Verdict: balanced report, unbalanced reaction

June 23, 2015
Sarah Benton
Tags: ,

This posting has these items:
1) Times of Israel: UN Gaza report: Israel, Hamas may be guilty of war crimes;
2) Ha’aretz: UN Gaza war report brings Israel’s top leaders closer to The Hague, Barak Ravid says the report aims high – the top officials, and far – the Hague.;
3) Video: Key events in OPE;
4) Ha’aretz: Six takeaways from the UN’s Gaza war report, who misses one point for once;
5) JPost: UNHRC report: Less biased, but no less lethal, because now the threat of the ICC is real;
6) Ha’aretz: Israel responds to Gaza war report: UNHRC has ‘singular obsession with Israel’, Barak Ravid and Jonathan Lis review the responses;
7) Ynet news: Israel launches diplomatic front against Arab majority at UNHRC;
8) Notes on membership of UN Human Rights Council and UN reports on Syria, Iran, N.Korea and Ukraine

Palestinians collect their belongings from homes destroyed by Israeli shelling in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya, Tuesday, August 4, 2014. Photo by Emad Nasser/Flash90

UN Gaza report: Israel, Hamas may be guilty of war crimes

Human Rights Council faults IDF for treating residential buildings as ‘legitimate military objectives,’ says possible evidence of ‘wilful’ killings of civilians; Foreign Ministry blasts ‘biased’ commission

By Mitch Ginsburg, Times of Israel
June 22, 2015

Both Israel and the Palestinian militant groups in Gaza may have committed war crimes during the 50-day conflict last summer, a United Nations report said on Monday. Israel said it would study the report, but
rejected the “morally flawed” mandate given to the UNHRC to investigate the war.

The UN Human Rights Council report placed blame on both parties but focused more on Israel’s role. It also accepted the Palestinian death count, which has Israel killing 1,462 civilians out of a total of 2,251 Palestinians who died — a 65 percent ratio.

Israel’s internal report found that only 56% of the dead were civilians, a figure that supports Israel’s stated emphasis on proportionality and discernment during war.

The UN report found that there is “little or no information available to explain why residential buildings, which are prima facie civilian objects immune from attack, were considered to be legitimate military objectives,” and ruled that “the onus is on Israel” to explain its methods.

The roof-knocking technique, in which Israel fired warning rounds on some occasions ahead of an attack to warn civilians to evacuate their building, “cannot be considered an effective warning given the confusion they often cause to building residents and the short time allowed to evacuate before the actual strike,” the report said.

According to the report, at least 142 families lost three or more members in an attack on residential buildings during last summer’s war, resulting in 742 deaths.

“The fact that Israel did not revise its practice of airstrikes, even after their dire effects on civilians became apparent, raises questions of whether this was part of a broader policy which was at least tacitly approved at the highest level of government,” the commission said in a statement.

The commission also voiced concern that a sense of “impunity prevails across the board for violations… allegedly committed by Israeli forces, whether it be in the context of active hostilities in Gaza or killings, torture and ill-treatment in the West Bank.”

The commission found several instances in which Palestinian civilians uninvolved in the hostilities were targeted, including children and adults carrying white flags. The people did not represent a threat to the Israeli soldiers operating in the area, the report said. It cited Salem Shamaly, who was allegedly killed during a humanitarian pause while searching for a lost relative. The incident was recorded.

“Directing attacks against civilians constitutes a violation of the principle of distinction and may amount to a war crime,” the report said. “These acts may also constitute willful killings.”

The investigators urged Israel to “break with its recent lamentable track record in holding wrongdoers accountable.”

The report also found that the “indiscriminate” targeting of Israeli civilians by Palestinian rockets “may amount to a war crime.”

