The grossly misnamed United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) with its majority of non-democratic member-countries has just released its so-called “fact-finding report” on the war last summer in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.
While the UNHRC acknowledged that Hamas’s indiscriminate firing of missiles at Israeli cities and towns were acts of terrorism, it concentrated most of its fire on Israel’s attempts to defend its territory and citizens. It considers the blockade of Gaza to be a violation of Palestinian human rights that should be investigated by the International Criminal Court and blames Israel for most of the fatalities and injuries in Gaza that occurred during the conflict.
It falsely accuses Israel of failing to take adequate precautions to avoid civilian casualties, deliberately targeting UN facilities that were being used to shelter civilians, and causing deaths and injuries to hundreds of Palestinian children resulting from “indiscriminate” air and ground attacks. In many incidents, it claims, Israel “may not have done everything feasible to avoid or limit civilian casualties.” Although it placed blame on both parties, it focused more on Israel’s role and accepted the Palestinian death count, by which 1,462 out of a total of 2,251 Palestinians killed were civilians — a 65% ratio. Israel’s internal report found that 56% of the dead were civilians, a figure that supports Israel’s stated emphasis on proportionality during war.
The Report’s false claims fly in the face of the conclusions reached by a High Level International Military Group on the Gaza Conflict consisting of 11 former chiefs of staff, generals, senior officers, political leaders and officials from the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Holland, Spain, Italy, Australia and Colombia that visited Israel in May for a fact-finding mission of their own on the 2014 Israel-Gaza war. Contrary to the conclusions reached by the UNHRC Report, the Group concluded that the measures Israel took to warn civilians of pending attacks in targeted areas in Gaza included phone calls, SMS messages, leaflet drops, radio broadcasts, communication via Gaza-based UN staff and the detonation of harmless warning explosive charges known as ‘knocks on the roof’. They observed that “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 IDF declined to attack known military targets due to the presence of civilians, risking, and in some instances costing Israeli lives.”
The Report also down-plays (or fails to mention entirely) Hamas’s initiation of the conflict via the relentless firing of missiles deliberately aimed at Israeli civilian population centers (which it ascribes to “armed Palestinian groups” or the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, barely mentioning that these have any connection to Hamas), its refusal to accept numerous cease-fire agreements which resulted in prolonging the conflict, it’s placement of missile launching units near schools, hospitals, food distribution centers and professional training centers, its placement of explosive devices in UN-funded medical clinics, its placement of snipers, command posts and weapons storage depots in or near civilian homes, churches, hotels, schools, mosques, hospitals and UN facilities, its directive that terrorist combatants were to be referred to as “civilians” (according to a Hamas Interior Ministry directive issued on July 11th, 2014), and its construction of terror tunnels (using materials diverted from humanitarian supplies) leading from civilian homes in Gaza into Israeli communities bordering Gaza for the purpose of killing or kidnapping Israelis. To the contrary, the Report states “that 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” – this despite an October 2014 report in Vanity Fair (confirmed by the IDF) that Hamas had planned to carry out a massive assault by penetrating Israeli communities via tunnels under the border from the Gaza Strip, and then killing or kidnapping as many civilians as possible.
What is not addressed in the Report however is the rationale behind Hamas’s use of human shields and civilian infrastructures as an integral part of its war tactics. Hamas made it clear to Gaza’s civilians that those fleeing the fighting would be considered collaborators (which, in Gaza, is the equivalent of a death sentence) if they didn’t stay put. As Col. Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan said in May: “The Arab nations came to understand that they will not be able to defeat Israel on the battlefield, and therefore decided to transfer the battlefield to the civilian population. The only change on the Palestinian side was an under-the-radar tactical change, but this change still adheres to their original agenda – the total rejection of the Jewish state. Instead of tank battles in distant deserts, the Palestinians transferred their battles to densely populated areas where the civilians serve as human shields.”
