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Obfuscating the truth: The UN report on war crimes in ‘Operation Protective Edge’

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This morning the UN Commission appointed to investigate “Operation Protective Edge,” the Israeli attack on Gaza last summer, published its findings.  The report strongly condemns the Israeli attacks on civilian targets–which, it says,  “may” have been war crimes—but it is seriously deficient in several  important respects.

First–in what I assume is more likely to be a failure of nerve rather than a failure of understanding—the report is inappropriately “balanced.”  To begin with, it is more or less equally critical of Israeli and Hamas actions, without regard to the differences between the vast and horrific extent of civilian destruction caused by Israel and the far lesser civilian deaths and destruction  that resulted from the largely ineffective Hamas attacks. But far more importantly, the report does not note the radical moral and political difference between  the war crimes committed by Israel in order to maintain its repression of the Palestinians and those committed by Hamas in order to end that repression.  In this respect, the report parallels the deficiencies of the Goldstone Report on “Cast Lead,” the 2008-09 Israeli attack on Gaza, which harshly criticized the Israeli methods but accepted the Israeli contention that it acted only in “self defense.”

Here’s one instructive example of the Report’s effort to be “balanced:”  on the one hand, it describes in some detail the devastating effects of the Israeli attack on the civilian population of Gaza; on the other, it notes that the discovery of Hamas tunnels extending into Israel “caused great anxiety” and led to a “sense of panic among many Israelis,” who feared that the tunnels might be used to attack Israeli civilians.  No doubt.  However, these anxieties might have been more worthy of note had the Israeli electorate subsequently rose up in wrath against the crimes of their government, rather than voting into power an even more extremist government.

As for the responsibility of the Israeli government for what “may amount to war crimes,” the Report ever-so-gingerly concludes that “the large number of targeted attacks against residential buildings and the fact that such attacks continued throughout the operation, even after the dire impact of these attacks on civilians and civilian objects became apparent, raise concern that the strikes may have [been]…reflective of a broader policy, approved at least tacitly by decision-makers at the highest levels of the Government of Israel.”

How about this: “The fact that the Holocaust continued throughout the Nazi period in Germany, even after the dire impact it had on the Jews became apparent, raises concern that it might have reflected a broader policy, approved at least tacitly by the decision-makers at the highest level of the Government of Germany.”

It is instructive to compare the timidity–if that’s what it is–of the UN Commission’s failure to tell the full truth with the almost unbelievably courageous  oped column by the great Amira Hass in this morning’s Haaretz (not even written in response to the UN report), entitled “In Israel, We Walk Amongst Killers and Torturers.” For the benefit of those who can’t access the piece on line, here are some of passages:

“In our homes, our streets and our places of work and entertainment, there are thousands of people who killed and tortured thousands of other people or supervised their killing and torture. …The vast majority of those who kill and torture (now as well) are proud of their deeds, and their society and families are proud of their deeds….The Jewish killers and torturers and their direct commanders act as they do with official permission.”

“We’re not satisfied with the land, the homes and the direct connection to the place that we stole from them and appropriated and destroyed, and that we continue to destroy and appropriate and steal.  No.  We also deny all the reasons, all the historical and social context of expulsion, dispossession and discrimination, that have led a very small handful of those Palestinians who are citizens of Israel to try to imitate us by taking up arms. They deluded themselves into thinking that weapons were the proper means of resistance, or reached a peak of fury and helplessness and decided to take lives….Whether or not they regret it, their delusion doesn’t cancel out the fact that they had and have every reason to resist the oppression and discrimination and wickedness that are part and parcel of Israel’s rule over them.”

This post first appeared today on Jerome Slater’s site.

Jerome Slater

Jerome Slater is a professor (emeritus) of political science and now a University Research Scholar at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has taught and written about U.S. foreign policy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for nearly 50 years, both for professional journals (such as International Security, Security Studies, and Political Science Quarterly) and for many general periodicals. He writes foreign policy columns for the Sunday Viewpoints section of the Buffalo News. And his website it www.jeromeslater.com.

