I’ve been away for a while and I’ll have shorter articles in the future but I wanted to provide extensive quotes and analysis of the UN commission report, there are other people breaking this down as well so I will focus on the deck stacking early in the document, meaning the UN treats controversial opinions as facts to favor one side over the other, and a conclusion that is as much flawed by its strained logic as it by the salient problem that the UN omits from the report. The Elder of Ziyon on his excellent blog noted correctly the UN did attempt to present the Israeli point of view in spite of Israel’s decision not to cooperate so it wasn’t’’ as flawed as the Goldstone report. I agree but go further in stating that Israeli non-cooperation put pressure on the UN to make some show of evenhandedness which helps to justify Israeli non-cooperation as it contributed to a slightly more honest report and we both agree the report was overall not a well done.

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Getting Started:



UN Commission:  14. The hostilities of 2014 erupted in the context of the protracted occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, and of the increasing number of rocket attacks on Israel.

Marc: Wrong, there is no occupation of Gaza, it is only under legal blockade for terrorist activities which with the increased rocket fire and kidnapping and murder of Israeli civilians via a tunnel network was the source of the war. East Jerusalem is part of Jerusalem, while Judea and Samaria (referred to by its Jordanian colonial name of the "West Bank" contains land that Palestinians dispute and would like for a state but the argument that part of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria are occupied lands is irrelevant to the report. Gaza meets no definition of occupation unless it is applied to the Hamas forces that took over Gaza in a coup and even then "occupation" is a strong word unless Israel still maintains a claim on Gaza.

UN Commission:  In the preceding months, there were few, if any, political prospects for reaching a solution to the conflict that would achieve peace and security for Palestinians and Israelis and realize the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people.

Marc: In the preceding several years there were no political prospects to realize the right of Israelis to peace, security and rights to their territories. It is dangerous for the UN to argue a right of self-determination without qualification on the offhand chance people on Earth might take it seriously and petition for recognition of their "rights." There is a case to be made for West Bank Arab self-determination but the UN commission is unprepared to make such a case responsibly and the UN Commission would be well advised not to take or give rights in the Middle East with no context no ability to defend its choices or protect Israel from war. The world still remembers how Israel's Jerusalem fell to Jordanian forces when the UN was supposed to defend it as an ‘international free city for all.’  

UN Commission: 15.The blockade of Gaza by Israel, fully implemented since 2007 and described by the Secretary-General as “a continuing collective penalty against the population in Gaza”

Marc: It should be noted that Gaza did use its “right” of self-determination and the result is a state that no none, including the UN, wishes to recognize and caused itself to be blockaded. A blockade affects a whole population but this action is legal in part because the cost of individualizing the penalty for war amongst the criminals running Gaza would necessitate killing a lot more civilians than have been killed up to now, even if one includes executions by Hamas during the ongoing period of the takeover.   Furthermore, a UN Commission already concluded in the “Palmer Report” the blockade is legal. Due to the terrorism emanating from the Gaza Strip when Hamas took it over completely by force of arms and targeting Israeli civilians for attack, the blockade was a compromise reached to prevent Israel from invading Gaza City to root out Hamas. Gaza City is the world's most densely populated piece of land and rooting out Hamas would have been a disaster for civilians. A blockade that prevents war may be a tremendous burden but it cannot be called collective punishment when it is relief from a hot, close quarter war. The world had put great pressure of come up with solution that fell short of invading Gaza City in the original war, therefore the international community either owes its support of the Israeli blockade or its needs to allow Israel to finish off the original war if it so chooses.

UN Commission: (A/HRC/28/45, para. 70), was strangling the economy in Gaza and imposed severe restrictions on the rights of the Palestinians.

Marc: Only in the context of protecting the civilian right to remain alive, a war zone imposes greater restrictions on the rights of Palestinians than a legal blockage. Also, the economic restriction of the blockade was made worse by Hamas when they used building materials intended for civilian use for military use, particularly cement. Had the Hamas government acted more responsibly, the Israelis may have been free to offer more, instead what the Israelis did offer to civilians was reduced by Hamas' theft of materials so they could be used for military purposes. Hamas is both responsible for the blockade, the sealed border with Egypt and further worsening of the blockade by the Hamas forces.

UN Commission:  18. On 12 June 2014, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and brutally murdered in the West Bank. In response, Israel launched an extensive search and arrest operation, which lasted until the bodies of the teenagers were found, on 30 June. On 2 July, a 16-year-old Palestinian teenager from East Jerusalem was viciously murdered by being burned alive and his body discovered in West Jerusalem in what appeared to be an act of revenge for the murdered Israeli teenagers. Tensions in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, ran high, and were further fuelled by a rise in extreme anti-Palestinian rhetoric. Widespread protests and violent clashes ensued between Palestinians and the Israel Defense Forces.

