Experts Provide Alternative to UN’s ‘Morally Bankrupt’ Report
Even as the UN report accusing Israel of “war crimes” in Gaza last summer is submitted to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Monday, a group of military, legal and Middle East experts are to hold an alternative event in Geneva to reveal the report’s failings.
The alternative event is to start at 5 p.m. local time with a panel event discussing the facts missing from the UN report, which will be followed by a second panel focusing on the military and legal aspects of last summer’s counter-terror Operation Protective Edge.
The event is hosted by the Amuta for NGO Responsibility, the UN ECOSOC-accredited parent organization of NGO Monitor, together with UN Watch, and will be live-streamed.
British Army Colonel (ret.) Richard Kemp, former head of the international terrorism and Iraq team for the Joint Intelligence Committee, will take part in both panels.
Kemp has called the UN report “morally bankrupt, making no distinction between the Israel Defense Forces, the legitimate armed forces of a Western liberal democracy and Hamas, an internationally-proscribed terrorist group that operates a tyrannical dictatorship over the citizens of Gaza.”
“The report has no military insight and it is quite clear that the UN commissioners and the drafters of the report have no knowledge or experience of armed conflict.”
Joining Kemp in the second panel focusing on the military aspects of last summer’s war will be Maj. Gen. Michael D. Jones, Former Chief of Staff at US Central Command.
One positive outcome of the UN report according to Jones is that it “acknowledged that all combatants are required to abide by the law, and that Hamas’s and other groups’ indiscriminate rocket fire at Israel was unlawful.”
However, he noted that “it is disappointing that the report fails to condemn these groups for unlawfully failing to distinguish themselves as combatants, as well as purposefully co-locating amongst civilians, knowingly placing them at risk, with absolutely no military necessity to do so. I am also disappointed that the report came to conclusions without sufficient information to make a judgment. Specifically, they condemn the IDF for engagements without any information on the IDF’s objectives, military necessity, or known information on risk.”
“Flawed interpretations of the law”
Rounding out the panel in the second part of the event is Professor Geoffrey Corn, a legal expert and Professor of Law at South Texas College of Law and former chief of the Law of War Branch in the International Law Division, US Judge Advocate General.
Corn explained that the charges of “war crimes” leveled against the IDF in the report “rest on flawed or under inclusive interpretations of the law, and an inadequate consideration or appreciation of the realities of combat operations, ultimately undermining the credibility of these findings.”
“What is obvious, however, is that only one party to this conflict – the IDF – demonstrated commitment to LOAC (Laws of Armed Conflict – ed.) compliance, even when confronting an enemy who deliberately violated the law to gain tactical and strategic advantage.”
International legal experts have in fact criticized the IDF for overly warning Gazans and limiting their operations, in a move that may set precedent and harm the abilities of Western democracies to confront terrorist organizations.
“Ignoring the full Middle East picture”
The first part of the event, focusing on the pieces missing from the UN report, is to feature NGO Monitor President Prof. Gerald Steinberg, vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies Jonathan Schanzer, NGO Monitor legal adviser Anne Herzberg, military expert Uzi Rubin of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, and UN Watch Executive-Director Hillel Neuer, aside from Kemp.
Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies argued that the UN report “gives no thought or attention to the actors that enabled the war…Iran has for years helped Hamas acquire long range rockets and develop domestic rocket making capabilities…the support that Turkey and Qatar provided to Hamas in the years leading up to the conflict, not to mention the diplomatic campaign that it waged on Hamas’ behalf during the war.”
He added, “the role of Egypt is downplayed greatly…more than 1,000 tunnels had been destroyed before the war began…(this) was perhaps the greatest impetus for Hamas to launch its war…designed to re-negotiate the flow of goods and services between Egypt and Gaza.”
Speaking about the history of one-sided UNHRC investigations against Israel, Herzberg of NGO Monitor said the latest iteration “has failed to employ internationally recognized fact-finding standards, particularly transparency and impartiality.”
“Moreover, the report is full of internal contradictions primarily as a result of its heavily reliance on the unverified claims of political advocacy NGOs and unreliable testimony from Gaza-based individuals. If the goal of this report was to provide a comprehensive accounting of the 2014 Gaza War, it has failed miserably.”
Originally appeared in Arutz Sheva on June 29, 2015.