From condemning Israel to putting it on trial

From condemning Israel to putting it on trial
After the publication of UN report on last summer's war on Gaza which detailed unprecedented levels of suffering in the strip, Israel must be held to account, writes Clovis Maksoud.
3 min read
05 Jul, 2015
Over 2,200 were killed in Gaza during the war in 2014. [Getty]
The UN's Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza war headed by judge Mary McGowan Davis recently released its findings on Israel's aggression last summer.

The report confirmed levels of human suffering in Gaza are unprecedented and its effects will leave its mark on future generations.

The report also mentioned Israeli fears rockets being launched from Gaza, but distinguishing between Israel’s actions and the intermittent rockets cannot be compared.

The report went on to say Israel's latest war was harsher than the two previous wars on Gaza. The Commission was moved by the immense suffering of the Palestinian people due to the 6,000 airstrikes and approximately 50,000 artillery rounds that were fired on the Strip, adding that many of these violations amount to war crimes.

Israel anticipated the UN report and released the conclusions of its own investigations that claimed despite the deadly errors that took place, the errors were unintentional and Israeli forces had strived to avoid harming civilians.

This claim is exposed by the deaths of over 2,200 people in Gaza, 1462 of whom were civilians including 299 women and 551 children, while only 6 Israeli civilians and 67 military personnel were killed.
     The report also called into question Israel's failure to limit its military operations in civilian neighbourhoods.

Despite the huge disparity in the number of dead, Israel still claims the UN report failed to distinguish between Israel and Hamas, one of its main faults. The report also called into question Israel's failure to limit its military operations in civilian neighbourhoods after witnessing the destruction it had caused.

As in its previous wars against Gaza, the occupation authorities refused to allow the commission to interrogate Israelis, as was the case with Richard Goldstone and Richard Falk, both of whom are internationally renowned judges who condemned Israel in their reports.

The three wars launched by Israel against Gaza came after what was called a withdrawal from the Strip, while in reality it was only a repositioning. All that happened was Israeli troops left the Gaza Strip and Israel announced at the time the Strip was a hostile entity, which gave it license to launch three brutal wars that only increased the destruction and the open-ended suffer of Gaza’s population.

"Whoever wants to automatically – and without foundation – blame Israel, let them waste their time with the UN Human Rights Council report," said Benjamin Netanyahu in an attempt to belittle the report.

It is as if Israel is above criticism. However, in its editorial after the release of the UN report, the New York Times wrote: "Israel has a duty, and should have the desire, to adjust its military policies to avoid civilian casualties and hold those who failed to do so accountable. Without some kind of peace agreement with the Palestinians, another war in Gaza seems inevitable."

Challenge to international justice

The Palestinian Authority submitted a request to the
     The ball is now in the court of the ICC.
International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes committed by Israel during its wars, on the back of the UN report.

International justice now faces the challenge of commencing investigations as a prelude to putting Israel on trial for its crimes against the Palestinian people. This case will test the ICC's ability to stand up to powers such as the US, which considered the Palestinian request for an investigation "unhelpful".

The ball is now in the court of the ICC to "deal with the most complicated conflict we have seen" according to Mark Ellis, the Executive Director of the International Bar Association.

The Palestinian side has done its part and it is time for Israel to realise that it is not above being held to account and being tried for its crimes against Palestinian rights.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.