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Human Rights

Security Council Action on Gaza War Crimes a Non-Starter

Scenes of the aftermath of the devastating Gaza conflict, which took place during the previous summer. 14 October 2014. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Scenes of the aftermath of the devastating Gaza conflict, which took place during the previous summer. 14 October 2014. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 24 2015 (IPS) - When a U.N. panel released a 217-page report accusing both Israel and Hamas of possible war crimes committed during the 50-day conflict in Gaza last July, the chances of Security Council action were remote because of the traditional U.S. commitment to stand by Israel – right or wrong, mostly wrong.

Israel carried out over 6,000 air strikes killing 2,251 Palestinians, including 1,462 civilians, while the more than 6,600 rockets and mortars fired by Hamas killed six civilians and injured 1,600, according to the report.

“When Israeli officials are put in the dock, U.S. officials ought to be right in there with them. Their conduct is inexcusable." -- Michael Ratner

“The death toll alone speaks volumes,” said the report by a two-member panel chaired by U.S. jurist Mary McGowan Davis and which included Doudou Dienne, a lawyer and former senior U.N. official from Senegal. “And the scale of the devastation was unprecedented.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the report as “flawed and biased”.

But at a briefing Tuesday, U.S. State Department Spokesperson John Kirby refused to comment on whether the Security Council or the International Criminal Court (ICC) would act on the U.N. report.

Kirby told reporters the United States challenges “the very mechanism which created” the panel, which was appointed by the Human Rights Council, of which Washington is a member.

“We’re not going to have a rebuttal to it. We’re certainly going to read it, as we read all U.N. reports. But we challenge the very foundation upon which this report was written, and we don’t believe that there’s a call or a need for any further Security Council work on this,” Kirby said.

Asked about a possible referral to the ICC, he said: “We do not support any further U.N. work on this report.”

Told about the United States welcoming a similar human rights inquiry on North Korea while rejecting an inquiry for Gaza, he said: “Because we’ve long said – and you know that we reject the basis under which this particular commission of inquiry was established because of the very clear bias against Israel in it.”

The question that also remained unanswered was: if the United States thinks the report is biased against Israel, does it also mean it is biased against Hamas?

“I’m saying that we object to the report,” Kirby reiterated.

Asked if the United States objects to the entire report, he said “to the foundation upon which the commission was established, and therefore the product that resulted from that work.”

Michael Ratner, President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, told IPS that once again, as it was true in the 2008-2009 Israeli assault on Gaza, the U.N. Commission of Inquiry report on last year’ s Gaza war was devastating regarding Israel’s commission of war crimes.

He said 65 percent of the 2,251 Palestinians killed were civilians and international legal requirements of distinction and proportionality were ignored.

“Yes, the report also condemned Palestinian armed groups but the overwhelming majority of the crimes were laid at the feet of the Israelis. And now what?” Ratner asked.

“Once again the U.S., Israel’s primary war-crime enabler, ostrich-like, ignores the evidence of Israeli crimes and continues to give it billions so that more crimes can be committed,” Ratner said.

“When Israeli officials are put in the dock, U.S. officials ought to be right in there with them. Their conduct is inexcusable,” he declared.

Balkees Jarrah, Counsel, International Justice Programme at Human Rights Watch (HRW), told IPS the ICC now has a mandate over serious crimes dating back to June 13, 2014, committed on or from Palestinian territory.

Such crimes, he said, include indiscriminate attacks on civilians, whether committed by Israelis or Palestinians – including abuses during the 2014 conflict in Gaza.

The court’s prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, is currently conducting a preliminary examination to determine whether to pursue a formal investigation.

With an ICC probe now possible, Israel and Hamas must show that they are willing and able to credibly investigate serious allegations, and hold accountable those who violated the laws of war, he said.

“The U.N. Gaza report makes clear that neither side is currently doing that,” said Jarrah.

Ratner told IPS: “Again, we will see the Security Council not take any action as U.S. vetoes are always a looming threat. But the crimes of Israel and reporting on them remain.”

The next stop, he pointed out, will surely be the ICC and this week, if all goes as planned, Palestine will submit its documentation of three sets of crimes: settlements, war crimes and treatment of prisoners.

“Israel of course will do nothing except scream that Palestine is not a state—an argument already lost,” he added.

The prosecutor can of course look into the rockets coming from Gaza into Israel as well, and it is likely that if she opens a preliminary investigation into Israel’s conduct, she will also look at the Palestinians .

While there is no real doubt regarding violations of the laws of war by Israel, and how the Gaza assaults were carried out, there will be counter arguments by it about proportionality and the like, he noted.

However, when it comes to settlement activity there is no counter-argument Israel can make. It’s an absolute war crime for which there is no defence. Ultimately, the ICC to have any legitimacy will need to take on the issue, he added.

“Let’s hope for the people of Palestine the court does it sooner than later,” declared Ratner.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at

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  • originalone

    What else would you expect from a Government that is corrupt? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand why the U.S. backs Israel, come hell or high water. It sells/gives Israel weapons, who in return uses them against the People in Gaza, as in the gallery game of shooting fish in a barrel. Given the equal ability to the Gaza side, perhaps it might be a different outcome.

  • jgarbuz

    The US sells three times as much to the Saudis ,the Emirates and other enemies of Israel.

  • jgarbuz

    Maybe if Hamas recognizes and makes peace with the Jewish state, they might all have a better life! Have you considered that possibility?

  • originalone

    Perhaps if the Israelis didn’t take occupied land under the myth of their god gave it to them way back when, that they are the chosen ones, while everyone else is beholden, then perhaps peace might be had by all today, instead of the situation that exists.

  • originalone

    On a yearly basis? And aren’t the Saudis & Israelis working together, both in Yemen & Syria? Land grabs, Israeli leaders are good at that, creating a continual war with its neighbors, instead helping develop the resources, both human as well as commercial.

  • jgarbuz

    NO, Israel is Jewish land, and the Arabs have to be pushed out of the Jewish ,Kurdish, Berber and other lands they occupied. Peace will happen when English no longer occupy Ireland, and Arabs no longer occupy Israel, nor Kurdistan, nor part of North Africa Libya and other Berber lands, and so on.The reason why the Middle East is disintegrating is because Sunni Arabs occupied OPL (other people’s lands.) Jews belong in Israel. Arabs belong in Arabia. The Irish belong in Ireland and the English belong in England, etc.

  • jgarbuz

    No, the Arabs and Jews don’t work together. There is a temporary common fear of Iranian nukes breaking out, but that is far as it goes.

    And Israel’s only resource is Jewish brains. It has no other resources, except a little gas offshore that was recently discovered. The Arabs need to have oil because their brains were rotted out by something called “Islam.”

  • originalone

    Your second paragraph is telling. You must be Jewish, feel the need to defend the governments actions in every way. Your view is too narrow minded as well as uninformed, except from what is taught from the Jewish/Zionist perspective. Either you live in a cave or are in denial, or perhaps both. It really doesn’t matter, but keep in mind, that if/when Israel bombs Iran, the “Nuclear dust cloud that will be released, will be your fault, which says a lot about the “Jewish Brains” you mention. As an aside, out of 6-7 billion humans on earth, a mere 6-7 million Jews are the superior race? Sounds like that was taken from the NAZI P.R. , as does your premise of where Arabs belong.

  • jgarbuz

    Jewish brains figured out nuclear physics, and how to build the first atomic bomb, and will figure out how to keep radioactivity away from us.

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