The UNHRC has voted to open an independent investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes committed on the Gaza border and the reactions are as expected. From the “deep appreciation” for the Council by Hamas to the condemnation by Israel. In fact, even before the meeting of the Council, it was clear that a Resolution would be adopted, what would be its contents, and how the opposing parties would react.
But of course, there also was nothing surprising about how the two sides depicted the horrific events of last week.
Hamas claims that the demonstrations along the Gaza border were “spontaneous” expressions of frustration and anger of the population for years of living under deplorable circumstances, for not having been able to deal with the extensive destruction inflicted upon the Gaza strip by Israel in the last military action four years ago, for the lack of humanitarian services, all of which are attributed to Israel and the result of actions by Israel.
But Israel states categorically that Hamas was attempting to use the cover of a well-organized and forced assembly of civilian population on the Gaza border to commit terror attacks and attempt to infiltrate into Israel and kidnap Israeli soldiers. And Israel is only defending itself and its people.
Most likely, neither of these versions is true, both rife with propaganda, half-truths and outright lies. But how are we to know?
In Gaza, where Hamas is in control, no independent news sources are available and we really have no way of knowing if the demonstrations are the expression of despair and anger with the situation that the population finds itself in, or orchestrated attempts at terroristic activities by Hamas while using the innocent population as a shield. Even if intelligence services do have information that Hamas has been organizing the popular revolt, and maybe even forcing some people to take part, or even worse, paying them, it still is plausible that many people came and took part in the demonstrations because of their frustrations and not because they were called to or told to. And even people who were forced to take part by Hamas are still unarmed civilians who do not deserve to die.
In Israel, the news is reported based on statements by the IDF spokesperson and very little effort by news agencies to get a complete picture is apparent. The major source of news for the average Israeli is still the radio where the news is being dominated by Reshet B, which is part of “KAN”, the Israeli Broadcasting Authority, which may officially be independent but whose actual life depends on the goodwill of the government and already quite a while back, one of our respected ministers, Ms. Miri Regev, gave us the unforgettable quote: ”What good is public broadcast if you cannot control it?" And listening to Reshet Bet indeed makes you wonder whom many of these reporters really work for.
The other major radio news broadcaster is “Galei Tzahal,” the Army Radio station. You cannot expect them to report that the Israeli Army is committing war crimes, now can you? (To make sure, I wouldn’t dare claiming the IDF is committing war crimes but the Army station is not exactly a reliable source in this matter).
The Israeli government has been extremely active in explaining to the population that Israel is only defending itself against blatant aggression and many ministers have gone to great length in getting their point across, like our Strategic Affairs minister Gilad Erdan who did not hesitate to compare the actions in Gaza to the Nazis. However, is the Israeli government, and Erdan in particular, a reliable source of information? Ask the people of Umm al-Hiran.
So would an independent inquiry not be the best solution for everybody? The world would get to know what really happened. The people of Israel (those who doubt the Israeli version of events and those who do not) would get the true story of the events.
However, the Israeli government is vehemently against such an inquiry and Israel’s best friend at the UN, Ms. Haley is again standing by Israel with all her might. “The UNHRC is not objective.” “They should investigate the War crimes of Hamas.” “Hundreds of thousands are killed in Syria and all the UNHRC cares about is the deaths that occurred when Israel is trying to defend herself.” These are just a few of the outcries from Jerusalem (and from New York where Danny Danon has been very vocal) that should convince the world that the decision to have an inquiry should be revoked. And maybe all of those arguments are valid. However, none of these screams of indignation and anger do help to dispel the feeling that there are things that Israel is trying to hide (and Hamas as well) and in fact it only strengthens the uncertainty and the uncomfortable feeling that Jerusalem is not telling the truth, or at least not the whole truth.
“An independent committee cannot be formed” will be the commentary from Jerusalem. But here the U.S. can surely use its influence to make sure that he members of the committee will be a balanced group of people, acceptable to both parties? It is hard to believe that if a real effort is made, a committee cannot be established that indeed would be able to look at the fact and not at the politics.
And maybe both sides should commit to accepting the findings of such a committee to avoid backtracking afterwards.
Therefore, Israel, and the U.S., would do better in putting their efforts into making sure that an objective committee will be established, that will have the opportunity to present the world with a clear picture of what happened.
And even more then to the world, they would be able to give those that do not take neither Israel nor Hamas for its word, some confidence that they have been told the truth, and that he people that are telling it are interested in the truth and only the truth, not a politically tainted truth.
I for one would love to hear that indeed Israel was defending itself against multiple terrorist attacks and that the many dead are terrorists and not just frustrated, angry and desperate people. Even with Hamas now saying that most of the people who got killed were their operatives. Should I now believe them while three days ago I should not? Moreover, I really am not convinced by the proclamations of the Danons, Erdans, Regevs and Netanyahus and not even the Army Spokesperson.
So who am I to believe? Sixty two deaths and why they died really do not matter to anyone? Definitely not to Hamas and not to Israel.
But to me they matter because we killed them.