A judge and a politician in their armchairs in Geneva and Amman who obtain much of their information by telephone and Skype interviews as unambiguously admitted in the latest UNHRC report on the 2014 Gaza War and who lack the essential military background to enable them to remotely understand the critical life and death decisions that must be made by NATO, US and Israeli troops operating in hostile urban areas
A high level international military group comprising 11 former chiefs of staff, generals, senior officers, political leaders and officials from the United States, the United Kingdom, Holland, Spain, Italy, Australia and Colombia. Led by General Klaus Naumann, former Chief of Staff of the Bundeswehr and Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, the most senior officer in the Alliance, the group was granted an unprecedented level of access when it visited Israel in May 2015 and reported
“Each of our own armies is of course committed to protecting civilian life during combat. But none of us is aware of any army that takes such extensive measures as did the IDF last summer to protect the lives of the civilian population in such circumstances.”
The mission reported inter alia that Israel was eventually compelled to fight against Hamas and other Gaza extremists in a legitimate war, necessary to defend its citizens against sustained attacks and that after the war started Israel made repeated efforts to terminate the fighting. Hamas rocket attacks deliberately and indiscriminately targeted Israeli civilian population centers including Ben Gurion International Airport, disrupting and threatening international civil air traffic adding that.
“There is no doubt that all of these attacks constitute war crimes and that Hamas used materials diverted from humanitarian supplies to construct tunnels in many cases emerging close to civilian communities.
“We can only conclude that these tunnels were designed, at least in part, to attack, kill and abduct Israeli civilians. This again constitutes a war crime.”
The above views reinforced a March 2015 report titled “The New face of conflict” by a task force comprising General Charles Wald, USAF (ret.), Task Force Chair Former Deputy Commander of United States European Command and other experienced high ranking officers.
And Reuters reported last November that when General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the highest-ranking U.S. military officer was asked about the ethical implications of Israel’s handling of the Gaza war he replied that Israel went to “extraordinary lengths” to prevent collateral damage and to limit civilian casualties adding:
“In this kind of conflict, where you are held to a standard that your enemy is not held to, you’re going to be criticized for civilian casualties.. Hamas had turned Gaza into very nearly a subterranean society with tunneling throughout the coastal enclave.”
He said the Pentagon sent a “lessons-learned team” of senior officers and non-commissioned officers to work with the IDF to see what could be learned from the Gaza operation, “to include the measures they took to prevent civilian casualties and what they did with tunneling.”
And in The Australian of June 10, 2015 Major-General Jim Molan (Ret.) after spending a week in Israel with a group of senior military, police and lawyers researching Israel’s moral approach to warfighting wrote that the results exceeded his expectation. Unlike the highly politicized UN report, General Molan focused on this one conflict with a moral and professional eye and avoided taking a position on Israel’s legitimacy, the two-state solution, settlements or the occupation.
General Molan wrote:
“War can brutalize, but the Israelis scrupulously cared for the Palestinians. By contrast, Hamas was an enemy whose central strategy was to directly target the Israeli population and who repeatedly used their own population as human shields, both of which in any fair system would constitute major war crimes.”
He found that Israel’s prosecution of the war not only met a reasonable international standard of observance of the laws of armed conflict, it exceeded them significantly, often at cost to Israeli soldiers and citizens. It did this to preserve the life and property of those trying to kill Israeli citizens. Where there were individual failures, Israel is taking transparent legal action.
“Those who hate Israel will continue to make the case that everything Israel does is bad and that Hamas was struggling nobly for Palestinian freedom. I do not ask anyone to necessarily believe what I say, but at least there is an obligation to be equally skeptical of what Hamas says.”
“While acknowledging the tragedy of death in war and given the immense capability of the IDF, it stands to Israel’s everlasting credit that far more did not die. But from the very top of the command chain down to the infantry and pilots, the personal moral position that individuals took was mirrored in the targeting processes, decisions on the ground and in the real care taken.
The women of a kibbutz he visited were proud of their sons, but they would also be proud of what one senior Israeli commander whose soldier son was about to deploy to Gaza, recounted.
“Come back alive, ” he said in farewell, “but come back human.”
and Molan added
I wonder what the Hamas version of this farewell would be.
It is unforgivable that in its focus on pinning guilt on Israel, the UN report fails to show even a small measure of even handedness by omitting to refer to the above expert views which would, at the very least, give a reader the opportunity to take them into account in evaluating the report.
Maurice Ostroff is a founder member of the international Coalition of Hasbara Volunteers, better known by its acronym CoHaV, (star in Hebrew), a world-wide umbrella organization of volunteers active in combating anti-Israel media and political bias and in promoting the positive side of Israel His web site is at www.maurice-ostroff.org