The dominant issue for this week, June 22-28th, 2015 – and probably for much longer – is the report from the UN Human Rights Commission on Gaza 2014. Its public reception was of praise for its thoroughness and ‘balance’ – meaning it indicted the paramilitary groups in Gaza for war crimes as well as the IDF. As Palestine is not allowed to have an army or airforce, and Gaza’s airfield was destroyed by the IDF, these groups are all that Palestine has for an army – fit for resistance, not invasion. The fear the tunnels instilled in Israelis was not based on the likelihood that a well-armed Palestinian force would drive its tanks through them into Israel. Rather, Israelis need to, or cannot help but, inflate the puny fighting forces of Gaza into an existential threat. What else would justify the pulverising of the ‘open prison’?
The principal findings of the report are at
a judgment implied rather than specified on all the fighters involved. The reception of the report – the balance being the syrup that allowed Americans in particular to swallow unpalatable truths about Israel – is in several postings.
Verdict: balanced report, unbalanced reaction
Predictably – it’s always so predictable – Israel played the victim, victim of bias, victim of Hamas terror rockets, victim, it seems of an international conspiracy to pick on Israel rather than countries more deserving of opprobrium (having failed to notice that other violent regimes have been the subject of critical UN reports). Israel’s outrage at any attempt to hold it to account was voiced by Israel’s UN envoy, Ron Prosor who declared
‘The U.N. has been taken hostage by terrorist organizations’
But a spluttering envoy is not enough. Israel’s ambassadors have been told to go to the ‘highest level’ (Prime Minsters, Presidents, press barons) to put the case of UN bias and Israel’s frailty in the face of massed forces of attack:
Israel’s ambassadors ordered to launch Operation Damage Limitation
But if balance was the necessary syrup Robert Cohen was not impressed. To talk of balance between two such wholly unequal forces as the IDF and the armed groups in Gaza is absurd and draws a curtain against reality.
When ‘balance’ hides the truth
The Commissioners could infer the IDF’s rules of engagement, or lack of, from other published sources. The thinking of Palestinian armed groups is much more opaque and no special effort seems to have been made to find sources of information. And there was very little coverage in the Palestinian / Arab press
Few Palestinian voices in reports
Predictably, again, rebuttal was the mode of response from the US State Department. Rear-Admiral John Kirby is preparing us for a US veto on the UN Security Council (UNSC) discussing the report by claiming bias etc etc. One suspects he hasn’t actually read it – a point made about Americans generally by JJ Goldberg:
Read the darn thing
Ironically, given the official American reaction, this week the US State department has issued its own Country report, in which Israel is named as having committed many breaches of human rights law, confirming the ‘excessive’ use of violence on which Israel depends:
US report condemns Israel’s ‘excessive use of force’
In a more theoretical piece, Maya Mikdashi in Jadaliyya examines how assumptions about gender shape reportage of Israel / Palestine. Amongst other things, when a Palestinian male comes into the world he is born, in Israeli security eyes, a terrorist. But because of their latent violence and kinship with all Palestinians, all Palestinians must be ‘quarantined’ for Israel’s security.
In the war on terror, all Palestinian males are assumed to be dangerous
In a physically, if not intellectually, more peaceful zone, Uri Avnery takes on the arguments for a ‘one-state solution’ which he sees as a specious position and elaborates why:
One state – nice idea if you live in another world
When violence reigns, women and children are subordinate (see the Jadaliyya article above). A UN Development Programme (UNDP) tries to encourage women in conflict zones to have a voice. In Palestine the aided-group is MIFTAH which has just held a conference in which the women chose to insist on the need for reconciliation between Palestinian factions as the sine qua non of any progressive future.“It is not us women who created the division; it was created by a patriarchal system” said Hanan Ashrawi :
Women press demand for Palestinian unity
We know that the West’s so far unflinching support for Israel has been in part based on an assumption of ‘shared values’. Israel is not displaying those values and it is this, not the BDS campaign, says Al Shabaka which is driving a wedge between the EU and Israel. EU law commands respect for human rights so by law the EU has to question (at least) Israel’s trade relationship with the EU:
Law puts EU on collision course with Israel
The European country which is prepared to take a resolution demanding the start of peace negotiations to the UNSC is France. Will the USA veto it? Should it be vetoed because , as Ali Abunimah writes, it does not accept Palestinian rights.
France struggles to take lead on ending Palestine/Israel conflict
And more besides.