19. On 7 July 2014, the Israel Defense Forces commenced operation “Protective Edge” in the Gaza Strip, with the stated objective of stopping the rocket attacks by Hamas and destroying its capabilities to conduct operations against Israel. After an initial phase focused on airstrikes, on 17 July 2014, Israel launched a ground operation, which it declared sought to degrade “terror organizations’ military infrastructure, and [… neutralize] their network of cross-border assault tunnels”.  A third phase began on 5 August, and was characterized by alternating ceasefires and ongoing air strikes. The operation concluded on 26 August, when both Israel and Palestinian armed groups adhered to an unconditional ceasefire.

Marc: This is largely correct except for "further fuelled by a rise in extreme anti-Palestinian rhetoric" as being relevant as it is a direct consequence for the brutal murders of children and both proof of "increase" or the impact of rhetoric on IDF and Political leadership's decision making of either side is not accounted for.

UN Commission: 22. In Gaza, as Palestinians struggled to find ways to save their own lives and those of their families, they were confronted with intense attacks, with no way of knowing which locations would be hit and which might be considered safe. People began to move from one place to another, only to encounter attacks in the new neighborhood, and they would have to move on. Closed into the Strip, with no possibility to exit, at times, 44 per cent of Gaza was either a no-go area or the object of evacuation warnings.  These terrifying circumstances created a sense of entrapment, of having “no safe place” to go.

Marc: Gazans could have fled to Egypt except that was closed off due to Hamas terrorist operations against Egypt but this section of the report fails to mention the unprecedented attempts to warn civilians to vacate structures that came under attack, measures that both the US and Germany thought went too far and may serve as a negative precedent for other democracies defending themselves. The warning are acknowledged later in the report but not the unprecedented nature of the warning Israel delivered is a keenly relevant fact that should have been applied here.

UN Commission      42. Warnings are one means of precaution. International humanitarian law requires that “effective advance warning be given of attacks which may affect the civilian population, unless circumstances do not permit.”  The fact that many residential buildings were destroyed without causing deaths suggests that, where specific warnings were conveyed via telephone or text messages, they may have been effective in minimizing civilian casualties.

72. The commission notes the steps taken by Israel to investigate alleged violations of the law of armed conflict by the Israel Defense Forces during operation “Protective Edge” and towards bringing its system of investigations into compliance with international standards. Flaws remain, however, with respect to the State’s adherence to international standards. Further significant changes are required to ensure that Israel adequately fulfils its duty to investigate, prosecute and hold perpetrators accountable for violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

Marc: Without mentioning that Israel in some instances, such as warning civilians of attack, well exceeded normative standards undermines the nature of this complaint and demonstrates a lack of objectivity.

73. The commission concludes that investigations by Palestinian authorities are woefully inadequate, despite allegations of violations of international humanitarian law on the part of Palestinian actors, leaving Israeli victims without an effective remedy. With respect to the local authorities in Gaza, no steps appear to have been taken to ensure effective investigations into actions by Palestinian armed groups, seemingly owing to a lack of political will. The Palestinian Authority claims that its failure to open investigations results from insufficient means to carry out investigations in a territory over which it has yet to re-establish unified control.

Marc: The importance of this is similarly undermined by the fact that Israel exceeded international standards in some areas because without credibility this looks like a section whose purpose is to give the appearance of balanced criticism rather than objective criticism.

Conclusion:

The UN report has some good points to make but they are undermined by bias, deck stacking and the desire to appear to be even handed in assigning blame which means emphasizing flaws for one side and deemphasizing flaws for the other. Also, stating questionable political ideas as though they were facts regarding "occupation" which were misapplied, incorrect regarding Gaza and lacked relevancy to the immediate conflict make this document a negative example for future commissions to read.

No military is above feedback, reproach and I would go further to state that every military has failed live up to its own standards, has killed civilians unnecessarily and failed to live up to international standards of war at some point in every war but for a report such as this one to downplay and equate the deliberate targeting and murder of Israeli civilians to the Israeli actions to end the terror is an awful denunciation of the UN's ability to review conflicts and international jurisprudence. Similarly, referring to Gaza as occupied territory when it is not occupied only demonstrates that the UN is unaware of its own standards on everything except political expedience, what we have here is ultimately a document that is flawed by its politics.

There is a question the commission should have asked itself and answered which is:

‘Is the cost of the human cost of blockade and the military conflict that led to it as well as subsequent violence less than the cost of an all-out conflict in Gaza city proper?’

My intuition is the answer is yes, no matter how many Israeli casualties are presumed but there would have to be many.  The one cost hard to quantify is the cost of Gazans having no choice but to tolerate Hamas rule.

 


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