Sunday, December 27, 2015

HRW non-in depth examination of war crimes in the Gaza conflict of 2014 Part 3 of 5

Jabalya girls' school and the 100% demand

The tragedy in the Jabalya girls' school took place on July 30th at 4:40am. In that incident 20 civilians were killed, among them 3 children. Based on all accounts, including that of Israel, the cause of these deaths and injuries were Israeli artillery shells. These shells were clearly identified as 155mm shells, and Israel is the only party in this specific conflict to use them. This time we do have a clear identification of the munition involved. And since the IDF had acknowledged firing them, there is no dispute here in the first place.  Therefore on the face of it Israel is clearly guilty. Only on the face of it; the details suggest this is not the whole picture. This is not where it ends, and this is not where it begins. It begins with the fact that during the battle in the outskirts of Jabalya, circumstances were those weapons were needed, kept on coming. There, as elsewhere in the Gaza Strip, fighters from Hamas and other armed Palestinian organizations were hiding behind barricaded positions scattered in a dense urban environment. This is a situation where every corner is a natural opportunity for an ambush, and where many were used for that purpose. From such fortified hideouts the Palestinian fighters fired mortars and anti-tank missiles at the Israeli forces, as well as long range missiles against Israeli population centers. These were threats infantry unit could not remove by themselves, therefore needing the assistance of the artillery.  As long as these threats had existed, these forces could not carry out their mission, and protect the Israeli civilians targeted by the Hamas rockets and missiles. This general description of the battlefield conditions is an undisputable fact. Both the IDF and HRW acknowledge the fact that heavy fighting took place. And heavy fighting by its very nature is not one-sided. If only one side in a fire exchange has the heavy weapons, the fighting ends quickly. The question as to whether these were the circumstances in this specific case is caught in the predictable dispute between the versions of each side.

In this case HRW's investigators rely a lot on a UN investigation as published by the NYT. The tone of that article is more accusatory towards Israel. But it also provides more details about that incident. As with the Beit Hanoun tragedy we have here a dispute between two versions. Israel, saying that its forces fired at enemy mortars positions firing from a distance of about 180 meters, (200 yards), from that school. And the version of the Palestinian witnesses; claiming not to have seen any such activity. But the details undermine the credibility of their testimony. Not of the witnesses themselves, even though one of them chose to be anonymous, but certainly of their testimonies. First it was dark, as NYT says "predawn", 4:40am. Second, it was noisy, extremely so, violently so. The hell of war was ongoing outside that shelter. As the witnesses told the NYT, "In the hours before the strike, explosions and shelling kept many people awake." In a situation such as this the surrounding conditions undermine the credibility of the accounts given by eyewitness and ear-witness alike. It is too dark to notice activity outside their shelter, and too noisy to clearly differentiate between the various sources of noise. It is simply too confusing to differentiate between the sounds of explosions, or the launching of projectiles, such as mortars, rockets, and missiles. Clearly identifying their distance from the shelter will also be impaired. In these kinds of circumstances confusion is unavoidable. Again it is a part of the very nature of a heated battle. The lack of such confusion, if indeed there was none, is so unusual it is the one that requires explanation or corroboration.  We get more than a glimpse of that intensity and confusion from these two IDF video, showing the Nahal brigade fighting in the outskirts of Jabalya on July the 29th

As for the Israeli version, this one enjoys a support rising from the details provided by both the HRW's account and the account published by the NYT. According to HRW the UN run school and its surroundings were hit by ten 155mm shells, which included smoke and illumination shells, along with high explosive shells. The uses of illumination shells in the darkness of predawn hours help identify and differentiate the intended target from the surrounding area. Smoke shells prevent enemy spotters from aiming their artillery fire, such as mortars. These are the kind of tools the IDF had to use if its version is the correct one, and it did fire on enemy mortar positions. If Israel was firing indiscriminately, why bother including them in the artillery round? True, the UN investigators, mentioned in the NYT article, did not find any evidence of close infantry combat in the immediate vicinity of that school. But no such claim was made by the Israeli side in the first place.