Rockets fired from Gaza towards Israel, 2014. Photo by AFP

“The hostilities also caused immense distress and disruption to the lives of civilians in Israel,” the commission’s statement said. “Witnesses living near Gaza spoke of being disturbed by seeing the bombing from their sitting room windows but also struggled to reach shelters in time with their children when the sirens alerted them to incoming attacks. The indiscriminate firing of thousands of rockets and mortars at Israel appeared to have the intention of spreading terror among civilians there.

“In addition the Israeli military discovered 14 tunnels extending from Gaza into Israel that were used to attack their soldiers during this period,” the statement said. “The idea of the tunnels traumatized Israeli civilians who feared they could be attacked at any moment by gunmen bursting out of the ground.”

The entrance to a tunnel found on the Israeli side of the Israel-Gaza border by the Israeli military March 27, 2014. The IDF announced that the tunnel had been exposed on March 21, 2014. Photo by Amir Cohen / Reuters

The commission further found that the Hamas executions of 21 Palestinians accused of serving as Israeli collaborators “constitute a violation of article 3 common to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, and therefore amount to a war crime.”

In a first response to the report, the Foreign Ministry said the Israeli government was in the process of examining the findings but rejected the “morally flawed” mandate given to the UNHRC to investigate the war.

“It is regrettable that the report fails to recognize the profound difference between Israel’s moral behavior during Operation Protective Edge and the terror organizations it confronted,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “This report was commissioned by a notoriously biased institution, given an obviously biased mandate, and initially headed by a grossly biased chairperson, William Schabas,” the statement said, noting the UNHRC’s outsize treatment — in relation to major human rights offenders Iran, North Korea and others — of Israel’s alleged offences.

“Israel is a democracy committed to the rule of law, forced to defend itself against Palestinian terrorists who commit a double war crime: They indiscriminately target Israeli civilians while deliberately endangering Palestinian civilians, including children, by using them as human shields,” the Israeli statement said.

Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu predicted that the report would be “a waste of time” and derided the commission of inquiry into the war, calling it an attempt “to blacken [the name] of the State of Israel.”

Israeli officials refused to cooperate with the probe and have dismissed it ever since the formation of the panel as biased and pre-written.

Schabas, the Canadian Jewish professor who initially headed the HRC panel, resigned in February amid charges by Israel of bias and was replaced by former New York judge Mary McGowan Davis.

AFP contributed to this report.

UN Gaza war report brings Israel’s top leaders closer to The Hague

The report hints that after all other measures have failed, the ICC is the only thing that can actually deter the two sides from yet another round of fighting.

By Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz
June 23, 2015

Even if its wording and its conclusions were slightly more balanced in comparison to the Goldstone report, no one was surprised by the fact that the report from the investigative committee appointed by the UN Human Rights Commission indicated that both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes during the war in Gaza last summer. The most important point in the report was about the possible ramifications – the committee members aimed high and far. High, at Israel’s highest ranking politicians and military officers, and far, at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Through detailed display of information and analysis of events, the committee described the horrible cycle that has engulfed Gaza over the last decade. Military conflict between Israel and Hamas, cease-fire agreements, international investigative committees, conclusions and recommendations that go unimplemented, ad nauseam.

Aside from tactical, operative recommendations and conclusions, the committee members also tried to draw more strategic conclusions. They claim that the policy governing use of force formulated by senior politicians and military leaders should be looked into more than the actions of soldiers following orders.

Meaning, the problem is not just the artillery fire aimed at Shujaiyeh that hit civilians, the pilots that blew up multi-story dwellings in Gaza or the tank soldiers that shot everything that moved during the “Black Friday” in Rafah. The problem is also the decisions made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, as well as GOC Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Sammy Turgeman, Israel Air Force Commander Amir Eshel and others.

