Israel under investigation

July 24, 2014 by J-Wire Staff
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The United Nations Human Rights Council has established an independent, international commission of inquiry to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.The suggestion that Israel may have committed war crimes has been met with a statement from the office of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the UNHRC decision is green-lighting Hamas’s tactics of employing human shields.

In the resolution, adopted by a vote of 29 States in favour, 1 against and 17 abstentions, the Council meeting in Geneva condemned the widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms arising from the Israeli military operations carried out in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 13 June 2014 that may amount to international crimes, directly resulting in the killing of more than 650 Palestinians, most of them civilians and more than 170 of whom were children, the injury of more than 4,000 people and the wanton destruction of homes, vital infrastructure and public properties.

In the resolution, the Council decided to urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014, and to report to the Council at its twenty-eighth session.

Navi Pillay

Navi Pillay

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay  condemned the Hamas rocket attacks on Israel but said since Israel announced its military operation “Protective Edge” on 7 July, Gaza had been subjected to daily intensive bombardment from the air, land and sea, employing well over 2,100 air strikes alone.  The hostilities had resulted in the deaths of more than 600 Palestinians, including at least 147 children and 74 women.  As in the two previous crises in 2009 and 2012, it was innocent civilians in the Gaza Strip, including children, women, the elderly and persons with disabilities, who suffered the most.  According to preliminary United Nations figures, around 74 per cent of those killed so far were civilians, and thousands more had been injured.  Hundreds of homes and other civilian buildings, such as schools, had been destroyed or severely damaged in Gaza, and more than 140,000 Palestinians had been displaced.  Two Israeli civilians had also lost their lives and between 17 and 32 others had been reported injured as a result of rockets and other projectiles fired from Gaza, and 27 Israeli soldiers had been killed during military operations in Gaza.  The indiscriminate firing by Hamas and other armed groups of more than 2,900 rockets and mortars from Gaza continued to endanger the lives of civilians in Israel, and Ms. Pillay once again condemned such indiscriminate attacks.  It was unacceptable to locate military assets in densely populated areas or to launch attacks from such areas.  However, international law was clear – the actions of one party did not absolve the other party of the need to respect its obligations under international law.

Civilians must not be targeted, the High Commissioner emphasized, saying it was imperative that Israel, Hamas and all Palestinian armed groups strictly abided by international humanitarian and human rights laws.  Not abiding by these principles may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.  The disregard for international humanitarian law and for the right to life was shockingly evident for all to see in the apparent targeting on 16 July of seven children playing on a Gaza beach.  All seven were hit.  Four of them, –   aged between 9 and 11, from the same Bakr family – were killed. These children were clearly civilians taking no part in hostilities.  The following day, three more children were killed and two others wounded, reportedly by a drone missile, in the Al-Sabra area of Gaza city while they were playing on the roof of their home as their parents prepared the daily Ramadan iftar meal.  These are only a few of the cases in which a total of 147 children have been killed in Gaza over the past 16 days.  They had a right to life just like children in any other country.  Their killings raise concerns about respect for the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack.  Israeli children, and their parents and other civilians, also had a right to live without the constant fear that a rocket fired from Gaza may land on their houses or their schools, killing or injuring them.  Ms. Pillay called for each of those incidents to be properly and independently investigated.  She also warned that the current situation in Gaza overshadowed the backdrop of heightened tensions in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem and expressed concern about a significant rise in incitement to violence against Palestinians, including through social media.  Only those responsible for criminal acts could legitimately be punished, she said, individuals should not be subject to collective penalties.

Israel held obligations as an Occupying Power, and both Palestinians and Israelis deserved better than a life of chronic insecurity and recurring escalation in hostilities, said Ms. Pillay, hoping that the parties would respond positively to the visit of the Secretary-General to the region and his call for an immediate ceasefire.  Accountability was the first step towards ensuring that the cycle of human rights violations and impunity was brought to an end.  A lasting peace could only begin with respect for human rights and human dignity on both sides, and ultimately, in the full realisation of the right to self-determination. All the dead and maimed civilians should weigh heavily on all consciences, said Ms. Pillay, as all efforts to protect them had been abject failures.  More powerful entities, such as the Security Council, and individual States with serious leverage over the parties to this dreadful and interminable conflict, must do far more than they had done so far to bring the conflict to an end once and for all.