The NYT brings the testimony of villa owner Abdel Latif Al – Seifi who said, "It was clear that they were not aiming at a specific house, but fired lots and it fell where it fell." His testimony is disputed by the map of the hit sites provided by the NYT itself. There we see two clusters on the opposite sides of this school. The central point of each cluster is outside the school at a distance very close to 200 yards. Just as the Israeli version claims.

But the strongest support for the Israeli version comes from the fact that Israel did go into a great length to minimize civilian casualties. A warning missile known as "knock on roof procedure" was sent at 2am, giving people time to prepare. The laminations shells lit the dark skies in order to better identify the actual target; and better aim the artillery away from that school. And from that artillery round only 3 out of 10 shells landed at the school's compound, and only one of them was carrying live munition, (see the NYT list, specifying where each shell hit). As the nameless witness told HRW, the bombardment was short, 3 – 5 minutes. The conclusion is simple and undisputable. Israel did what it could to keep the sheltering civilians from harm. Sent a warning ahead of time, illuminated the skies, kept its own bombardment short by using a handful of shells, and successfully kept most of them away from that school, especially the live ones. And these are just the measures we can learn about from the witnesses' accounts.

However, the most important evidence in support of this claim is the fact that Israel and the IDF were successful in this effort. This was not a 100% success, but very close to that standard. As HRW kept emphasizing, 3,200 people were sheltering in that school. And out of them only 20 were killed, (21 according to the NYT). 'Only', because 20 out of 3,200 is 0.625%, less than 1% killed, over 99% survived, extremely close to 100%. Effort wise, this should be considered, and is, a success. Adding the number of wounded, (45 according Mike Cole, a UN official quoted in the NYT, and 100 according to the Guardian), does not change the fact that most of the civilians sheltering in this school were unharmed, more than 90%. The only way this can be considered a failure is if the standard for success is 100%.  If so, those who set this standard should have the integrity to publicly say so in the first place. If this is not the standard, then the conclusion is unavoidable, the IDF operation in the immediate vicinity of the Jabalya girls' school was successful in minimizing the civilian casualties. Such a success, over 99% survival rate, cannot be achieved without an effort. A huge effort made by the attacking side to minimize civilian casualties. And why bother to go through all that effort, unless there is a real military target nearby?

Nonetheless, people were killed. And the question, could Israel have done more in order to save lives is proper and appropriate. When the value of life is at the core of your convictions, that question is always proper. To the opposing sides in this dispute, this question places each of them in a different position. For the IDF it is a requisite of professionalism and ethics, studying the details of the events in order to do better the next time. Fulfill the military objectives with less impact on civilian lives, less harm, fewer deaths, getting even closer to 100%. For Israel's critics and detractors it is about finding that one detail from which charges of war crimes and/or violations of international law can be built. An integral part of that process, for both sides, is taking into account what the IDF couldn't have done. And as powerful as the IDF is there are a few things it couldn’t do. According to the NYT and its witnesses most of the killing was caused by the only live shell to land in that compound. This one hit the courtyard were men were praying underneath eucalyptus trees. In predawn darkness, underneath the canopy of eucalyptus trees, the briefly lit lamination shells cannot help detect such a gathering. Therefore, these deaths, tragic as they are; the IDF could not have prevented.

According to both HRW and the NYT, another part of the school that was hit, was the second story of a classrooms' building. This place also took a lot of casualties. Judging from the pictures provided by both publications, something came crashing down throw the roof. Not exploding, crashing down. These are most likely the smoke shells or the lamination shells reported by the two accounts. As mentioned above only one shell with live munition fell in that school compound, and that was at the courtyard, not the buildings. Now, unless someone can prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that with commonly known and available means, there are ways to affect their trajectory without compromising their efficiency, efficiency needed among other things to keep the more lethal live shells away from school's buildings; unless someone can do that, this is another tragedy Israel could not have prevented. Israel also could not have prevented the harm caused by the window's broken glass, and the shrapnel that came through. This is typical collateral damage situation, the most obvious and most famous example of it.