Black Friday in Rafah. Palestinians look for their belongings the day after houses were destroyed in Israeli strikes in Rafah. Amid fear that Hamas had captured an Israeli soldier, the Israeli military sealed off the Rafah area and began shelling on Aug. 1, 2014. By the end of the next day, 190 Palestinians were dead, according to a list of names compiled by two Gaza human rights groups. The suspected capture of the soldier turned out to be a false alarm and the Rafah operation is almost certain to be a focus of U.N. investigators and rights groups looking into possible war crimes because it highlights a key concern: the treatment of civilians. Caption from Daily Mail, photo by Hatem Ali, AP

These conclusions aren’t drawn from reports originating with pro-Palestinian organizations, or left-wing Israel-hating groups, but rather the government report compiled by a committee led by former Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel, that examined Israel’s policies on investigating possible war crimes. Turkel and his colleagues suggested attributing direct criminal responsibility to military commanders and government officials for crimes committed by their subordinates.

Even if they don’t say so clearly and directly, the investigative committee members aimed their report at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which is currently conducting a preliminary check to see if there is a necessity for a criminal investigation into war crimes during the fighting in Gaza. The report hints that after all other measures have failed; the ICC is the only thing that can actually deter the two sides from yet another round of fighting.

The committee offers a way out – holding an independent and transparent Israeli investigation that would reexamine the military’s policies on the use of force. After all, one of the ICC’s principles is “complementarity” – it does not investigate a country if that country can prove it seriously investigated itself. Although the Military Advocate General did launch an investigation contrary to the position of the chief of staff, the investigation was not as strict as could be. In the end, Israel preferred to just another thick hasbara report and hope for the best.

In contrast to Netanyahu’s attacks on Monday, the UN report is not the handiwork of anti-Israeli jurist William Schabas, who stepped down from his position leading the committee a few months ago. His replacement, American judge Mary McGowan-Davis, is not an Israel-hater, and she produced a relatively balanced report, considering the Israeli reaction to it.

The report published on Monday has given rise yet again to a familiar question. Was the government’s decision to boycott the committee wise? Just reading a summary of the report is enough to understand that the answer is a clear and concise no. In every instance that the committee received information or testimony from the Israeli side, like that of former Eshkol Regional Council head Haim Yellin, who traveled at his own initiative to Geneva to testify, that information was given comprehensive coverage in the report.

The impression is that if Israel had allowed the committee members access to the sites, and allowed them to meet with Israelis that live near Gaza, and get briefings from IDF officers, or even Netanyahu himself, the final result would have been much better.

Video, Key events in OPE


Six takeaways from the UN’s Gaza war report

Though it started as a sham, final report is scrupulous, focusing equally on both Israel and Palestinians – had Israel cooperated with investigators, maybe it could have got more favourable results.

By Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz
June 22, 2015

1. The United Nations Human Rights Commission’s Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict began as a pathetic joke.

The appointment of Professor William Schabas as its chair – an anti-Israel advocate so buffoonish that he called for Benjamin Netanyahu to be put on trial for war crimes committed during Operation Cast Lead, when Netanyahu was actually the leader of the opposition (!) – made the entire process a complete sham.

Characteristically for the UN, it tried to confer on the commission a smidgeon of stardust by adding human-rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin (more widely known as Mrs George Clooney) to the panel. But that only added to the farcical atmosphere, especially when it turned out that Ms. Alamuddin had not even been consulted on her appointment and subsequently refused to join.

At that point, the Israeli government’s decision not to cooperate in any way with the commission and not even to allow it access to Israel and the territories was understandable, if perhaps misguided.

Schabas inevitably had to recuse himself when it transpired that he had in the past been paid as a legal consultant by the Palestine Liberation Organization. At that point, the commission passed into much abler hands. The track record of Mary McGowan-Davis, a former New York State Supreme Court justice and the measured and balanced tone of the report, which, in Schabas’ absence, certainly bears her imprimatur, is testament to the government’s mistaken policy of non-cooperation with the commission’s investigation – certainly once Schabas had left.

McGowan-Davis’ report (attempts by some Israeli spokespeople to continue call it the Schabas Report are destined to fail) is pretty scrupulous, focusing equally on the alleged wrongdoings of both sides, Israel and the Palestinians, and in some points even making points in Israel’s favor. It is clear now that official Israeli cooperation could have made it more favorable to Israel and that not cooperating has almost certainly failed to achieve the desired goal of delegitimizing the report.

