In Israel's Eyes, the UN's Greatest Sin Is Condemning Israel

Israel is indeed at the height of a delegitimization campaign against it, as an occupying state for the past 48 years. But its response to the report shows that it doesn’t know its place or understand its status.

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
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Israeli soldiers look toward the Gaza Strip from Israel, August 3, 2014.
Israeli soldiers look toward the Gaza Strip from Israel, August 3, 2014. Credit: Reuters
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

The UN Human Rights Council’s report on last summer’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza cuts Israel no breaks. The harsh data it presents – including 1,462 Palestinian civilians killed, about a third of them children; thousands of people wounded and left homeless; and the systematic destruction of civilian infrastructure – have for the most part already been reported in the Israeli and global media, and don’t offer much that is new.

Thus the dispute isn’t over the facts, but over their interpretation. Did Israel commit war crimes, and should it therefore be put on trial in the International Criminal Court, as the inquiry committee’s chairwoman, Mary McGowan Davis, advised the international community to do? Or did it merely defend itself in a legitimate fashion?

Israel, which decided not to cooperate with the international inquiry committee, bases its response to the report on three claims. First, “The HRC condemns Israel more than it condemns Iran, Syria and North Korea put together.” Second, “The HRC originally appointed someone seen as an anti-Israel inciter and agitator to head the inquiry committee.” Third, “Israel doesn’t commit war crimes, but is defending itself against terrorism that seeks to annihilate it.” On the basis of these defense arguments, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a few days ago that even reading the committee’s report would be “a waste of time.”

Israel is indeed at the height of a delegitimization campaign against it, as an occupying state for the past 48 years. But its response to the report shows that it doesn’t know its place or understand its status. In Israel’s eyes, the UN is guilty for having decided to investigate; its officials are haters of Israel; and the organization’s greatest sin is that it condemns Israel, which defines itself as a democracy belonging to the community of enlightened nations, more than it condemns the most benighted of countries.

The problem is that Operation Protective Edge has been thrust into the heart of the conflict between Israel and the UN, as if deliberately to inflame it. And even after the completion of both the UN report and Israel’s own investigative report, horrifying stories about the conduct of Israeli soldiers during this operation have yet to cease trickling out.

The prime minister isn’t entitled to shrug his shoulders at this harsh report and dismiss it as if it were an unimportant nuisance, because the battle isn’t just over Israel’s innocence in the eyes of the international community, and especially in the eyes of the International Criminal Court. This report holds a mirror up to Israel that, even if it is warped, ought to greatly worry every citizen who still thinks that the Israel Defense Forces is a moral army, that a country isn’t a terrorist organization and must comply with the laws of war, especially against civilians, and that his standing as an Israeli citizen depends on his country’s standing in the world’s eyes. It isn’t explanations and whining justifications that the country needs now, but a far-reaching correction of its view of military morality.

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