A second tier of exclusions has to do with what the Palestinian armed groups and UN personal could and couldn't do in order to protect the lives of the unarmed. However, the role of the Palestinian armed groups is pointless to discuss, since there is a dispute as to whether they were there at the time. As for the UN role, here there is plenty to discuss. It is seemingly outrageous that their personal placed the women and children at the second floor, and allowed the men to gather outside in the courtyard. These are the most vulnerable places to collateral damage and spillovers from the ongoing fighting outside the shelter. The most protected places of course are the first floor and the basement, (if there is one), protected among other things by the second floor. Actually they really had no other choice. They had 3,200 people to take care off, with 24 rooms available; it is an average of over one hundred souls per room. Cramped is an understatement.  What made it all far worse is the fact that it is midsummer near the sea. Heat and humidity are at their highest, producing unbearable conditions even for smaller gathering of people, let alone 3,200.  And the nights offer very little relief. The sound medical decision was to place the women and children in the cooler upper floors; and to allow the men to enjoy the somewhat more breathable air outside. Knowing that, remembering that is to understand why they too had to operate under unenviable constraints. But even under these limitations the UN personal could have done more to help the people it was supposed to protect. For example, they could have prevented the windows' glass from breaking by simply crisscrossing them with duct tape.  If a single Palestinian woman could get enough duct tape to keep the windows in her home from braking so could the UN with its truckloads of supplies coming through the Erez Crossing and Kerem Shalom. And they could have done more. In Israel, one of reasons the number of civilian casualties is lower is because of a long of list of emergency procedures that are taken by civilians and civil authorities when an immediate threat is looming. There is no reference for these kinds of procedures in the accounts published by the NYT and HRW. According to the testimony of Suleiman Hassan Abd el-Dayam, as published in the HRW's account, it was up to him and his extended family to take safety precautions once the warning shell came at 2 am; precautions that were largely improvised. There is no mention in his testimony of any UN activity regarding their immediate safety concerns. No special procedure is mention, and no UN personal came to look after them. And that in a time span of at least 2 hours. As mentioned above the warning shot was at 2 am, and the brief bombardment begun at 4.40 am. According to another witness, the nameless staff worker, most of the injuries from glass and shrapnel he saw were to the heads and faces. This is something that can be prevented or minimized by covering the faces and staying away from the windows. We can see that in these American tornado drills, a natural disaster that can produce similar injuries. 

Interestingly, someone there did do something right. The statistics tell us that only 3 children were killed in that tragedy, a remarkably low figure. This tells us that someone was able to keep most of the children away from the more vulnerable parts of this school's buildings. Who was this person, and what she, he, or they did, the accounts of HRW and the NYT do not convey. But evidently someone was able to save lives in spite of all the difficulties mentioned above. Politics aside, whoever this person is, she, he, or they, deserves our praise. This heroism and ingenuity shows that something could have been done; and that puts to shame the entire UN's organization responsible for the people sheltering in the Jabalya girls' school. 

We, the mere readers and observers, must understand the difficulties of saving lives in such a precarious situation. With or without emotional involvement in the Israeli Palestinian conflict, and no matter which side we empathy with. We must all internalize that for lives of the unarmed and helpless to be saved during a violent, chaotic conflict, all must do their part; all must do their part! And even then there is no guarantee that all will survive. But if one side does the maximum and the other the minimum, more will needlessly die. And here the maximum was not done by the UN personal. And while one may choose dispute the fact that the IDF had done the maximum in order to save the lives of Palestinian civilians, there is no other way to explain the result. Carelessness with massively lethal weapons does not produce a 99% survival rate. If people are lucky, around 70% will survive. If they are not lucky less than 20% will live to carry that horror with them for the rest of their lives. A 99% survival rate can only be achieved if the attacking side goes into a great length to protect those 3,200 lives. This is a matter of a huge effort backed by a long experience. Without these two such a success could not have been achieved. Unless; again; the standard for success is that of 100% survival rate. And since Israel did the maximum and the UN did not, any charge of war crime will have very little to work with.