2. McGowan-Davis’ call for the international community to ensure that the findings of the report become the basis of a war-crimes investigation at the International Criminal Court is, of course, a blow to Israel, but it was hardly unexpected.

The fact that the report gave equal prominence to alleged war crimes committed by the Palestinian side, that the commission seems to have been interested in finding a rationale for Israel’s actions in Gaza and acknowledged that the warnings issued by the IDF before attacks in many cases saved lives, will be of little comfort.

Once again, the fact that the commission did not have any official Israeli version of the events to rely on means that, in cases where Israel seems to have behaved recklessly and wantonly, there is no counter-narrative or explanation – even when these exist. Israel is at a disadvantage here, since the government and the IDF both have addresses. In many cases, the alleged war crimes of the Palestinian side mentioned in the report are attributed to “armed groups” or to Hamas’ military wing, but it is unclear who, if anyone, has the responsibility for Palestinian actions in Gaza. The commission and much of the international community still holds Israel, a decade years after disengagement, ultimately responsible for Gaza, just as it holds it responsible for the West Bank.

The West Bank sections of the report are smaller and less prominent than the Gaza chapters, but could potentially cause Israel more damage, as they suggest that the prevalent use of firearms against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank may also be war crimes.

The bottom line of this report – beyond the possibility of war crimes indictments against Israelis and Palestinians for their actions during 51 days of fighting last summer – is yet further erosion of Israel’s case to perpetuate the West Bank occupation and not to reach a long-term solution for Gaza’s future.

3. The report is not free of omissions and mistakes, but at least from Israel’s perspective, its major flaws are the relatively cursory discussion of the way in which Hamas and Islamic Jihad launched their rockets (which are dealt with at length in the report) from within heavily populated civilian areas and the difficulty Israel faces in its efforts to reach some kind of ceasefire or long-term arrangement with the organization ruling Gaza – an organization which is still officially ideologically committed to Israel’s destruction.

Smoke trailing rockets fired from Gaza at Israel in July 2014)
The lack of details on the nature of Hamas’ conflict with Israel and its cynical use of Palestinian civilians (though the report does concede that there seems to have been cases in which Hamas used “human shields”) could be a manifestation of bias, but it is also a reflection of the impatience of the international community with Israel’s claims. For all the report’s balance, there is a sense going through it that the authors believe Israel, as a sovereign state with a well-equipped army and control over most of Gaza’s borders and all its airspace simply has a much higher degree of responsibility for safeguarding civilians lives, on both sides, than the Palestinian organizations, which, as the report notes, have little space to base their military operations outside of the cramped neighborhoods and refugee camps of Gaza. This may not seem fair to many Israelis, but it is pointless to expect the world to hold Israel and Hamas to the same standards.

4. While the report repeatedly blames the Palestinians for doing nothing to investigate allegation of war crimes on its own side and for lacking the mechanisms (and motivation) to do so, it does mention that the IDF’s legal corps, as well as the State Comptroller, have embarked on investigations into dozens of incidents in Gaza. However, the authors lambast Israel for the shortcomings of a process which is not independent from the IDF hierarchy and does not confirm to the norms of international justice. And, of course, for failing to yield anything more than a handful of indictments and relatively puny sentences.

Israel claims that there is no need for outside intervention, since its legal system is capable of investigating itself and claimants always have recourse to the Supreme Court to appeal decisions. In theory, that is true. In practice, however, impunity remains the norm all but for a small number of cases. The Israeli claim that the IDF is a moral army with just a few “rotten apples” has trouble standing up if these apples are not seen to have been removed from the barrel.

