Wednesday, September 16, 2009
UN report says Israel and Hamas committed war crimes
What are we to make of yesterday's UN report finding both Israel and the Hamas government in Gaza committed war crimes during Israel's three-week incursion that ended in January? The report, released Tuesday by South African Judge Richard Gladstone, head of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, found Israel responsible for "war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity," and called on the Palestinian organization to investigate alleged war crimes, respect human rights and release an Israeli soldier captured in 2006, according to the Cable News Network (CNN). We know what the combatants think -- Israel and Hamas immediately rejected all findings of wrongdoing by their own fighters. Israel's Defense Ministry released a statement saying it had refused to cooperate with the investigation because it expected the Fact Finding Mission, and its findings, to be "one-sided." A Hamas spokesman applauded the report as "evidence of the crimes committed" by Israel but rejected any suggestion that its conduct also violated international law. The report highlighted what it termed violations by Israel, including using the chemical agent phosphorous in civilian areas, even though it is not proscribed by international law, firing shells at hospitals, which is, and failing to properly warn citizens before attacks. If Israel did these things, there is no excuse and leaders of the Jewish state should explain themselves beyond standard denials. We know Israel is trying to defend itself from hostile regimes in the Middle East yet attacking defenseless civilian populations only exacerbates the conflict and makes it even more difficult to resolve. But Hamas should likewise be required to take responsibility for its indiscriminate firing of missiles into population centers in southern Israel, near the border of the Gaza Strip, which precipitated Israel's attack. The Palestinians have to solve their governmental crisis and unify their leadership before they're going to be able to figure out what they want and reach a meaningful and beneficial peace with Israel.