If the details of the evidences and testimonies speak in favor of Israel why does HRW find Israel guilty? According to them it is international law.  The dispute between the two versions they set aside, even though it is clear which of the versions they are in favor of. Instead they focused on a legal argument that says that the munition used, 155mm artillery shells, is simply too crude to be used in such densely populated urban environment. It has an error range of 25 meters and the spread of the fragments produced by its explosion has a radius of 300 meters. This is not an argument based on international law. This is an argument based on an interpretation of international law, a bad one. But first of all, there are some elementary flaws in the logic of this argument. If the weapon is that crude, and it is crude, that only enhances the magnitude of the IDF success in protecting the lives of the 3,200 people sheltering in the Jabalya girl's school. 99% survival rate is not the product of luck, especially when the weapons involved are crude. But for HRW the survival rate is not a criterion. Crudeness is their only criterion. This leads to a more serious flew of this interpretation. What if those same deaths, this same tragedy, had been inflicted by a more accurate, less crude of a weapon? Would they have been legal then? And since the survival rate is not a concern, will a greater number of deaths produced by a non-crude weapon be also legal?  These are unavoidable logical outcomes of their interpretation. Intentionally or unintentionally their interpretation dumps both the living and the dead and reduces them to mere props in the drama that preceded the accusations. Under HRW's interpretation of international law, even a far higher death rate, where survival rate can be less than 20%, would have been legal. If lives are valuable, the crudeness of weapons is important, but also how there are been used. The most accurate of weapons can be mishandled with frightening results. And evidently a crude weapon such as 155mm artillery shell can be used with such a care, 99% will survive, 90% will be unharmed. Of course HRW and other human rights activists can argue that even the hypothetical scenario introduced here constitute a war crime; since the number of civilians killed is far higher from what we would expect from a more accurate type of a weapon. But that means reintroducing the survival rate as a criterion. And if it is implemented on a more accurate weapon, it should also be implemented on a crude weapon. And the same logic that says it is a war crime when an accurate weapon produces a higher than expected death toll; must also say that when a crude and powerful weapon brings about a distinctly low number of deaths, it is not a war crime.

HRW's interpretation of international law does not only abuse Palestinian lives. It does the same to Israeli lives. There is no questioned that it is easier to avoid civilian harm with more accurate weapons. But such weapons are not always capable in taking out the legitimate military target. A fortified bunker is one example that requires the use of 155mm artillery shells. Another one is a mortar position that is defended by snipers, and various booby traps around it. Giving soldiers the cover they need when uncovering a tunnel that threatens other Israeli soldiers, and probably civilians, is another example. In prohibiting this weapon HRW creates legally secured, freehand regions for armed Palestinian groups to operate from. All they have to do is to be very close to large concentrations of civilians, such as these UN run schools, and target from there both Israeli soldiers and civilians, with no fear of consequences. This interpretation of international law is a non-starter, implementing it only leads to frightening absurd that international law cannot live with.

What international law actually says about situations such as this is more complex than that interpretation. But it is not much different than the analysis presented in this review. The ICRC (the international committee of the Red Cross) has a database that explains international law in simple yet through manner. The rules in this database show how in the Jabalya girls' school incident, Israel had in fact acted in accordance with international law:

Rule 15: minimizing civilian casualties. Remember the 99% survival rate I keep mentioning. It is a requisite of international law. 

Rule 20: advance warning. Even HRW acknowledge this was done.

Rule 17: target selection. This is summarized as follows, "Each party to the conflict must take all feasible precautions in the choice of means and methods of warfare with a view to avoiding, and in any event minimizing, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects." As mentioned in this review, Israel gave an advance warning, illuminated the skies, kept most of its lethal ammunition away from that shelter's compound, and kept the bombardment short. As the map provided by the NYT shows, most of the strike sites are outside of the school's compound. One is on its border, and only one inside. The strike sites themselves are clustered outside that compound, and the largest gaps between the strike sites are located on the school compound itself. This shows an effort to differentiate between that school and its immediate environs. With such close proximity, of less than 200 yards, this is extremely challenging; nonetheless, there isn't a single clustering of strike sites inside that compound. The two clustering show were the intended targets were located - outside. With no clustering inside the compound that school was clearly not targeted, selected out of the targets list, and differentiated from its immediate surroundings. And with 99% survival rate among the sheltering population, the minimizing requirement was also met.

