24 June '15..
In the 21st century, barbarism has gained ground at the expense of civilization. Democracy has been in sharp decline. Terrorism increased by 35 percent in 2014. ISIS’s latest video is the most horrific yet.
If civilization can still prevail, it first has to be able to distinguish between civilization and barbarism. Civilization has had a notoriously hard time doing that. It signed a peace agreement with Herr Hitler and declared “peace in our time.” It may be on the verge of signing an agreement with Iran that leaves its nuclear program intact and ensures it will get—for starters—$150 billion worth of sanctions relief.
The inability to morally distinguish between Israel and its barbaric enemies is, of course, a key part of the malaise. The UN Human Rights Council’s report on last summer’s war in Gaza, released this week, is a further symptom of a disease that appears incurable.
The 47 members of the council, based in Geneva, include human rights stalwarts like Algeria, Cuba, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. Not surprisingly, with such a membership, the council’s overriding purpose is to vilify Israel: 80 percent of its resolutions condemn it. As Benjamin Netanyahu noted on Tuesday, the council
has passed more resolutions against Israel than against Syria, North Korea and Iran combined. In fact, it has passed more resolutions against Israel than against all the countries of the world combined.
Yet democratic countries sit on the council, too—France, Japan, the Netherlands, the United States, and others; they participate in its votes and never threaten to leave it en masse unless it stops being a blatant Israel-defaming kangaroo court. The current “fact-finding mission” on the Gaza war was first headed by a Canadian academic, William Schabas; and now, Schabas having stepped down when it turned out he had been in the Palestinians’ pay, by U.S. jurist Mary McGowan Davis.
If this latest report is somewhat less extreme than one of its predecessors, the infamous 2009 Goldstone Report on the 2008 war in Gaza, it’s because it puts Israel on the same moral footing as Hamas—unlike in the Goldstone Report where Israel was a ruthless killer and Hamas almost irrelevant. It’s hardly comforting, of course, when Israel is portrayed—at best—as equivalent to Hamas instead of much worse.
The report says that the “commission was able to gather substantial information pointing to serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law by Israel and by Palestinian armed groups. In some cases, these violations may amount to war crimes.”
The report, for instance, acknowledges that before invading or bombing built-up parts of Gaza, Israel warned residents to leave (using measures like phone calls, SMS messages, leaflets, small “knock-on-the-roof” bombs, and others that an unbiased group of experts said were unique in military history). For the commission, though, the fact that not all residents left—even though they had ample time to do so—makes Israel responsible for their deaths and guilty of war crimes.
The commissions says it “suspects” that Hamas told the Gazans to stay put—thereby managing to “suspect” what is a well-documented fact.
The report is in general exquisitely cautious when it comes to judging Hamas—which it calls “armed Palestinian groups,” it being considered impolitic for some reason to use Hamas’s name. The tunnels Hamas dug from Gaza into Israel, for instance, were intended for mass-murder and kidnapping attacks on Israeli civilians. Yet the commission
cannot conclusively determine the intent of Palestinian armed groups with regard to the construction and use of these tunnels. However, the commission observes that during the period under examination, the tunnels were only used to conduct attacks directed at IDF positions in Israel in the vicinity of the Green Line, which are legitimate military targets.
An absurdity, of course, since the soldiers were there to stop the terrorists from getting further into Israel, and some of them died doing so.
The report also says that Hamas’s use of inaccurate rockets “increases suspicion that it meant to harm and terrorize Israeli civilians”—this ginger terminology being used for a terrorist organization that is responsible for the murder and injury of thousands of civilians going back to the late 1980s, and which, during last summer’s war, fired—as the report itself acknowledges—almost 5,000 rockets and 1,750 mortar bombs into Israel, very few even in the intended direction of military targets.
As Israeli military commentator Ron Ben-Yishai notes,
The report fails to mention the fact that Hamas is the one which opened fire and initiated the fighting, and it gives no weight to the fact that Israel did everything in its power to reach a ceasefire before moving on to a full-scale counterattack….
The distinction between aggressor and defender has, of course, long been buried under a mountain of Israel-slander. Beyond that matter of morally skewed rhetoric, though, Ben-Yishai points out that the report can only encourage Israel’s possible next wartime foe, Hezbollah, which has turned southern Lebanon into a massive human shield and, as the New York Times acknowledged, “moved most of its military infrastructure into the Shiite villages” there.
The report, Ben-Yishai observes, “fails to explain why an Israeli soldier has to get killed because Hamas chose to locate its launchers and tunnels in the heart of [a Gaza] neighborhood” and “serve[s] as a…warning…against what might happen to us in the international arena if a war breaks out in the north with Hezbollah or with Hezbollah and the Syrians.”
Wisely, Israel refused to cooperate with this commission; it could not get into Gaza and makes no specific charges against Israeli officers or soldiers. It’s believed, therefore, that the Palestinian Authority will not be able to make much use of the report in its efforts to get Israel charged with “war crimes” at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
The report, though, will probably be ratified by the Human Rights Council and, later, by the UN General Assembly, and increase the general atmosphere of recrimination toward Israel. It represents then, another win for barbarism, with the West again cooperating in the war against its own values.
P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva and author of the book Choosing Life in Israel.