5. While the report is hugely interesting to all those interested in the Israel-Palestine conflict and the field of international justice and laws of warfare, it is impossible to gauge whether it will have any lasting impact. The Palestinians, who earlier this year joined the International Criminal Court (ICC), already set that ball rolling and while the report is probably already being read with interest by the prosecutors at The Hague, their machinations and order of priorities are opaque. Whether it will serve one day as the basis for indictments and whether Israeli (or Palestinian) figures are ever hauled up before the international court depends not only on the decisions of the ICC jurists, but also on political and diplomatic wrangling at the United Nations and the state of relations between Israel and the international community.

The outcome will be affected far more by whether there is any progress in the diplomatic process over the coming years and whether global crises divert the world’s attention than by the validity of legal arguments and the findings of subsequent investigations. And Israel shouldn’t want that any way.

6. The biggest flaw in the report, of course, is its lack of context and the fact that it was commissioned by a body which allows some of the world’s worst human rights abusers to sit in judgement. By any standard, the United Nations Human Rights Council has focused in a disproportionate manner on Israel its entire history. The biggest argument against it is the fact that no other conflict or military operation has ever been subjected to this level of legal scrutiny. True, it is a standard talking-point of hasbara but that doesn’t mean it is without any merit.

Yes, this claim smacks of ‘whataboutery’ and is no excuse for any alleged wrongdoing committed by the IDF, but since this report is not just a legal opinion but also a document to be viewed in a wider context, it is legitimate to ask how Israel’s actions would have been viewed if other wars of recent years – Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria* and Russia-Ukraine – had received a similar level of legal scrutiny.

Once again, this shouldn’t be an excuse, but this is the brutal reality of war and Israel has a legitimate grievance towards the UNHRC, which ensures that it is the only country in the world that is held up to any standard whatsoever.

UNHRC report: Less biased, but no less lethal

Whereas the International Criminal Court in 2008- 9 was just a distant threat, it now sees the Palestinians as having a state that can officially file war crimes complaints.

By Yonah Jeremy Bob, JPost
June 23, 2015

While seriously problematic from the Israeli legal perspective, the UN Human Rights Council’s report on the 2014 Gaza war, made public on Monday, is far less biased than the Goldstone Report on the 2008-9 Gaza fighting. However, where it attacks the IDF’s conduct, in some ways it is far more sophisticated than Goldstone.

In addition, whereas the International Criminal Court in 2008- 9 was just a distant threat, it now sees the Palestinians as having a state that can officially file war crimes complaints and is deep into a preliminary examination of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At a macro level and looking toward the ICC, the main problems the UNHRC report poses for Israel are the questions of command responsibility, whether Israel can disclose enough information to show its attacks on residences were justified, and whether it can defend its policy of using artillery even after pervasive reports of civilian casualties caused by such weaponry.

Command responsibility refers to the idea that senior military and political leaders can be found guilty of war crimes if their targeting policies violate the laws of armed conflict. The State Comptroller’s Office is the only authority that has been tasked by Israel to look into the issue, making its coming report an urgent matter, if only to show that the government and defense community are not ignoring it.

It can be argued that Israel made an unforced error in failing to enact a law spelling out command responsibility, as had been suggested in 2013 by the quasi-governmental Turkel Commission, which looked into the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident in which naval commandos killed 10 Turkish activists trying to run the Gaza blockade.

However, it can also be argued that waiting for publication of the UNHRC report helped clarify the issues on which Israel should press forward more quickly.

Regarding disclosure, Israel will likely say it has divulged far more in the way of operational details in its investigations of alleged war crimes than any other country. This might be true, but it could also consider disclosing even more details in an effort to fight for the high ground in the legitimacy debate, even if the details are less than what the HRC’s investigative commission appeared to demand – which is a standard that seemed to brush off the need to protect intelligence sources without citing a basis under the laws of armed conflict.

As for the use of artillery, Israel will likely confront questions about its policy by attacking the commission’s level of military expertise.

The HRC report makes reference to having had a military expert involved to assess military issues, but certain aspects of its conclusions will likely raise an Israeli accusation that those who authored the report did not understand the exigencies of what is feasible on the battlefield.

