Israel slams biased UN report on Gaza

Anticipating what they believed would be an unfair U.N. report on last summer’s Gaza war, the Israeli government and friendly groups in the United States were ready this week with at least three reports they said better reflect the reality of the seven-week engagement between Israel and Hamas.

Issued on June 22, the 183-page report of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry said Israel’s military and Palestinian armed groups each committed “serious violations” of international human rights law during the 2014 conflict. But the report focused more on what it considered Israeli wrongdoing during the operation.

“The commission was deeply moved by the immense suffering of Palestinian and Israeli victims, who have been subjected to repeated rounds of violence,” the conclusions section reads.

Israel refused to cooperate with the commission, as it had after the 2009 war with Hamas when a similar commission produced the controversial Goldstone report.

Palestinian child amid Gaza City rubble brought about by the 2014 summer conflict between Israel and Hamas photo/jta-flash90-aaed tayeh

This time, however, Israel was ready with its own report, which found that the escalation of attacks on Israel by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip justified its broader military operation under international law. The document was released last week ahead of the U.N. report.

Additionally, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs in March commissioned a report by a panel of former U.S. military officials and legal experts. And earlier this month, the High Level International Military Group, composed of retired military and diplomatic officials from NATO countries, came together under the “Friends of Israel” initiative and issued its own report that exonerated Israel.

“Fair-minded observers recently investigated Israel’s conduct in the Gaza campaign,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement on June 22. “They include senior generals from the United States and NATO countries. They found that not only did Israel uphold the highest standards of international law, in the laws of armed conflict, they said that Israel exceeded the highest standards.”

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee cited the High Level International Military Group finding that “Israel not only met a reasonable international standard of observance of the laws of armed conflict, but in many cases significantly exceeded that standard.”

One reason for coming prepared this time around: The Palestinian Authority this year established a relationship with the International Criminal Court, which is assessing whether to institute criminal proceedings against Israeli and Palestinian officials in the wake of the war. In order for the court to step in, ICC prosecutors must show there has been no serious attempt to bring to account those responsible for alleged abuses. An array of investigations could mitigate an international prosecution.

“We urge the administration and Congress to stand by our ally, particularly if international bodies seek to exploit this report to punish Israel,” AIPAC said in its statement.

The writing of the U.N. report was directed by Mary McGowan Davis, a former justice of the Supreme Court of New York. Davis replaced the original head, William Schabas, who resigned in April. Israel provided evidence to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva that Schabas, a Canadian international law professor, had authored a seven-page legal briefing on behalf of the PLO for which he was paid.

The only other panel member was Doudou Dienne of Senegal, a former U.N. watchdog on racism and post-conflict in the Ivory Coast.

The report called on Israel to “provide sufficient details on its targeting decisions to allow an independent assessment of the legality of the attacks conducted by the Israel Defense Forces and to assist victims in their quest for the truth.” â€ªIt acknowledged that providing those details could be a security risk for Israel and could “jeopardize intelligence sources,” but said it did not excuse Israel from doing so.‬

The report called on Israel to hold its soldiers and officers accountable for the breaches of international law during the conflict in Gaza.

On the Palestinian side, the report said that “the commission has serious concerns with regard to the inherently indiscriminate nature of most of the projectiles directed towards Israel by these groups and to the targeting of civilians, which violate international humanitarian law and may amount to a war crime. The increased level of fear among Israeli civilians resulting from the use of tunnels was palpable. The commission also condemns the extrajudicial executions of alleged ‘collaborators,’ which amount to a war crime.”

The report said a “persistent lack of implementation” of recommendations by previous commissions of inquiry, fact-finding missions, U.N. treaty bodies, special procedures and other United Nations bodies “lies at the heart of the systematic recurrence of violations in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

Past U.N. commissions have recommended that Israeli and Palestinian authorities conduct good-faith investigations of the allegations and proceed with prosecutions where necessary.

Netanyahu reportedly has ordered his government ministers to refrain from commenting on the U.N. report until it can be studied and a response formulated.

Davis, in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 Television, denied bias. “I think we tried very hard to be even-handed, and there’s no bias at all in the report,” she said, according to the Times of Israel.

The U.N. report can be read at