Israeli Ambassador Eviatar Manar addressed the Council.

He said: ”

Thank you, Mr. President.

Ambassador Eviatar Manar

Ambassador Eviatar Manar

The request to convene this Special Session, and at this particular juncture, is a return to the knee jerk reaction of this Council whenever Israel defends itself. Some members demanding this Special Session are themselves no paragons of human rights. Yet their Pavlovian instinct demands they react against Israel, in order to divert attention from their own human rights violations. So, we are back at our ritual of naming and shaming Israel.

With 2,000 rockets raining on Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Beer Sheva from above and murderous terrorists squads tunneling into our villages from below, what can life-seeking Israelis do but go out and defend themselves?

Mr. President,

Hamas began firing rockets on our towns and villages immediately after it had abducted and killed three Israeli teenagers. In the weeks that followed, Israel restrained itself. But after 300 rockets a day were indiscriminately fired at Israeli civilians, Israel had no choice but to respond.

Israel’s Government would not be doing its duty to protect its citizens had it not done so. Every country has the duty to defend itself and this principle is enshrined in international law. Any other country in the world would have done the same.

Hamas is committing war crimes when it fires rockets and missiles indiscriminately at Israeli towns and villages. Hamas is protecting its launching sites with the civilian residents of Gaza. Another war crime; Hamas has built tunnels from Gaza into Israel, using them to try to attack villages like Kerem Shalom and Sufa. Another war crime; in ten days, Hamas fired 2,000 rockets – that’s 2,000 war crimes. Hamas has cynically concealed munitions in UNRWA schools, as UNRWA itself admitted again yesterday. A war crime; Hamas  used  tons of  concrete provided as humanitarian aid to build  a web of tunnels under hospitals, mosques, schools, homes  extending into Israel to be used to abduct and murder Israelis. This, instead of building shelters for the residents of Gaza.

And this Council sits in judgment of Israel? There can be no moral symmetry between a terrorist aggressor and a democracy defending itself. Mr. President, Madam High Commissioner, in the protection of the human rights of Israelis, this Council and you, Madam, have failed dismally.

Mr. President,

Israel’s restraint was met by Hamas aggression.

Israel agreed to an Egyptian brokered cease fire to begin July 15. Hamas rejected it outright. Israel agreed to a humanitarian cease fire July 17, but Hamas shot its way through it. It rejected Egyptian efforts on the 17th when Israel sent top negotiators to Cairo with a view yet again to conclude a cease fire. Hamas is determined to maximize murder and mayhem. In these conditions, Israel had no option but to start ground operations, confronting Hamas with a strong, unambiguous response.

Israel will destroy Hamas’ military infrastructure. However, the Gaza residents are not our enemies. Israel is fully committed to international law. Israeli commanders and soldiers are guided by international law in their actions. In line with the requirements of international law, IDF actions in Gaza are targeted solely against military targets. The IDF makes great efforts to minimize any incidental harm that may be caused to civilians as a result of an attack on a military target. The IDF took all available precautionary measures and has warned residents to leave prospective combat areas but Hamas urged them to ignore Israeli warnings and remain in their homes, using civilians as human shields.

Hamas bears the responsibility for the injuries sustained by Gaza residents. Israel deeply regrets any civilian losses caused by its operation, and has already started investigating itself. We do not confront the Salvation Army but a brutal terrorist organization. And lest we forget; Hamas is part of the Palestinian unity government. Mr. Abbas should dissolve this government and choose peace.

Mr. President,

This Council has lost its bearings.

This Special Session is misguided, ill-conceived and counter-productive to efforts made as we speak to end hostilities.

