and produce a balanced and fair report into these tragic events.
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