One example might be where the report rejects the IDF’s claim that in a particular instance, aerial support was not available.

The report rejects the IDF’s explanation of its use of what the commission viewed as less-accurate weaponry, arguing that the country’s vast air power belied the claim of a lack of aerial support – although this rejection appears weak since it is not based on any factual knowledge of the circumstances.

In fairness to the report, Israel did not cooperate with the HRC commission, in some instances forcing it to make estimates.

Many, even on the Israeli side, consider the decision against cooperation to have been tactically imprudent.

But Israel can hardly be slammed too hard for its decision not to cooperate, since it was chaired for most of its existence by Canadian legal expert William Schabas, who eventually resigned over disclosures that he had accepted payment from the PLO for prior legal advice.

On a micro level, Israel has its work cut out for it in defending itself against specific war crimes allegations regarding the August 1 Hannibal Protocol incident, attacks in the Shejaia neighborhood on July 19, 20 and 30, and particularly troubling incidents like the July 16 naval shelling that killed four boys on Gaza beach.

Despite Israel’s detailed explanation as to why it closed its own investigation into the Gaza beach incident, the report questions whether Israel could not have done more to clarify that the four boys were not Hamas personnel. Similar questions are likely to be raised across the board.

From the Israeli perspective, the report is far harsher on Hamas than were past UN reports, whether it be over indiscriminate rocket fire or purposely using civilian areas to stage attacks. In one surprising instance, the report even suggests that Hamas could be guilty of war crimes not only for murder and attempted murder from the direct lethal power of its rockets, but could also be guilty of the more indirect war crime of terrorizing a populace.

The report also clearly rebukes Hamas for storing weapons in UN facilities and other civilian locations.

Despite all of its findings against Hamas, however, the report manages to find a way on most issues to skew toward a final conclusion that condemns Israel and employs a moral equivalence between the sides without really explaining its basis.

Ultimately, on all of the points where Israel is likely to attack the findings, the report focuses far more than did past reports on areas where Israeli legal defenses could be more vulnerable.

In addition, many of its findings against Israel are more nuanced and less blanket than in the past.

This combination could prove legally lethal as the ICC considers whether to further inject itself into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel responds to Gaza war report: UNHRC has ‘singular obsession with Israel’

Bennett: Report stained with blood for allowing murder of Jews; Netanyahu: Report biased, incites and foments against Israel.

By Barak Ravid and Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz
June 22, 2015

Israeli officials on Monday slammed an independent United Nations report that found evidence that Israel committed war crimes during the 2014 Gaza conflict, calling it “biased” and stained with “blood on its hand for allowing the murder of Jews.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the head of the inquiry commission, which was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, of “inciting and agitating against Israel.”

“The commission which wrote [the report] was appointed by a council that calls itself a human right council [but] in fact does everything but defend human rights,” Netanyahu said at a Likud faction meeting on Monday. “Israel doesn’t commit war crimes, but defends itself from a terrorist organization which calls for its destruction. We will not sit idly by. We’ll continue to act with strength and decisiveness against all those who try to harm us and our citizens and we’ll do so in accordance with international law,” Netanyahu said.

The report, released on Monday, found that both Israel and Palestinian militant groups may have committed war crimes during the conflict last summer, and called the devastation caused in the Palestinian territory “unprecedented.” The members of the commission, which was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, hinted in their report that the upper levels of the Israeli political echelon were responsible for the policies that led to some of these war crimes.

Education Minister Nafatali Bennett said the report “has blood on its hands for allowing the murder of Jews.”

Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon said in response that the report is “distorted and has one aim: To tarnish Israel’s image and add fuel to the fire of de-legitimization.”

Ya’alon said Israel did “everything it could to avoid harm to civilians,” and added that Hamas erected rocket launchers in civilian population centers. “The attempt to compare Israel and Hamas, or to present Israel as committing war crimes, is despicable,” Ya’alon said.

