Israelis were primed for the publication of the United Nations Human Rights Council Report on Gaza 2014. 

Expectations were that there would be harsh condemnations of Israel, and thus the heads of the two right of center parties in the government responded as soon as the report was issued. Minister of Education Naftali Bennett described it as a report "with blood on its hands." Prime Minister Netanyahu called it a continuation of the UN "march of hypocrisy."

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Commentators were more moderate. 



They found greater balance than in the previous (Goldstone) UNHRC Report issued about an earlier Gaza operation. True, the latest Report found that Israeli forces had acted with insufficient concern for civilian casualties. The voice of the UNHRC committee chair--a former NY State Supreme Court judge--broke when she described more than 500 children who had been killed in Gaza. However, the Report accused both Hamas and Israel of violating international law. It detailed Israel's use of massive explosives against congested neighborhoods, Hamas' indiscriminate missile attacks meant to terrorize Israeli civilians, and Hamas' use of street executions--without prior trials--against individuals accused of supplying information to Israel.

It has been hard to summarize a report of more than 200 pages, except to conclude that it was not crafted with the care necessary for a decisive document. 

It both admits that Israel was faced with an enemy who used human shields to protect its fighters and stores of munitions, and accuses Israel of insufficient care in avoiding civilian casualties. 

Palestinians as well as Israelis have had trouble deciding if the report is insufficiently balanced, or puts the blame for Gazan catastrophes on the proper party. 

So where are we?

About where we were before the UNHRC Report, and before the Gaza operation of 2014.

There is enough in the Report to justify Israeli claims that the UN and other international organizations are inherently biased, and make no significant contribution to the problems of Israel and Palestine.

Israel remains with its problem of dealing with non-state enemies, i.e., terrorist organizations, with support among the unwashed, with no concern for their own civilians, and no effective way to discipline their various factions always intent on making trouble. Hamas is a problem for Israel, and various groups of Islamists even more extreme are problems for both Hamas and Israel. 

We're hearing arguments about the lack of cooperation by Israeli officials with the UNHRC committee. Israeli human rights organizations did cooperate, providing their well known charges of Israeli excesses. Israeli officials declared the committee off bounds from the beginning, refused it access to Israel or to Israeli officials.

Could the Report have been more balanced with Israeli cooperation?

Would a somewhat more balanced Report make a difference that mattered?

No less prominent than conflicts between Israel and Palestinians are conflicts among Palestinians. Most apparent, but not alone, is the rivalry between Fatah and Hamas. This comes along with frequent pledges of unity and just as frequent mutual accusations and violence directed at one another's activists. 

Verbosity affects Palestinian politicians no less than Israelis.

Perhaps more so, insofar as there may be fewer informal as well as formal rules in a polity where the ostensible government remains in office more than six years after the end of its term.

We are subject to several verbal shifts weekly from those claiming Palestinian leadership, including threats to dissolve the Palestinian Authority, submit a case to the International Criminal Court, go again to one or another forum of the United Nations to provide the Palestinians with a state having the borders of 1948, a capital in Jerusalem, plus the return of refugees and their descendants.

The present Report of the UNHRC may help Israel as well as Palestinians if there is a case that moves forward in the International Criminal Court. Israelis are not optimistic, but there is enough in the Report--as well as Israel's own documents--for a counter suit against Palestinians.

And even if the ICC acts against Israel, so what?

One doubts that Israel will act significantly different in response to another round of missiles from Gaza, or that the various Gazan groups will take note of the death and destruction, and call quits to their aspirations.

Individual Israelis, including military and political figures, may work to make subsequent actions more acceptable. Incremental changes can improve the image of Israeli investigations of what its soldiers have done by relying more on inquiries formally independent of the IDF. That won't satisfy critics, insofar as it is difficult to find Israelis with knowledge of military affairs who have not served in the IDF.

France may move forward with a resolution to the UN Security Council, with or without the cooperation of the US. What we've seen so far is sufficiently muddied to avoid great offense to Israel. It would require negotiations and agreements between Israel and Palestine, and may never have to face the prospect of a dictate that no great power would have the will or capacity to enforce.

Israel does not lack for its own credible personnel and those of other countries who assert that the IDF operates with appropriate concern for law and civilian casualties, and scorn the most extreme of the critics as ideologues beholden to Israel's enemies.

Those expecting "world public opinion" to give the Palestinians what they want should look at their surroundings. Lots of kids, Third World governments no one should be proud of, people who have been protesting everything since Vietnam, along with a few Presbyterians concerned about their souls.

So where are we?

Same old, same old appears to be an appropriate summary.

 


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