This tactic is part of what several Middle-East scholars have termed the “dead baby” strategy. A widely circulated cartoon makes this point effectively:
Quite simply, the strategy seeks to enrage the world against Israel and is based on the hope that Israel will attack and kill their people. Fathi Hamad, a Hamas member of the Palestinian Legislative Council said as much: “For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry…… This is why they have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly, and the mujahideen”, and based on the UNHRC Report and the anti-Israel coverage by the world media during that conflict, the strategy appears to be successful.
Its approach is simple and brutal – force Israel to kill as many civilians as possible by deliberately moving legitimate military targets into civilian areas, or by moving civilians into military areas. As Alan Dershowitz wrote in the Gatestone Institute: “Democracies, such as the United States and Israel, which care about avoiding civilian casualties, are then put to the tragic choice of either foregoing a legitimate attack against military targets, or, by attacking them, being blamed for the civilian casualties that were willfully caused by their enemies’ illegal use of human shields.”
Israel had little choice but to protect its citizens against missile attacks, but the world in general focused not on the moral and legal correctness of Israel’s decision, but on the gruesome photos of dead Palestinian babies – with hardly any mention made of the more than 4,500 missiles that rained down on Israeli cities (encompassing 70% of Israel’s civilian population including over a million Israeli children) during the 2014 Gaza-Israel war.
In Gaza, despite the fact that Hamas deliberately fired missiles from schoolyards, hospitals, UN facilities, churches, mosques, and densely populated civilian areas, the international community (like the UNHRC Report) blamed Israel for trying to prevent these missile attacks against its civilian population by targeting the missile launching sites and occasionally killing civilians in close proximity to those sites.
Tragically, this “dead baby” strategy has become a ‘win-win’ strategy for terrorists who don’t care about their own civilian populations, and a ‘lose-lose’ strategy for Israel and, by implication, other Western democracies that do. It motivates the world to defend terrorists (as does the UNHRC Report) and provokes the world into criminalizing the actions of democracies that seek to defend themselves. If Israel refrains from retaliating for fear of striking civilians, its enemies will continue to launch missiles into Israel’s civilian population centers. And if Israel does defend itself, it risks civilian casualties that provide these terrorists with the propaganda victory they seek.
Nor is Hezbollah any different. Israel recently disclosed previously classified maps and aerial photos showing that Hezbollah has intentionally placed legitimate military targets into 240 small towns and villages in southern Lebanon close to the Israeli border. According to the photos – these weapons depots, underground storage facilities, observation posts, control centers, military sites and bunker entrances have been placed in and near private homes, schools and hospitals in southern Lebanon with the intention of using these facilities as shields against any future Israeli retaliation for Hezbollah missile attacks on Israel’s civilian population centers.
Hamas and Hezbollah have only one thing in mind – to gain global condemnation of Israel if and when it chooses to defend itself from missile attacks against its civilian population. Their primary target is the international media, whom they know will magnify their message to the world and force the EU, the UN, human rights groups and other international organizations to bring unbearable diplomatic pressure on Israel for defending itself.
They know that every baby killed by an Israeli missile will be paraded in front of television cameras being held by grieving mothers and fathers. It is these horrific pictures that are the goal of this strategy. Both terrorist organizations understand that these heart-breaking photos will mask the reality that these dead babies are not “collateral damage” caused by striking legitimate military targets, but rather deliberate targets selected by Hezbollah and Hamas in a cynical attempt to shift blame from them onto Israel that is trying its best to avoid such casualties, even in the face of deliberate efforts by these terrorist organizations to multiply them.
It is unfortunate that this strategy is being achieved with the cooperation of the international media and global “human rights” organizations like the UNHRC that are willing to be subverted by terrorist tactics that present terrorists as victims while portraying Israel (and, by definition, other Western democracies that seek to defend themselves) – as murderers.
So long as these barbaric tactics of terrorists are allowed to prevail over the established rules of war followed by Israel and other Western democracies – rules that are based upon the Geneva Conventions governing the Laws of Armed Conflict – no democracy on earth will ever have the right to defend its people from such attacks without exposing itself to universal condemnation.