The Foreign Ministry disputed the findings of the report, accusing the UNHRC of having a “singular obsession” with Israel.”

According to the foreign ministry, the process that led to the establishment of the UN commission and the report was politically motivated.

“This report was commissioned by a notoriously biased institution, given an obviously biased mandate,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said.

“The UN Human Rights Council has a singular obsession with Israel, passing more country specific resolutions against Israel than against Syria*, Iran and North Korea* combined. The commission of inquiry’s mandate presumed Israel guilty from the start,” Nachshon added.

Nachshon also claimed the UNHRC lacked the necessary tools and expertise to conduct a professional examination of armed conflict situations.

“Israel will consider the report in light of these essential failings. It would encourage all fair-minded observers to do the same,” the Foreign Ministry statement said

Nachshon added that the Israeli army operated in the Gaza Strip in order to defend Israeli citizens from terrorist attacks, while the Palestinian terror groups who committed a “double war crime: They indiscriminately target Israeli civilians while deliberately endangering Palestinian civilians, including children, by using them as human shields.”

“In defending itself against attacks, Israel’s military acted according to the highest international standards,” said the statement.

“Israel will continue to uphold its commitment to the law of armed conflict despite the brutal tactics of its enemies. Israel will continue to investigate alleged wrongdoing in accordance with international standards and to cooperate with those UN bodies that conduct themselves in an objective, fair and professional manner,” the statement said.

‘Prevent the next cycle’

The Zionist Union chairman and opposition leader, Isaac Herzog, said in response to the report that “the IDF is a moral army, and I don’t need no international report and no commission to know that.”

In a Facebook post, Herzog said: “While for Hamas the killing of innocents is the prime objective, I can say from my own experience at many cabinet meetings that the question of harm to innocent bystanders is always debated and carries a lot of weight in Israel’s operational decisions.”

Herzog also said: “The only important thing with regards to Gaza is to do everything to prevent the next cycle. For that we need to support an initiative that will lead to its demilitarization and rehabilitation soon.”

At Monday’s meeting of the Zionist Union Knesset faction, MK Tzipi Livni stated that the UN report on Operation Protective Edge is a report born in sin, written by a commission that systematically and deliberately attacks Israel. “We won’t accept a comparison between terrorists and IDF soldiers; we won’t allow talking about soldiers and terrorists in the same breath – that’s an important distinction for any country combating terror. IDF soldiers fight terrorists, even if civilians are sometimes hurt. Terrorist organizations don’t discriminate, killing soldiers and civilians alike. It doesn’t matter if it’s five year old Daniel Tragerman last year or Danny Gonen, who was murdered last Friday in Dolev. Those are the targets of terror.”

“The second thing we won’t permit is the investigation of IDF soldiers by the world. Israel is a democracy which examines itself with the aid of a strong judiciary. The world has to respect what we do on our own and not go after it with a UN commission or at the court in The Hague.”

Israel launches diplomatic front against Arab majority at UNHRC*

UN likely to officially adopt report on Gaza war, sparking Israeli effort to remove the power of Arab majority voting bloc within the human rights council.

By Itamar Eichner and Aviel Magnezi, Ynet news
June 23, 2015

A new diplomatic front has been launched in Israel, meant to do away with the automatic Arab majority in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), in light of an impending council vote regarding whether or not to adopt as official the findings of a UN report released Monday on 2014’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.

The report was ill-received in Israel, where officials said that the UNHRC is inherently slanted against Israel. UN investigators blamed both Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes during the conflict, a claim that Hamas decried as false.

This Palestinian baby survived. About 500 children were killed. Photo by AP.

Foreign Ministry officials are expecting a vote in favour of the report in the coming days, due to the voting bloc within the council that traditionally aligns with the wishes of Arab countries who are known to vote against Israel’s interests.

Behind the scene talks with key players in the UNHRC have already begun, but if adopted by the council the report will be passed onto the UN General Assembly, as occurred with the infamous Goldstone Report in wake of a previous Gaza conflict in 2009, or Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will be asked directly to monitor its implementation.