What HRW was trying to do was probably based on the misuse of rules 12, 13 and 71. Rule 12 defines the principle of definition of indiscriminate attack. There are basically three such definitions. From them the third concern, rule 12c, is the one relevant to this discussion. Rule 12c defines as follows an important aspect of indiscriminate attack, "which employ method or means of combat, the effect of which cannot be limited as required by international humanitarian law." According to HRW the effects of high explosive 155mm artillery shell cannot be limited to the military objective because of the error rang and the range of the dispersal of fragments, see above. The error range argument is disputed by the HRW account of the incident. As they describe it, not a single live shell hit the well-recognized, more easily identified, buildings of this school compound. Those were the places where most of the civilians were sheltering, and the IDF, as required by international law, kept all live munitions from hitting them.

As for the protection from the impact of fragments, these are not chemical weapons, not biological weapons, and not thermo-nuclear weapons. With commonly available means civilians and local authorities have the ability of protecting themselves from this threat. All that is needed is for something to halt the fragments as they spread. This can be done by the walls of buildings, with their windows reinforced with duct tape, of course. Sandbags are another known means of protection against fragments.  And there are also pre arrange shelters, and safety procedures, such as escorting the populace to the more secure parts of the buildings, and more. Since the attacking side is not located on the ground with those civilians it cannot provide those means. This is simple logic, and logic is how international law expects rule 12c to be implemented, see the explanation in ICRC database. This is reinforced by rule 22 which stipulates, "The parties to the conflict must take all feasible precautions to protect the civilian population and civilian objects under their control against the effect of attack." Whether or not this part of international law applies to a neutral party such as the UN is a matter of interpretation. What this does show is that as far as international law is concern, there is a limit as to how much responsibility can be placed on the attacking side. This is a limit that does not exclude the attacking side from doing what is feasible from its end in order to minimize civilian harm, but it shows that the defending side is not expected to do nothing. With 99% survival rate the IDF met the demand of international law. Whether the authorities on the ground had done the same is unclear, if not disputed.

Israel's adherents to international law also include abiding by rule 12c.  The advance warning, gives civilians and local authorities time to prepare and implement their means of protection against the effects of an attack. Therefore the advance warning, known as 'knock on roof,' is not just an implementation of rule 15, which specify such an action, it is also an implementation of rule 12c.

Rule 13 deals with a situation called area bombardment, when a large area is bombarded from the air or by artillery. In situations such as these there is a need to make a distinction between military and civilian objects in that area. But there is no clear description in international law of what is the distance that can make a clear distinction possible. One possible reason for that are the technologies available. Accuracy is a product of technologies; they can determine our ability to make such distinctions. And if such a clarification was to exist based on the technologies of the past, it would constitute a license for murder under the current technologies. On the other hand ignoring this requirement altogether is a license to use human shields. The former is a violation rule 1, the principle of distinction between civilians and combatants. As well as rule 89, that forbids murder. The latter is a violation of rule 97, which forbids the use of human shields. It says, "...using the presence (or movement) of civilians or other protected persons to render certain points or areas (or military forces) immune from military operations." While the international community avoided these two traps by not clarifying this criterion. HRW fell right into it, adopting an interpretation that makes the use of human shields legal. Israel on the other hand tried to implement this rule, in spite of the challenging circumstances. A short bombardment lessened the chances of live shells hitting known concentration of civilians – the buildings. And the clustering of strike sites outside that school show that a distinction between the school, and targets less than 200 yards away from it, was made.

Rule 71 forbids the uses in populated areas of weapons that are by nature indiscriminate. However, artillery of 155mm shells is not listed as one of them. And those that are listed do not enjoy a sufficient consensus in the international community.  Since the IDF was able to use this weapon discriminately, and save the lives of thousands of Palestinian civilians, Israel did obey this rule.

