David H. Levitt

“Independent” Investigation of Gaza – Really?

“We call for independent, transparent investigations in all cases of death and injury since 30 March. . . . We urge maximum restraint. Enough is enough.” So said Richard Colville, spokesman for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to reporters in Geneva on May 15, 2018. Mr. Colville was right about one thing: enough is enough – but not in the way he means it.

Mr. Colville, of course, is not alone. British Prime Minister Theresa May, in a meeting with that great humanitarian, Turkey’s leader-for-life Recep Erdogan, said that there is “an urgent need to establish the facts of what happened yesterday through an independent and transparent investigation, including why such a volume of live fire was used and what role Hamas played in events.” At least Ms. May mentioned Hamas – most left that little detail out. Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, called for “an immediate independent investigation . . . including any incitement, violence, and the use of excessive force,” further stating that a Canadian citizen was injured “. . . along with so many unarmed people, including civilians, members of the media, first responders, and children.” (emphasis added). U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein of California said: “Without question there should be an independent investigation when the lives of so many are lost.” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for “an independent and transparent investigation . . .” The Arab League, known of course for its even-handedness on these issues, called for a “credible international investigation into the crimes committed by the Occupation.” Nice to know that they have an open mind on the results of any such investigation, right?

And then we have the United States High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jordanian Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, also calling for an investigation “that is international, independent and impartial,” while at the same time demonstrating what he has already concluded before any investigation. Referring to Israeli actions as “wholly disproportionate,” based solely on the disparity of casualties on the two sides (never mind that this is not even close to the correct definition of proportionality under the Laws of Armed Conflict – the subject of an upcoming post), the High Commissioner already knows that many of those injured or killed (were completely unarmed, were shot in the back, in the chest, in the head and limbs with live ammunition,” with “little evidence of any attempt to minimize casualties” by Israel. Somehow he knows all of this even though the supposedly “independent” investigation has not yet occurred.

These demands are nothing less than a call for yet another kangaroo court, like the Goldstone Report 2009 that even Mr. Goldstone later repudiated. The lack of “independence” and the foregone conclusions that any proposed investigation would reach are already foreshadowed by the recent approval by the notoriously unfair and ill-named UN Human Rights Council of an investigation into “[v]iolations of International Law in the context of large-scale civilian protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.” The title of the investigation pre-determines its result. There is no way that any investigation conducted under such a resolution could be deemed “independent.”

And why is an investigation even needed? There is no real debate about what occurred. No one who is not deliberately avoiding the news could possibly be unaware that Hamas had been planning this event for months or that Hamas representatives have publicly admitted that the events were not a peaceful protest and were never intended to be. Anyone truly seeking to understand the events could not have reasonably missed the statements by Hamas that the goal was take down the border and “tear the hearts out” of Israelis: These, and many more like them, are not hidden – nor is an “independent investigation” needed to locate them; indeed, Hamas trumpets them proudly.

As to the Israeli actions, while world talking-heads parrot each other about supposed disproportionality (as if more Israeli and Jewish blood are needed to even the score), either ignorantly or deliberately misstating international law on that subject, none have ever even hinted at a strategy or tactic that Israel should have undertaken. None have suggested a gentler strategy to prevent breach of the fence and to protect the Israeli civilians living nearby from Hamas’s avowed plan to murder them.

And, speaking of “proportionality,” when 61 people of an estimated 40,000 people are killed, that is just over one-tenth of one percent of those present. And when 50 of those 61 (82%) are admitted by Hamas itself to be Hamas operatives intent on violence within Israel (including at least eight who had already made it through the fence), it requires no “independent investigation” to understand that the IDF was not using live fire “indiscriminately”; rather, it conclusively proves that the IDF’s action were very discriminate indeed.

So, to return to Mr. Colville, enough is indeed enough. Enough with the repeated misrepresentation of international law. Enough with proposing investigatory panels that are biased from their outset, and have no hope of reaching a fair conclusion. Enough with refusing to acknowledge that the true fault lies with Hamas for using human shields. Enough with mouthing the need for a two-state solution while allowing the truly violent party to continue to call for the annihilation of Israel and coddling its own refusal to even consider a two-state solution.

The last “independent investigation” – the Goldstone Report – changed nothing. If world powers really want to effect change, they should finally recognize where the real problem is, and work to change that instead of yet another demand for unproductive Israel-bashing. No investigation is needed to accomplish that kind of change.

About the Author
David H. Levitt practices intellectual property and commercial litigation law in Chicago, and is a pro-Israel activist.
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