Opinion |

Israeli Watchdog's 2014 Gaza War Report Is a Deceptive Diversion

Two-and-a-half years have passed. Israel has returned to its comfortable and relatively secure routine, but in Gaza they are still licking their wounds.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Palestinians sit in a house damaged during 2014's Operation Protective Edge in Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip, December 15, 2016.
Palestinians sit in a house damaged during 2014's Operation Protective Edge in Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip, December 15, 2016.Credit: SUHAIB SALEM/REUTERS
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

The state comptroller’s report on the performance of the security cabinet before and during Operation Protective Edge is a deceptive diversion. The public debate taking place now about it is merely a smokescreen covering up the real crimes of the assault, which no one is criticizing and which interests no one.

Like the Jewish National Fund forests planted over the ruins of Arab villages in 1948 to hide their shame, so this report whitewashes the horrible mass killing and destruction in Gaza, while allowing Israel to claim that it is examining itself and its wars. This is an unimportant report and debating it is an illusory escape into minutiae.

The grotesque cockfighting among the generals and politicians also obscures the point. And the point is that Israel executed a criminal, unjustified attack on a helpless Gaza population, and to date no one has taken responsibility for it and no one has been prosecuted for its crimes. A society with some moral imperatives would be addressing that, not who said what to whom in the security cabinet. A fair comptroller also ought to be addressing the main point, rather than fleeing, as usual, to the cowardly places on the margins.

Really, what is there to examine other than the number of security cabinet sessions at which the word “tunnel” was explicitly used? The Israel Defense Forces killed 366 children, 180 infants and toddlers, 247 women and 117 elderly people – what is there to criticize here? The IDF destroyed 18,000 homes and left 100,000 people homeless, around half of whom are still wallowing in the ruins, but the main point is for us to know who was in favor of blowing up the tunnel shafts and who wasn’t.

Naftali Bennett wanted “galloping horses” and not “lazy oxen;” Yoav Gallant, the warrior of Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9, who knows a thing or two about committing war crimes and uninhibited brutality, and who in a properly run world would have been prosecuted long ago, is now complaining about the “hesitancy in using force.” He would have killed a lot more people. Just wait until he fulfills his dream of becoming defense minister. This is proof that it’s all gone mad; Moshe Ya’alon is the moral voice compared to Gallant, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a pacifist compared to Bennett.

A brave state comptroller would have investigated, for example, the horrific bombings, particularly by the Israel Air Force, of homes in Gaza. B’tselem, the real state comptroller in its field, looked into 70 instances of bombings and shellings during Operation Protective Edge, those in which at least three people (often more) were killed in their homes. Entire families were wiped out in this fashion, with a total of 606 people killed, nearly all of them innocent and helpless.

Where is the comptroller who will seek out who’s responsible for the killing of the Abu Jamea family inside its home in Bani Suheila on July 20, 2014? Twenty-four members of a single family were killed. And the nine women of the Al-Kisas family in Gaza City the next day – who sealed their fate and by what right? And the 14 members of the Abu Jabbar family in the Al-Bureij refugee camp, a week later? And the 34 people killed in the bombing of the A-Dali building in Khan Yunis, including members of the Abu Amar family who fled for their lives to the preschool on the ground floor, innocently believing that the IDF wouldn’t bomb preschool children?

For Bennett and Galant these lives taken weren’t enough, but doesn’t their blood cry out enough for anyone to investigate their deaths? Isn’t this mass killing appalling enough for someone to be prosecuted, or at least held responsible?

Without belittling the danger they pose, is the problem really just the shafts and were the tunnels the only blunder?

Two-and-a-half years have passed. Israel has returned to its comfortable and relatively secure routine, but in Gaza they are still licking their wounds. Some 50,000 people remain homeless, thousands of disabled people have no place to be rehabilitated, and there’s mass grief. Israel should be asking itself, do we not bear even a shred of guilt for all this?

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