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18 Responses

  1. jimby on June 22, 2015, 9:46 pm

    Right now I feel deeply for Amira Haas’ grief, I have been reading her for years and found her voice to be a voice of hope and possibility. But now that seems to have eroded into despair. But that is nothing compared to the grief and despair of the Palestinian people.

  2. Citizen on June 23, 2015, 3:46 am

    “….they had and have every reason to resist the oppression and discrimination and wickedness that are part and parcel of Israel’s rule over them.”

    And yet this truth has been withheld from the American public from its beginning. Time to take down this version of the Confederate battle flag? Where in the halls of power is a single person who still thinks the concept of informed consent of citizens flags the real democracy? The fact that foreign aid to Israel takes the biggest chunk of total US foreign aid every year, and that Israel is a rogue state, equipped with 41 UN SC vetos, a state that daily paints a target on Uncle Sam’s back and drains him–means nothing?

  3. eusebio on June 23, 2015, 9:19 am

    The league of United Nations should take a step forward so that both peoples have the rights to self determination and sovereignty and to blame the conflict in Gaza be broujht to justice

  4. amigo on June 23, 2015, 9:24 am

    “The Jewish killers and torturers and their direct commanders act as they do with official permission. The Palestinian dead and tortured that they have left behind over the past 67 years also have grieving nieces and families for whom bereavement is a constant presence. In university hallways, shopping malls, buses, gas stations and government ministries, Palestinians don’t know which of the people they encounter have killed, or which and how many members of their families and their people they have killed.

    But what’s certain is that their killers and torturers are walking around free. As heroes. ” Amira Haas

    What will be needed is a Palestinian Weisanthal to hunt down Zionazis and bring them to justice.Marwan Barghouti would be perfect for the task as he is a long term victim of these vile terrorists and killers and would have the will to stay on their tail.

    Some pleasant (hypothetical” thoughts!!.

    “Today , the former Israeli PM was found stealing coke bottles from a garbage bin in the International City of Jerusalem.He was said to be disheveled and had not washed in two months.He is wanted for War crimes committed against the Palestinian People in Operation Protective edge in which 2200 Palestinians were slaughtered by indiscriminate IDF/IAF, fire , among them some 500 children.

    Netanyahu , claimed that the world is full of anti semites and is out to get him because he is Jewish.He also claimed that Israel was only defending itself , said a spokesperson for the Palestinian centre for the capture of zionist war criminals.

    On a side note , the hunt for Naftali Bennet and the former Israeli FM , Lieberman continues with a new focus on Night club districts in Moldovia , where lieberman started out his career as a night club bouncer. Bennet is wanted for murdering innocent Palestinian civilians and is known for openly bragging about his exploits.

    There are hundreds of zionist killers on the run and Barghouti promised to do whatever is necessary to bring them to trial and answer for their crimes .Last year , Tipzi Livni was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against Humanity , for her part in Operation Cast Lead which lead to the death of 1462 Palestinians , many of them Children. Livni stated she was just doing what she had been ordered to by Ehud Olmert who is still in prison for taking bribes.He will be arrested by Jerusalem City forces on his release and handed over to the Hagus for prosecution for his part in Op , Cast Lead.He is not expected to live long enough to serve out any sentence he will be given.”

    The above report was filed by “The Palestinian center for Justice for the victims of Zionist Crimes”.

    • just on June 23, 2015, 9:55 am

      “Some pleasant (hypothetical” thoughts!!.”

      Thanks for those , amigo.

      I linked this elsewhere, but Ali Abunimah has a very good piece up:

      ““Balance” in UN Gaza report can’t hide massive Israeli war crimes”

      https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/balance-un-gaza-report-cant-hide-massive-israeli-war-crimes

      Thanks for this piece, Professor.

