The UN Report on the Gaza war

September 21, 2009

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The UN Human Rights Council’s report on the Gaza war has condemned Israel unequivocally, stating that the IDF committed war crimes.

As a first response, we find ourselves asking ironically: Can we compare this report with the UN report on the Chechnya war, the US/British attack on Falluja in Iraq, the Pakistani fighting against the Taliban? There are of course no such reports. Those brutal wars, leading to countless civilian casualties, have never undergone any international scrutiny. Israel has been insidiously singled out for individual and unfair treatment.

Yet at the same time we find ourselves lamenting the way in which the extreme nature of the report has diminished its potential. It is no secret that questions have been running through Israeli society since January, much along the lines of David Landau’s question in the New York Times: “When does negligence become recklessness, and when does recklessness slip into wanton callousness, and then into deliberate disregard for innocent human life?” While not forgetting that Hamas rejoiced at Israeli civilian casualties, we must still ask ourselves to what extent did we strive to keep Gazan civilian casualties to a minimum?

Yet to ask ourselves questions about our use of force, is to risk giving legitimacy to those who would strip us of having military options in the first place.

How can we negotiate the valid fear of giving ‘ammunition to our enemies’ without preventing ourselves from having the ethical heshbon nefesh (soul-reckoning) we strive for at this time of year?

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