In a mid-May 2015 Jerusalem Report/Jerusalem Post interview by Paul Alster, “The Redoubtable Colonel [Richard] Kemp”, anticipated the findings of the UN Task Force Commission on the 2014 Gaza War. Kemp said: “I think their staff is going to be so heavily biased against Israel that it will be quite a struggle for them to produce a fair report.” Col. Kemp, former commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, was present on the battle front last summer at the Israeli /Gaza frontier had presented his independent testimony to the UN Human Rights Commission investigation. It was a furtherance of his remarks to the earlier UN report following IDF Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009. Conclusions, as Col. Kemp indicated, rejected by Israel.
His predication was reflected in the UN Report by the ‘independent’ investigation released yesterday in Geneva by the Chairperson, former acting New York Supreme Court Justice Mary McGowan Davis. Davis has made a post retirement career after she left the bench in 1998 conducting independent UN investigations into human rights violations. Justice Davis was member of the team that concluded the IDF had perpetrated war crimes against civilians in Gaza defending Israeli citizens from Hamas rocket terrorism in Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009. The summation of the latest UN investigation on the 2014 War in Gaza accused both Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes, while holding IDF to a “higher standard” of behavior.
The UN report cited the comparative toll of casualties occasioned by heavy fighting amidst the civilian infrastructure in Gaza:
The 2014 hostilities saw a “huge increase” in the firepower used in Gaza with Israeli forces conducting more than 6,000 airstrikes and firing approximately 50,000 tank and artillery shells at targets within the enclave. The explosion of force used by Israel ultimately resulted in 1,462 Palestinian civilian casualties, a third of which were children.
Moreover, the fighting in Gaza also resulted in the massive destruction of civilian infrastructure with some 100,000 residents still homeless, according to recent UN estimates.
Much of the destruction, notes the UN report, could be blamed on Israel’s use of weaponry with a wide kill and injury radius, particularly in the densely populated areas of Gaza where destruction and casualties are very likely.
At the same time, the Commission reported that Palestinian militants had also fired 4,881 rockets and 1,753 mortars towards Israel in July and August of last year, killing 6 civilians and injuring at least 1,600 people.
The UN Report played the blame game targeting the IDF actions saying:
That when the safety of an Israeli soldier is at stake, “all the rules seem to be disregarded.”
Israel must break with its lamentable track record in holding wrong doers accountable, the UN Commission of Inquiry’s assessment continued. “And accountability on the Palestinian side is also woefully inadequate.”
In addition, the UN inquiry said it remained “disturbed” by Israel’s decision to close a criminal investigation into the killing of four children on a beach in Gaza on 16 July. The Commission pointed out that international journalists and numerous Palestinian eyewitnesses were not interviewed by the Israeli authorities, raising further doubts about the thoroughness of their investigation.
Au contraire, say the authors of a Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs report , Ambassador Dr. Dore Gold former President of the JCPA and former Editor of the Jerusalem Report Hirsh Goodman in an Arutz Sheva Op-ed: “The bottom line is that the war was fought to stop the rocket fire on Israel’s south and that if not for the Iron Dome, Israeli casualties would have been immense.” Ambassador Gold went on to point out the UN Report’s “perversion of the truth”:
There is a school of thought that claims Israel wanted this war. The opposite is true. But, though this was a war Israel did not want, it was a war for which it had planned meticulously, thereby denying Hamas its main weapon: victimhood.
The following points are the essential truths of the 2014 Gaza war, truths backed by research, evidence, and accounts of events as they happened. The chapters of JCPA’s full report, a summary of which is below, can leave no doubt as to which party should be in the dock for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
More importantly, however, it rings a bell of warning that if Hamas is allowed to escape its crimes, the seeds of the next conflict will be planted.
Saying that Israel attacked civilian buildings in Gaza “means nothing”, IDF Lt. Col. (res) David Benjamin of the JCPA told Arutz Sheva:
Everything in Gaza is essentially civilian. There’s no military infrastructure in Gaza which actually looks like a military target. Everything is embedded in civilian buildings. So there’s nothing new when you say that Israel attacked civilian buildings, because what you have to know is the reason for the attack and what Israel knew about what was going on in those civilian buildings.
Why those buildings were attacked was compounded by the risk of revealing secret intelligence which makes Israel’s presentation of its case increasingly difficult.
Arutz Sheva reported remarks at a presentation of the Washington, DC-based JINSA defense think-tank’s Gaza Assessment Task Force findings, by U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Professor Geoffrey S. Corn:
He criticized the UN Human Rights Council committee for not including any current or former military commanders and constructing legal arguments which were totally detached from reality.
In contrast, he noted, the Gaza Assessment Task Force – which found that Israel had taken extraordinary measures, even beyond the letter of the law, to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza – is “a report written by war fighting commanders.”
Ultimately this is the domain of commanders, not necessarily lawyers. Lawyers contribute by guiding commanders through complex legal questions, but ultimately what we’re talking about here is… war, and war is the job of war fighters.
Professor Corn – former Chief of the Law of War Branch, and currently Professor of Law and Presidential Research Professor at the Texas College of Law – further noted that the UNHRC report totally ignored Hamas’s cynical use of civilians as human shields as a political and diplomatic weapon.
Which brings us back to these observations of a recognized “war fighter’, Col. Kemp. As noted in the Jerusalem Post/ Jerusalem Report:
Does he believe that Israel is right to be wholly skeptical about the UN? “Entirely. The UN, in particular the UN Human Rights Council, seems to me to be an instrument to attack Israel. They seem to devote a disproportionate amount of their efforts into trying to undermine Israel and that is partly as a result of many of the member states being vehemently opposed to Israel. I think Israel is right to be concerned about that.”
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of former New York Surpreme Court Justice Mary McGowan Davis, Chair of UN Investigation in to 2014 Gasa War.