    • Mooser on June 23, 2015, 11:09 am

      “What will be needed is a Palestinian Weisanthal to hunt down Zionazis and bring them to justice.Marwan Barghouti would be perfect for the task as he is a long term victim of these vile terrorists and killers and would have the will to stay on their tail.”

      I keep on asking: Is any solution, one-state or two, predicated on an amnesty for Israel and Zionists? I wish people would think about that.

      • amigo on June 23, 2015, 2:53 pm

        “I keep on asking: Is any solution, one-state or two, predicated on an amnesty for Israel and Zionists? I wish people would think about that.” Mooser

        They, the leaders and perpetrators of so many crimes for 65 years wont get the death penalty.That,s sufficient amnesty for me.These smug self serving parasites deserve no sympathy or consideration.Lock em up and throw away the keys.

  5. Kay24 on June 23, 2015, 9:50 am

    The disparity of the number of casualties is most telling, and if there is any accountability, it will be the zionists who will be the bigger culprit, being the occupier, and the ones wielding power and deadly weapons. Any US official who visits Gaza will not be under any illusion that it is the people of Gaza that have suffered the brutality of zionists attacks. The decimated homes and the people living among the rubble, will be self explanatory.

    Excerpts from a USA Today article:

    “More than 2,200 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians, were killed during the fighting, according to U.N. and Palestinian officials, while 73 people, including six civilians, died on the Israeli side.”

    It will not take long for any Criminal court to see who the bigger criminal is.

    Here is the big zionist joke (but no one is laughing)

    “In advance of the U.N. report, Israel released a report compiled by a group of retired Western military officers who found that Israel met or “significantly exceeded” the international laws of war. The report was sponsored by the “Friends of Israel Initiative,” a pro-Israel group of retired politicians and diplomats from around the world.

    In its conclusions, the U.N. commission said Israel “released insufficient information regarding the specific military objectives of its attacks.”

    Yes, what a highly credible “Report” . Israel “met or exceeded” international laws of war, yeah right.

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2015/06/22/un-report–gaza-both-sides-may–guilty–war-crimes/29097901/

  6. Landie_C on June 23, 2015, 9:54 am

    Meanwhile, the right-wing commenters at The Forward have pounced en masse on today’s commentary by JJ Goldberg.

    “Think UN War Crimes Report is Biased? Read it first.”

    http://forward.com/opinion/310599/think-un-gaza-war-crimes-report-is-biased-read-it-first/

    • Mooser on June 23, 2015, 11:11 am

      “Read it first.”

      If he insists on insulting his readers, he can expect a strong reaction. “Read it first”? No wonder they are shocked.

      • Landie_C on June 23, 2015, 7:46 pm

        Well, it’s just that he knows his audience. He sets a “high bar” — reading before jumping to conclusions — but he knows perfectly well that the right-wing zealots will do no such thing.

  7. just on June 23, 2015, 4:44 pm

    #$%$***!

    “The United States is opposed to bringing the independent United Nations report on last summer’s Gaza war to the Security Council for a vote, State Department spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday.

    Kirby told a daily press briefing that the U.S. government is still reviewing and studying the UN report on Operation Protective Edge, which was released Monday and found evidence of war crimes on the part of both Israel and Hamas.

    Kirby stressed that the U.S. opposes the process by which an investigative committee was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council and is against any further work on the report within the UN, in both New York and Geneva. “We don’t believe that there is a call or a need for further Security Council work on this. We don’t support any more UN work on this report,” said Kirby.”…

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.662651?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

    Slow readers, unable to comprehend? Cut the cord!

  8. Bornajoo on June 23, 2015, 6:58 pm

    Many thanks for this Professor Slater

    This is a great analogy:

    “The fact that the Holocaust continued throughout the Nazi period in Germany, even after the dire impact it had on the Jews became apparent, raises concern that it might have reflected a broader policy, approved at least tacitly by the decision-makers at the highest level of the Government of Germany.”

    Also many thanks for the excerpts from the excellent Amira Hass article

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