Trevor Norwitz

Did the UN and the “Human Rights” Community Make This Gaza War Inevitable?

[This article (with some different quotes, and references to October 7) was published by the author almost 10 years ago under the heading “Has the West Made the Next Gaza War Inevitable?”]

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres is correct that the situation in Gaza is extremely dire and a matter of great concern. Ten years ago, during the last serious Gaza war launched by Hamas, his predecessor Ban Ki Moon was also right to say that “children killed in their sleep . . . is an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame.” No-one can be unmoved by the pictures out of Gaza: the loss of life, the carnage, the anguish and fear in the faces of women and children.  It is heart breaking.

But they are wrong to blame Israel for Gaza’s suffering, especially in the injudicious terms they do and did. They, and many others in positions of power and influence, do a terrible disservice to humanity, to the cause of international peace and security, and to the Palestinian people (not to mention the Israeli people), by not stating unequivocally what they know to be the truth: that the overwhelming responsibility for the mayhem in Gaza rests with Hamas and its affiliated terror organizations.

Yes, alongside their broadsides at Israel, world leaders also note that Hamas commits war crimes and angrily “denounce” that behavior. But angrily denouncing Hamas is as useless as angrily denouncing cancer, if you are not also willing to apply the treatment that is necessary, and to address the environmental factors that feed it and encourage its growth.

Hamas’ role in Gaza’s suffering is manifest. They started this war with the unprovoked unprecedented barbarity of October 7.  They kidnapped around 250 Israeli hostages, mostly civilians including babies and geriatrics, and refuse to release them.  This is a war Hamas wanted, planned and prepared for meticulously for years, diverting much of the productive capacity of Gaza towards building their sophisticated network of tunnels to kidnap and kill Israelis, and stockpiling thousands of rockets to terrorize Israeli population centers.

All but the willfully blind know they use human shields, hide rockets in, and launch them near, schools, mosques, UN facilities and other civilian buildings, turn hospitals into command centers, and booby-trap homes and refugee centers.

Their lawlessness is simply a given. World leaders rebuke them but expect nothing of them, placing all responsibility for avoiding civilian casualties – the very casualties Hamas aims to maximize – on Israel, as it battles to defend its citizens from aerial and subterranean terror.

There is no point in just denouncing Hamas. It is a terrorist organization which exists for an evil purpose – to eliminate a nation and exterminate a people – and openly embraces cruel and illegal tactics.

Its members are not swayed by criticism. They do not respect life, human rights or the concept of truth. Just as one cannot reason or negotiate with cancer, one has to treat a terrorist threat directly and aggressively and eliminate or reduce the conditions that stimulate its growth.

So what are the conditions that feed and encourage Hamas and its ilk? Having an ally like Iran to provide a steady flow of rockets and other weapons is necessary but not sufficient.

Their greatest strategic asset is the knowledge that, however outrageous their behavior, large segments of the press and political class and the “human rights” and international communities led by the United Nations will effectively side with them, directing their wrath primarily at Israel, and protecting them from total defeat, so that they can proclaim victory from the ruin and devastation they authored. After years of grotesque miseducation, they now know they have the support of a large portion of the left-leaning youth in the West as well.

Hamas knows that, despite the consistent evidence of their mendacity, their fabrications will be widely disseminated as facts by news and human rights groups, pursuing Goebbels’ propaganda strategy that if you repeat a big lie loudly and often enough it will become the “truth.”  TikTok and X (née Twitter) poison the minds of billions, especially youth, with lies, fake news and blood libels.  These lies inflict enormous damage on Israel even when the truth later emerges. Any honest informed observer appreciates that the Israel Defense Forces exert great efforts to minimize civilian casualties, possibly greater than any army in history, and actually have a civilian-to-fighter casualty ratio that is relatively low for modern urban warfare (despite the fact that Hamas designs its chosen battlefield specifically to maximize civilian damage).

But Hamas knows that the press will gleefully play the body-count game, as though their infographics speak to causation or moral culpability.

They also know – and take advantage of the fact –  that every conflagration they provoke causes the world’s oldest hatred to bubble up again, more virulently each time.  This time – despite the unspeakable atrocities committed and openly broadcast and boasted about by Hamas – the rampant unvarnished antisemitism that has been unleashed is nothing less than astonishing and terrifying, not just for Jews but for civilization.

These are the carcinogens that feed this cancer and fan the flames of violence in the region.  When so-called human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International consistently excoriate and seek to delegitimize Israel even in the face of the October 7 atrocities, when the UN Human Rights Commission, an Orwellian body that has done more to undermine the cause of international human rights that any other, cannot bring itself to condemn the Hamas attack that happens as it is meeting, when politicians offers inane platitudes of moral equivalence accusing both sides of “indiscriminate killing,” when empty-headed celebrities blabber incoherently about Israeli “massacres” and “genocide,” then Hamas knows that its diabolical tactics are working.

The blood of those Palestinian civilians – and Israeli civilians – is on the hands of Hamas of course, but also on the hands of those who irresponsibly, even if unwittingly, give Hamas such support, hope and inspiration.

This time, given what happened in October 7, it is clear that Israel has to act forcefully to eliminate Hamas’ ability to wage war and terror once and for all.  Given the battlefield Hamas has designed specifically to maximize civilian casualties, it is inevitable that many civilians will unfortunately lose their lives in this war.  Israel must, as it always does, take appropriate action to ensure that its rules of engagement are legal, moral, and complied with.

Hamas will do nothing in respect of its myriad flagrant war crimes, except plan to repeat them, if it survives. If only the international community had held Hamas and its brethren accountable for their heinous crimes before, this ongoing nightmare for Gaza could have been avoided, but sadly it was not to be. Everyone has known for years that Hamas has weaponized the hospitals in Gaza, building its headquarters underneath the largest one.  It is hard to imagine a more despicable war crime than turning a hospital into a legitimate military target of the highest order, but this is what they did with barely a peep out of the UN and foreign governments that have kept sending them billions.  Do you think the Allies would have hesitated to bomb a hospital if they knew that Hitler and his entire Nazi High Command was hiding in it?  Should they have?  I pray that Israel does not do what virtually every other nation in the world would do in the same circumstances.

This war in Gaza was inevitable, just like the coming one in Lebanon, which will take place when the terrorists of Hezbollah – or their Iranian puppet-masters – find it opportune to unleash their rocket stockpile hidden in civilian buildings at Israeli cities again. Since Israel is not able to limit the flow of weapons to them – the only reason for the much maligned “blockade” of Gaza – Hezbollah’s arsenal is certainly far more potent and deadly than that of Hamas.

In both cases that inevitability is the result of the abject failure of the international community – principally the United Nations and its affiliated organs – to live up to their obligations.

Not only have they consistently prevented Israel from completing the job they all knew had to be done, not only did the UN fail to disarm Hezbollah but allow it to build up a massive arsenal to target Israeli population centers, not only have they refused to hold Hamas and Hezbollah accountable for the carnage they illegally caused their respective civilian populations in the past, but they and the press and “human rights” community have affirmatively encouraged those terrorist organizations by their consistent lopsided castigation of Israel.

While the scope and scale of Hamas’ sadistic barbarity on October 7 softened at least initially the rhetoric of some of Israel’s incessant critics, many are repeating their past mistakes, likely making future nightmares inevitable as well.

Ten years ago, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon was quite right to say “the world stands disgraced.” But by not accurately pointing to the source of that disgrace, he and others who did not hold Hamas accountable only added to it, and helped to make this war inevitable.

Will these mistakes be repeated yet again?

About the Author
Trevor Norwitz is a practicing lawyer in New York, who also teaches at Columbia Law School.