HRW remaining legal argument is that Israel did not provide any evidence or information confirming its claim. The claim of attacking enemy mortar positions located 200 yards from that school. Israel is not obligated to give that kind of information to HRW, or to any other human rights organization. This does not constitute a proof of guilt. Moreover, this is an incomplete argument. In order to prove that Israel did not attack military positions near that school compound, they must also demonstrate that Israel did not behave as a party that is attacking closely located military positions. But this part of the argument was not even taken. Instead this was done by this review. And what this review had showed is that from their own information and that of the NYT, the IDF did behave as a military force attacking mortar positions close to this UN compound. Smoke shells to blind the spotters, lamination shells to better detect the targets and avoid hitting the shelter and other civilian objects, clustering of strike sites outside that school – at proximity of 200 yards or less. Along with the successful effort to minimize civilian harm, the facts, evidences, and testimonies that they have gathered, show that the IDF did act as if it is attacking adjoining mortar positions. Now, why would someone who is not attacking military positions act as if it does? Why bother going throw all that meticulous effort, to differentiate between targets, minimizing civilian harm, and abiding by international law, in order to attack something that has no military value?  Along with its misuse and misinterpretation of international law, this account is another incomplete investigation.

There is no question that the case being made here is disturbing. Even neutrals will have problems with it. And there is nothing wrong with that, it is a perfectly human emotion, one that is based on empathy for dead and wounded, and their families.  It is certainly, and understandably disturbing to accept that those 20 deaths will be left unanswered for, with no sense of justice. It is perfectly normal not to feel right about it. It is a part of our natural repulsion from war. Something we must always encourage. It is also understandably difficult to accept this review critique of HRW. After all, why would a respected human rights organization act as such a counter-productive force in the cause of human rights? Why would it be a force that undermines the very integrity of the practice of international law, and advocates interpretations that put more lives at risk, rather than protecting them?

Sadly it is easier to answer the second tormenting question, than it is to answer the first one; painfully easy. As mentioned in the opening segment of this review, a strange pattern had been evolving among human rights critique of Israel's military actions, especially with regards to HRW. It is a pattern where the dilemma of modern warfare is absent; a dilemma where decisions of life vs life must be taken on a constant basis. When you ignore this dilemma you also disconnect yourself from its cause, from the reason it exists, the value of human life. Only people committed to the value of life will be torn by the need to make life vs life decisions. When one is ignoring the existence of such dilemmas in times of war, one immediately disconnects oneself from the cause of these dilemmas, the value of life; all lives. Whatever the criterion implemented may be? It will not be the value of life. This may not have been their intention, but once they made that decision this is where Human Rights Watch ended up at. On a slippery slope that lead to an unavoidable collision with everything that is based on the value of human life. This includes Israel's action as evidenced in the accounts given by them and the NYT, and international law itself. Both are guided by that concern. And when they adopted and advocated an interpretation of international law that legalizes the deaths of more civilians from both sides, they collided with the value of life itself. It is a downward course; once taken it can only get worse.

Providing a sense of justice to those who had died is more difficult. These are men, women, and children, unarmed civilians who had no businesses dying in the first place. Life must matter, that is the guideline we follow if we believe in the value of life. However, punishing Israel for the life it failed to save, means punishing Israel for the life it did save, and protected, close to 3,200 of them. And it is stating the obvious that punishing someone for saving lives is the exact opposite of adopting the value of life. Such a course of action will not only be contradictory to the value of human life, it will be contradictory to international law, which encourages the minimizing of the death and suffering that all wars inflict on unarmed civilians. Worse than that, such an action will be nothing more than political retribution. It will not be a part of a peace process, or a human rights process. It will simply be a part of the conflict, a part of the process that includes wars and deaths in its dynamics. Needless to say, justice for the dead will not be served by more deaths. No one will benefit, especially not those who needs it the most; the most vulnerable parts of the society, the unarmed civilians.  Seeking their wellbeing does not require political retribution. It certainly does not require the misuse and abuse of international law, as preformed here by HRW. As said here before, all it requires is for all to do their part - even if they hate each other. What we all must understand is that clearing the IDF from wrongdoing is not a license for the IDF to kill civilians. It is not a reason for the scrutiny to stop, and it is not meant to be that. This is a matter all sides of the debate must internalize. If we wish to contribute to the saving of innocent lives, then this scrutiny must continue. But for it to be productive it must also include the Palestinian side, the various agencies of the UN working on the ground, and the human rights organizations reviewing the actions of the combatants.  Only this way more will be saved should war comes knocking the next time. The down side of this course of action is that it will give us a glimpse of that tormenting filling when lives vs lives decisions must be taken. But without going through this torment we won't be able save anyone. Worse than that, we might contribute to the suffering and misery of many more.

