Much of life depends upon which end of the binoculars you view the world; which talking heads provide you with your bible lessons; and which news print you wrap your fish. In other words, what is it that forms your perception of anything? A dear friend once said to me, in half-jest, that he reads only one newspaper so that he doesn’t get confused by the facts. I have one relative who gets his news by listening to talk radio, and hasn’t read a newspaper in years. His reason he gets his news at no cost.
And then there are those of us who surf the web for whatever options are available. Some of us are more additive to surfing than others. And in surfing I ran across a news items posted by the Dailey Alert, a site I often glance at. It wrote of a “High Level Military Group” (HLMG) report that triggered no memory. So I googled HLMG and that in turn led to other sites and to a widely different perception of Israel’s 2014 Gaza campaign. Again, it is which end of the binoculars you employ to view events. And it is disturbing.
Three bench marks then came into clear focus for me in reviewing the responses to the 2014 Gaza campaign: “perception”, “how” you view an “event”, and “facts”. The first two are easily manipulated; it’s the third factor that gives one pause.
As a former litigator and Assistant District Attorney, and then professor of law, I am only too aware of how facts can be viewed, presented and interpreted to fit one’s own agenda. In other words: how facts can be distorted; what facts you include and what facts you exclude to create your own narrative.
Part of the overall problem in reading a report or analysis is having some understanding of the background of the authors of a study, or “findings of fact”. The first thing that must be done is to target the author, his or her experience, training and most important his agenda. I am not inferring that we are all inherently liars, but we do slice and paste to fit the world to the mold we want to create.
And so we return to the international flurry over the 2014 Israeli Gaza campaign and the uproar and bias created. It all began shortly before the UN’s Human Rights Council began their inquiry into the actions of both Hamas and Israel during that conflict and immediately thereafter. The United Nation’s Human Rights Council immediately appointed their three hearing commissioners. What is incomprehensible is that the United Nation’s HRC appointed as their Chair, to conduct this type of highly sensitive inquiry into the conduct of these two fierce advisories, a person who had publically declared, well before the inquire ever began to hear any evidence, that it was his personal desire to see the prime minister of Israel in the criminal docket at the International Court of Justice. He also admitted that he, William Schabas, had been on the payroll of the Palestinian liberation Organization!
That is perfect justice through the wrong end of the telescope. Unbiased? Due process? Let’s all forget about “the facts” and get right to the guilty verdict, and, also, let’s save some time and garden some headlines in the process. We know “they” are guilty—it’s Israel. Obscene!
This gives you some idea of why the United States refused, for so many years, to be a member of the United Nations Council on Human Rights. The Gatestone Institute described the council’s work most apply: “Expecting the UNHRC to carry out a fair, balanced or accurate investigation of anything involving the State of Israel is rather like expecting the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to carry out investigations into persecution of Christians in Muslim countries. “ And, indeed, one need not wonder why the Human Rights Council’s work is so suspect. And, conversely, it is why so many people in the Mid-East laud their work and distort their own work to fit their agenda and passion.
The 200-plus page report of the Council was ultimately submitted to the United Nations, through their two remaining commissioners. It held they could not find clear evidence of why Israel targeted residential buildings in Gaza late at night, risking mass civilian casualties. By the way, no evidence was provided by the Israeli government to this inquiry. Where then did they get their information/facts? Obviously, it was from Palestinian sources.
Before moving on to the work of the High Level Military Group, I would like to focus for one short moment on a popular voice of the British press.
The UK Media Watch has reported that the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent was not only interviewed at great length on his biased reporting on the war from Jerusalem, but on the in-depth analysis of his articles which were even more disturbing.
In his writing from the area during the Gaza conflict (some twenty reports and many thousands of words back to his London readers) he detailed in horrific detail the death of Gaza citizens, but not once did he comment, analyze or criticize Hamas’ use of civilians as human shields. To be clear, and this is uncontroverted, the use of human shields is not merely morally reprehensible; it is a war crime punishable under international law.
Let us turn to a less publicized report, and less publicized for obvious reasons: It does not fit the agenda of The Guardian and UN Council on Human Rights and persons of that “persuasion.”
The High Level Military Group was formed in the aftermath of the Gaza conflict. It consisted of retired generals and defense officials from Germany, Colombia, India, Spain, Australia, the U.S., France, the UK and Italy. NATO and beyond. This panel consists of nine very different countries, nine different cultures, and nine different national historical pasts, five different parts of the world. The very first critic of its report complained that it was made up of all white males and no humanitarians. What an absurd complaint . When determining whether or not a conflict/war was conducted in a “legally prescribed manner”, one looks to the accredited, accepted and adopted International Rules of War and not to the further musing of a humanitarian.
If we have accepted the Rules of War, and they have been processed, created and accepted by all the enlighten nations of the entire world for more than mere decades. It is not the “humanities” of war we look at (they have been incorporated into the treaties, conventions that comprises the Rules of War). We certainly would not seek the humanitarians on the payroll of Hamas to determine if a participant of hostilities is guilty or not of its violations. Second, these particular generals and defense officials, from nine very different countries, are not the political voice of one of the combatants as attempted by the UN’s HRC. And third, and possibly the most important, the High Level Military Group observations were made with the combined experience and wisdom of many years of war from nine very different perspectives, cultures and political positions—and most important, they viewed evidence produced from both sides of the conflict.
The HLMG found:
• That Israel not only abided by the laws of armed conflict, but far surpassed their requirements.
• Armies of the world would be rendered far less effective if they were forced to operate under the same restrictions as the IDF during Israel’s 2014 Gaza campaign.
• The report found that the UN accepted Hamas’ figures for combatant vs. civilian casualties, while the HLMG found Hamas’ numbers to be widespread with contradictions and flaws. For example: the insertion of identical names, incorrect ages, combat-related deaths caused by Hamas itself or its associated groups, the case of misfired rockets, and deaths not related to the hostilities but classified as such.
• And last, and extremely important when civilian casualties are high– The HLMG laid the blame for a majority of civilian casualties as the direct result of Hamas’ measured policy of having the military embedded within civilian compounds and areas in order to increase the chances of greater civilian casualties as another method of conducting its highly successful international war of propaganda.
• Not to be ignored was the Israeli use of “banging on roofs”. A short-hand term of advanced warning to civilians before a military strike was to occur giving them ample time to evacuate before hostilities began.
I understand hypocrisy, I understand being passionate about ones beliefs. I understand loyalty. I understand going the extra mile for the Gipper. On the world stage, I cannot accept deceit or an excuse for deceit. Take the consequences for your misstep, and move on. No one, nobody is innocent from birth to death for something done at one time in our lives. In the Mid-East, to continue the lie to any and all mistakes- and let me emphasize this is true on both sides of the equation — puts more rather than less lives into the nameless trenches of the dead.
We cannot carpet bomb or lie our way to success; we can no longer bring the Atomic bomb to the table; my rifle stays at home when we meet; to negotiate, to bargain for, to discuss is not a matter of –all or nothing.
Facts are facts. It is totally untrue, and clearly unacceptable, that one person’s hero is another’s terrorist. A protagonist does not kill innocent people; a “soldier” knows his enemy is and who is not. A freedom fighter does not firebomb a bus with civilians. Civilians are not combatants. A child and its mother is never, ever the enemy –no matter through which end of the binoculars you view the world.