The Resolution in front of you is totally unbalanced, asymmetric and destructive.  It pours gasoline on the fire. It rewards the terrorist aggressors and punishes the side which acts in order to protect its citizens.

This Council should stop looking for the coin under the street lamp. It can regain its moral authority by unequivocally condemning Hamas. It cannot be supportive of an organization  that is no different than al-Qa’ida, ISIS, Boko-Haram, Hezbollah, and  other extreme radical Islamist organizations that negate the very essence of human rights as we know them and  threaten democracy, the rule of law, security and stability of a country, an entire region, and the whole world.
What this Council can do is reject outright and vote no on this absolutely one-sided Resolution.

What this Council cannot do is stop Israel from exercising its right to self-defense.”

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu        Photo: Henry Benjamin

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Photo: Henry Benjamin

In Israel the Prime Minister’s media advisor  has issued the following statement responding strongly to the decision to establish a commission of enquiry. “The decision today by the UNHRC is a travesty and should be rejected by decent people everywhere.

Rather than investigate Hamas, which is committing a double war crime by firing rockets at Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians, the UNHRC calls for an investigation of Israel, which has gone to unprecedented lengths to keep Palestinian civilians out of harm’s way, including by dropping leaflets, making phone calls and sending text messages.

The UNHRC should be launching an investigation into Hamas’s decision to turn hospitals into military command centers, use schools as weapons depots and place missile batteries next to playgrounds, private homes and mosques.

By failing to condemn Hamas’s systematic use of human shields and by blaming Israel for the deaths that are caused by this grotesque human shields policy, the UNHRC is sending a  message to Hamas and terror organizations everywhere that using civilians as human shields is an effective strategy.

Like the investigation that led to the infamous Goldstone report, a report  which was ultimately renounced by its own author, this investigation by a kangaroo court is a foregone conclusion.

The predictable result will be the libeling of Israel and even greater use of human shields in the future by Hamas. Those who will pay the price will be not only Israelis but also Palestinians who Hamas will redouble its efforts to use as human shields in the future.

The predicable result will be the libeling of Israel and even greater use of human shields in the future by Hamas. Those who will pay the price will be not only Israelis but also Palestinians who Hamas will redouble its efforts to use as human shields in the future.”

The 22 member States on the Council together with 16 observer States were:

Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Cuba, Gabon, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco, Namibia, Pakistan, Peru, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela and Viet Nam.

The Observer States were Afghanistan, Bahrain, Brunei Darussalam, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Qatar, Senegal, State of Palestine, Sudan, Tunisia, Turkey and Yemen.

Comments

4 Responses to “Israel under investigation”
  1. Dian says:

    It’s important for us to demand an investigation of Hamas. We might not succeed, but making a big ruckus would also be an achievement. Please sign and share this excellent petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/united-nations-human-rights-council-urgently-investigate-serious-violations-of-international-humanitarian-law-by-hamas-in-gaza

  2. Lynne Newington says:

    My initial thoughts on this were:
    Where was the United Nations when thousands of Argentinians under the dictatorship regime were disappearing, tortured, many drugged and dropped into the Atlantic Ocean, never to be seen alive again; and the hundreds of children deprived of their mothers removed as deemed unfit because of an ideology, not withstanding many making complaints through various human rights agencies and activists, with those well placed in society claiming their clerical rights never being brought to account free to clime the ecclesiastical ladder.
    The government could never have existed without the support of the church, who was being financially supported by them.
    Maybe with all due respect, High Commisioner Pillay isn’t as up to date as she should be on international issues still hanging over the heads of many.
    Ask the mothers and grandmothers still seeking to know the fate of their loved ones still knocking on heavens door.

  3. sam Goldman says:

    Israel should counter-charge the UN with war crimes for having missiles stored in THEIR schools.

    • Lynne says:

      ….yes and on BBC’s early news this AM there’s rockets missing and the UN is calling for an investigation and not the first time either.
      Haaretz: Rocket Cache found at UN Gaza school goes missing.

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