Is that justice? It is in the sense that preventing needless deaths prevents injustice. But the politically motivated critics will undoubtedly disagree strongly.  The bottom line is simple as it is painful, as we do more and more to save life, and succeed in it; we are left with those only the end of the conflict can save. Peace, that lofty, elusive goal, which few believe it can be achieved.  The idea that we should leave some of the lives needed to be saved for the peace process, is something many will find infuriating. The argument, this is war and people die in it, is an argument we must never surrender to. Whatever measure of humanity we can bring to this monstrosity called war, we should and we must. But when such efforts and concerns are crushed by the reality of war, the course of action must never be the undermining of the ideal of human rights. This is precisely what HRW is offering in their interpretation of international law, as presented here. This is a choice between the unbearable and the immoral. An interpretation of International Law that allows the use of human shields, and prevents a country from properly and effectively defends its citizens, is immoral. It neglects the human rights of both Palestinians and Israelis. Unbearable, is the filling we all have when we come face to face with those we cannot save; those who perished in spite of all our efforts, and those of others. This is not a splendid place to be. The reality needed to be changed here is not a splendid one, far from it. But when we choose an immoral path, what good are we to anyone? If, however, we choose the unbearable path; its unbearableness might be the push we need, all of us, regardless of our political and ideological convictions, to bring about this elusive peace. This is not the most noble motive for peace making, but what has the noble lofty ideals had done for peace making so far? All they did was to become hollow words, with no relevance and credibility to either party. Much like this conflict, peace makers, and human rights activists carry their own open wounds with them. But they are not supposed to inflict them. When they do that, they have no right to preach to others on these issues. More than that, they do not have the credibility to do so. Their word has lost its value. And all the good causes, of peace and human rights, become even more unattainable.
I am not asking anyone to cheer the IDF over this horrific tragedy, not of those who support Israel, and not of those who oppose it. People died; there is no room for cheering. Like it or not; there is also no room for condemnation.  The IDF did set out to save lives, and lived where saved. The choice is yours, the readers, carry the open wounds of this conflict with you, or inflict them on unto others, from both sides. Accept the unbearable conclusion that the deaths of these 21 victims could not have been prevented by the IDF. Or share your cause with an ethically bankrupt human rights organization. The second choice will make you fill great with yourself. It will reward you with compliments made up from all the words and phrases that exist in the lexicon of human rights activism. But should this path get implemented… it will require you to be deaf and blind to the suffering of more people, from both sides; people who otherwise could have been saved and protected by international law and those who follow it, like the IDF.  And if this tares you apart, sends your emotions into turmoil, well…, that is good! This means that the value of life is alive within you, powerfully so.


Rafah, August 3rd, 10:45 am; when common sense is another victim of a war crime


1 comment:

  1. The hippy culture of the sixties always voiced a proverb, that feces occurs. And in war that is extra true. But if you choose to shoot from your house, and your women and children live in said house, you bear ultimate responsibility for their injuries and the loss of their lives. Gaza has an especially dense, compact population, so don't complain when you fire your missiles from that locale and when fire is returned your civilians pay part of the price. The solution to the problem is simple; don't fire missiles from Gaza.