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UN report indicts Israel in Gaza killings but changes nothing

Mar 05,2019 - Last updated at Mar 05,2019

Not surprisingly but entirely ironic that there has been little or no reaction to last week’s conclusions by an independent UN commission of inquiry into the 2018 Gaza protests along the fence with Israel. The investigative commission of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which presented its findings last Thursday, said it found “reasonable grounds” that Israeli security forces violated international law.

In a startling conclusion, the commission said that more than 6,000 unarmed demonstrators were shot by military snipers along the border fence separating Gaza and Israel during the Great March of Return last year. It also found that of the 189 Palestinians who were killed by Israeli security forces during the eight month period, 183 were killed with live ammunition.

It added that there were reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot at journalists, health workers, children and people with disabilities, knowing they were clearly recognisable as such. Two of the fatalities were clearly marked as journalists, three were clearly marked as paramedics and 35 were children, the commission’s report concluded.

Chair of the commission, Santiago Canton of Argentina, said: “The onus is now on Israel to investigate every protest-related killing and injury, promptly, impartially and independently in accordance with international standards, to determine whether war crimes or crimes against humanity were committed, with a view to holding accountable those found responsible.” But it is already a fact that Israel would never undertake a fair and independent inquiry that would incriminate its own forces and those who gave orders to shoot, maim and kill.

Reacting to the report, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu was quoted as saying that Israel outright rejects the report, adding that “the council has set new records of hypocrisy and lies out of an obsessive hatred for Israel”. Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz called the report “hostile, mendacious and biased”.

There was no reaction from the United States, which withdrew from the council last June, citing “unconscionable” approach to Israel and accusing it of “making a mockery” of human rights. Israel has lowered its participation in the council and boycotted most of its proceedings.

Israel and the United States are right to see the council as targeting Israeli crimes. The simple and chilling fact is that for decades Israel has been committing crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Palestinians in both Gaza Strip and the West Bank. In fact, not a day passes by without Israel committing a crime against individuals, institutions, religious sites and others. They range from open-ended administrative detention to shooting suspects in cold blood. They include the collective punishment of families and entire villages, protecting Jewish settlers as they harass and attack Palestinian civilians, expropriating lands, building illegal settlements and changing the demographic make-up of Palestinian areas. The list goes on and on.

The irony is that Israel is the only country on the planet that gets away with systematically breaking international laws, the Geneva conventions, UN resolutions, bilateral treaties and agreements that it had signed. Furthermore, it is the only country that sees any condemnation of its acts and crimes as bias against it and outright hypocrisy.

The latest report is not the first form of international indictment of Israeli policies. Its decade-old economic blockade of Gaza is illegal. Its approach to the weekly protests along the Gaza-Israel border has been deliberate in its intensity and cruelty.

The Palestinians, who continue to suffer from a great injustice, cannot even complain to the UN Security Council. The US will shamefully and without remorse veto any reproach of Israel, no matter the crime. Few UN bodies, along with human rights organisations, are still able to investigate Israeli crimes, but the latter knows that with a blind US support it can literally get away with murder.

The latest revelations of Israeli crimes bring to mind the fate of the infamous report that Richard Goldstone, the South African Jewish judge, who headed the UN Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission on the events of Operation Cast Lead back in 2009. His report accused Israel of war crimes but later on he decided to “repent”, when he published an op-ed saying this: “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.” He had backtracked on a claim that Israel had targeted Palestinian civilians. That report has long been shelved.

So what will happen now that the council had pointed the finger at Israel, once more? Not much. Without Arab, Muslim and international momentum Israel will continue to act with impunity. Adding insult to injury is French President Emanuel Macron’s decision to pass a law equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. The farce and the hypocrisy continue. For the Palestinians, their daily sacrifice is the only path forward hoping that the world will finally listen and act!


Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman

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