The diplomatic efforts to sway opinion in the UNHRC in Israel’s favour will include a public propaganda campaign in the coming days, meant to spread Israel’s view that IDF conduct during the war was “according to the highest international standards.” This effort is expected to be led on social media.

Meanwhile pro-Israeli groups are organizing a protest to take place outside of UN headquarters next Monday when the report will be discussed by the UNHRC in Geneva before the upcoming vote.

“There is no indictment of Israel here,” said officials in the Foreign Ministry. “They are aware that they don’t have enough information for an indictment. What’s disturbing is that it puts Israel and Hamas on the same weighing scale. There’s no doubt that this harms Israel’s image.”

Another senior Israel official claimed that it was the policy of disengagement and refusal to cooperate with the investigation leading up to the report that saved the Jewish nation from a much worse outcome.

“They would have reached the same conclusion and maybe even worse if we had cooperated,” said the source. “Their investigation does not cross the threshold into criminal investigation and therefore they did not discuss individuals. The entire report stands on chicken legs because they didn’t have access to the field.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu replied to the UN report at a Likud meeting on Monday afternoon saying that the organization that calls itself the Human Rights Council, “does everything besides caring for human rights.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett also had harsh words following the report’s release, saying, “This report has blood on its hands because it permits the murder of Jews”. Bennett noted that the report “ties our soldiers’ hands and prevents them from protecting the people of the south and the entire country.”

Notesd and Links
Members of the Human Rights Council of the UN, and date of the end of their term.

Albania 2017, Algeria 2016, Argentina 2015, Bangladesh 2017, Bolivia 2017, Botswana 2017, Brazil 2015, China 2016, Congo 2017, Côte d’Ivoire 2015, Cuba 2016, El Salvador 2017, Estonia 2015, Ethiopia 2015

France 2016, Gabon 2015, Germany 2015, Ghana 2017, India 2017, Indonesia 2017, Ireland 2015, Japan 2015,
Kazakhstan 2015, Kenya 2015, Latvia 2017, Maldives 2016, Mexico 2016, Montenegro 2015, Morocco 2016

Pakistan 2015, Paraguay 2017, Portugal 2017, Qatar 2017, Republic of Korea 2015, Russian Federation 2016, Saudi Arabia 2016, Sierra Leone 2015, South Africa 2016, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 2016, United Arab Emirates 2015, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 2016, United States of America 2015, Venezuela 2015, Viet Nam 2016.

Of the 48 member countries, three are Arab states.

* U.N: Syrian government troops, rebels both target civilians

By AP | Beirut
Tuesday, 23 June 2015

In Syria’s civil war, both government forces and opposition fighters are targeting civilians in a way that has led to “unspeakable suffering,” U.N. investigators said Tuesday.

The assessment, in a report by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, sought to draw attention to the plight of the civilians, saying that with “each passing day there are fewer safe places in Syria.” …

Ukraine death toll hits 6,000 amid ongoing fighting – UN

From UN News Centre
2 March 2015 – The estimated death toll caused by the continuing fighting in Ukraine has now surpassed the 6,000 mark, the United Nations human rights office confirmed today, amid broader warnings that the country stands on the brink of a “new and very deadly chapter” in its conflict…

Latest News: Launch of the report of the Commission of Inquiry on human rights in DPRK (North Korea)
Office of the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, 2013

Warning from Pyongyang as UN opens office on N. Korea rights

The United Nations Tuesday opened a new office in Seoul to monitor North Korea’s human rights record, prompting a warning from Pyongyang of “resolute toughest” action against what it termed a grave” provocation…AFP, June 23rd, 2015

Iran’s human rights situation worsening, says UN special rapporteur

The human rights situation in Iran is worsening, a UN expert has said, pointing to a surge in executions and noting concern that ongoing negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear programme could overshadow abuses…. AFP, March 2015

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