Why Is Israel Preventing Rights Experts From Entering Gaza?

The IDF, its lawyers and its commanders hold a monopoly on information from Israeli theaters of war because of the IDF’s technological superiority.

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A Palestinian woman walks next to Israeli soldiers standing guard during a raid on the house of a Palestinian man, near Nablus, West Bank, Aug. 11, 2014. Credit: Reuters

Israel prevented experts from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch from entering the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge, and it still is preventing them. As a result, no independent professionals (for example, a certain retired British military officer) have been able to check in real time the army’s claims and versions; for example, about weapons caches or firing near or from inside UN buildings.

If the Israel Defense Forces and its legal advisers were so sure they were adhering to international law, why were they scared to let these experts enter Gaza – alongside the many journalists who were allowed in?

It could very well be that every word in the IDF spokesman’s recent statement on the decision to investigate “exceptional incidents that occurred during Operation Protective Edge” is truthful. But these words – true or not – are just a veneer covering the problematic layers of Protective Edge and all Israeli military operations against the Palestinians.

The IDF, its lawyers and its commanders hold a monopoly on information from Israeli theaters of war because of the IDF’s technological superiority. So they also hold a monopoly on concealing information, telling untruths and dismissing the findings of Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups – and of course on ignoring Hamas’ claims.

They can claim that their information – which they gather through the Coordination and Liaison Administration for Gaza and its large collaborator network – is precise due to the sophisticated means of observation and location, and the abundant data gathered by the Civil Administration and the army of collaborators.

This monopoly on information and the sophisticated methods for gathering it lets the IDF choose a few “exceptional” cases in order to portray the rest as proper and passing an objective self-examination.

The IDF has decided to conduct a criminal investigation into the bombing that killed the entire Abu Jama family in Bani Suheila. But as rights group B’Tselem has found, 72 IDF bombings of populated buildings killed 547 people, including 125 women under the age of 60, 250 minors and 29 men and women over 60. Of course, this doesn’t mean the rest (men under 60) were a “legitimate target.” What makes the bombing of the Abu Jamas manslaughter and the rest appropriate?

Israel’s political leaders, the IDF and their lawyers hold a monopoly on determining what is moral and proportional warfare against the Palestinians, so they hold a monopoly on determining what is “exceptional.” This monopoly is possible because Israel is the strongest entity in the region, and the United States needs a strong Israel militarily.

Since Israel holds a monopoly on morality, the facts are rarely taken into account. The Gazans, like their brothers in the West Bank, are under Israeli occupation, and their struggle to be freed from it has not yet succeeded.

Most Gazans are refugees, and Israel is trying to erase their personal, familial, economic and national bonds to their villages and cities of origin in historical Palestine. Also, Israel controls the Palestinian population registry (in Gaza and the West Bank); it controls changes to it, the registering of births and the granting of ID cards to 16-year-olds.

As the occupying force, Israel controls the air, land and sea surrounding Gaza and is responsible for turning it into a large detention camp. Therefore Palestinians cannot realize their right to flee bombings and war.

Because of this monopoly, every military self-investigation cannot – and is not intended to — disturb the fundamental assumptions of the military and political leaders:

* that it is legal and moral to bomb the homes of families active in armed Palestinian organizations, and that Hamas’ arming is illegal – as opposed to Israel’s arming and military operations;

* that it is forbidden for Palestinians to build a defensive system against attacks in their territory;

* that it is legal and moral to bomb and kill armed members of Palestinian organizations even when they are sleeping, but it is illegal and immoral for Palestinians to kill uniformed Israelis, whether during battle or not;

* that Qassam rockets and slightly more sophisticated missiles must be answered with massive bombardments from the air, sea and land.

Meanwhile, Israel’s military and political leaders do not propose talks for a peaceful solution that starts with steps to return freedom of movement to Gazans.