Wednesday, July 21, 2010

IDF’s Report to the UN: We Didn’t Do Anything Wrong, But We Will Try Hard Not to Do It Next Time

The above title basically sums up the response of the IDF to the United Nations Human Rights Council and the UN, which you can read here. The response is getting headline news because of the IDF's pledge to take more care "next time" to minimize damage to civilians, despite the fact that it took so much care this time. This is the sort of lawyer's report that only an Alan Dershowitz can love. The report goes case by case over the major allegations of war crimes and, with a few well-publicized exceptions, accepts the soldiers' version of events each time. In almost every case where an action has "collateral damage," we hear both that the action was a military necessity, but that steps will be taken to reduce the collateral damage next time. In the case of the bombing of the mosque, we are told that the soldiers were not aware that it was a mosque; ditto for the market, etc. You mean to tell me that the IDF can know when a Hamas operative is going to the bathroom, but they can't trouble themselves to know (except too late) when a building is a mosque because it is "lacking a tall minaret." What is the IDF's solution? Better maps next time. I mean, if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.

As for the Goldstone Report inference that the IDF deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure, which is a war crime, it will come as no surprise that no IDF personnel admitted to this.

By the way, remember the debate between Judge Goldstone and Dore Gold at Brandeis – when Judge Goldstone claimed that the mosque was damaged by IDF shrapnel and Gold denied that the IDF had anything to do with it? How many supporters of Israel in that room would have unhesitatingly accepted Gold's position, despite the fact that, unlike Goldstone, he had not been to Gaza and seen the shrapnel? They would have followed him into the wilderness simply because he was defending Israel, and because it is a dogma that one accepts as true what any Israeli defender is saying. And yet later, the IDF changed its story on the mosque, just like it changed its story on the use of white phosphorus. Here, too, it claims that the use of the latter was legal and necessary; once again, it now promises not to use it in similar circumstances in the future.

Doesn't anybody in the MAG's office see the contradiction between claiming military necessity on the one hand, and suggesting that less lethal measures will be taken in similar circumstances in the future?

Nevertheless, despite the elegant whitewash, the MAG should receive two cheers for its ongoing investigations, which is already getting members of the IDF angry. In the report we are told of the measures that will be taken in the future to minimize civilian casualties. Of course, we are not told of the measures that will be taken to curtail the number of MAG investigations; stay tuned for that. After all, we all remember the response to the Second Lebanese war, in which the fear was that the every soldier would have to be accompanied by a lawyer. Now commanders are grumbling that the MAG investigates for the sake of the United Nations. What's the point, since the UN will reject the report, and rightfully so.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

In war there's collateral damage. That's just the nature of conflict.

The Israelis should never let concern for collateral damage to deter them from doing what needs to be done.

Jerry Haber said...

Anonymous,

Collateral damage that is disproportionate is a war crime.

That is also true in all wars and is said to be accepted in principle by the IDF.

I can assure you that the only collateral damage that the Israelis are ocncerned with is the damage to their public image.

lobewiper said...

Jerry,

Your titling of this piece is most amusing as well as apt. Thanks for this incisive critique.

Anonymous said...

I don't get the whole "disproportionate" thing.

War is is going to be "disproportionate" for the victor. War NEEDS to be "disproportionate" for the victor.

One must totally overwhelm not only the enemy's populace's ability to make war but also their will to make war.

You must attack everything that strengthens the enemy society.

youmayberight said...

Anonymous,

But haven't we humans put limits on what is allowed even in war? It is simply not true that "everything that strengthens the enemy society" may be attacked.

youmayberight said...

Anonymous,

But haven't we humans put limits on what is allowed even in war? It is simply not true that "everything that strengthens the enemy society" may be attacked. Unless, that is, you want to dispense with all international treaties governing what is permitted in wars.