The United Nations Security Council met once again Thursday on the crisis in Gaza. This time it heard “humanitarian” briefings from Under Secretary-General for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Valerie Amos, and the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Pierre Krahenbuhl.
The briefings were as much a one-sided political attack against Israel as they were genuine reports on humanitarian conditions in Gaza. Relying on a preliminary UN assessment and ignoring the circumstances in which Israeli soldiers claimed to have been under fire from jihadists operating in the vicinity of an UNRWA elementary school in Jabalya, they seized on an alleged artillery shelling by the Israeli military on July 30th that was said to have struck the school and resulted in 19 Palestinian fatalities. They condemned only Israel for violating international law.
Both senior UN officials had basically nothing to say about Hamas’s war crimes in using civilian homes, hospitals, mosques and schools to hide their weapons and to serve as entrances to their terror tunnels. Indeed, neither official made any reference to the tunnels at all.
Moreover, both senior UN officials claimed that Israel is the “occupying power” of Gaza. Therefore, under this line of reasoning, Israel as the “occupying power” must take care of the increasing number of displaced civilians whom Israel has warned to evacuate in advance of military operations. There’s just one problem. Their premise that Israel is the occupying power in Gaza is false. In fact, it has been false since 2005 when Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza. Hamas is the governing authority in Gaza after its election by the people of Gaza and its subsequent expulsion of members of the rival Fatah faction to take over sole power to run Gaza. Yet we do not hear a word from these two senior UN officials or even the UN Secretary General himself as to the grave harm that Hamas has brought upon its own people in violation of its obligations as the governing authority to protect its civilian population. Hamas’s political leader lives in luxury in Qatar. Hamas’s other leaders hide in security in the tunnels they have built for themselves from which to launch their attacks against Israeli civilians. As for the civilians that Hamas as the governing authority in Gaza is obligated to protect, it has instead used them as human shields. Hamas has cruelly left them without even the slightest modicum of personal security such as bomb shelters or even the right to enter the same tunnels that Hamas leaders use for their own security.
While acknowledging that at least three UNRWA schools were discovered by UNRWA itself to have been used to harbor Hamas rockets, the UN senior officials in their respective statements to the Security Council minimized the importance of the discoveries. UNRWA’s Commissioner-General claimed that “UNRWA takes robust measures to closely monitor all its facilities to which it has access in an effort to prevent misuse by combatants and other parties.”
This laughable claim is belied by the fact that UNRWA lost track of some of the rockets it had discovered and turned over others to the “local authorities” – i.e., Hamas. With regard to the school where the rockets went missing, Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary General, admitted during a press briefing on July 24th that UNRWA had posted “a solitary guard” at the school gate overnight after the rockets were first discovered. “Obviously, given the context of the sort of conflict we see on the ground, a single guard is probably not sufficient to protect an entire building, but our personnel are stretched very thin. It’s quite possible that over the course of that day the weapons were… whatever weapons were there, were taken away.”
No kidding. Mr. Haq’s admission is hardly indicative of “robust measures” to “prevent misuse by combatants.” Given UNRWA’s history of bending over backwards to please Hamas, it is not likely that UNRWA is going out of its way to be vigilant any time soon. It’s easier for UNRWA to just let Israel respond to Hamas’s provocations and then join Hamas in blaming Israel for the predictable consequences of the response.
Mr. Krahenbuhl also said that the discoveries of such rockets in several UNRWA schools “do not in any way justify attacks on UNRWA facilities.” To the contrary, when civilian facilities are being used for military purposes, they become legitimate objects under international law for a military response. And when combatants use the immediate vicinity of civilian facilities to shoot at the other side’s military forces, those forces are entitled to fire back in self-defense.
Valerie Amos said in her statement to the Security Council that “we need more humanitarian pauses to enable us to reach those in need.” Israel, but not Hamas, agrees. What Ms. Amos failed to mention was that Israel has undertaken a series of such pauses, which Hamas has either rejected outright or violated with more rocket firings against Israeli civilian population centers. Moreover, many civilian lives could have been saved if Hamas had accepted Egypt’s original ceasefire proposal as Israel had done. Neither “humanitarian” report to the Security Council places any responsibility on Hamas for these civilian deaths, not to mention Hamas’s deliberate use of Palestinian civilians as human shields.
Late afternoon on Thursday it was announced in a joint statement by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that “all parties have agreed to an unconditional humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.” This latest attempt at a ceasefire will commence at 8 am local time on Friday, August 1, 2014 and last for a period of 72 hours unless extended. “During this time the forces on the ground will remain in place. Israeli and Palestinian delegations will immediately be going to Cairo for negotiations with the Government of Egypt, at the invitation of Egypt, aimed at reaching a durable ceasefire. The parties will be able to raise all issues of concern in these negotiations.”
The leader of Hamas’s military wing has previously rejected any ceasefire except on all of Hamas’s terms. Whether this latest attempt at a ceasefire actually succeeds is problematical as Hamas has blown many chances to help its people before with respites from the fighting.
Both Valerie Amos and Pierre Krahenbuhl focused on what they characterized as Israel’s “illegal” blockade of the border crossings as the underlying cause of the conflict. Mr. Krahenbuhl went so far as to declare to the Security Council that “Notwithstanding Israel’s legitimate security concerns, the illegal blockade must be lifted.”
Consider the outrageous implications of the UNRWA Commissioner-General’s statement. Israel’s civilian population has lived under rocket assaults for nine years. Hamas has taken cement shipped from Israel to help build schools, hospitals and homes and diverted that cement to build tunnels from which to launch ground attacks inside Israel against Israeli civilians. Advanced weapons stored in those tunnels, schools, hospitals and homes have been smuggled into Gaza from Iran and other sources even in the face of the border crossing restrictions. Humanitarian relief including food and medical supplies still continue to be sent by Israel across the border to Gaza in the midst of all of the fighting. Yet, “notwithstanding” Hamas’s actions, which demonstrate why very tight security at the border crossings is needed more than ever, Mr. Krahenbuhl has essentially told the Security Council not to worry about Israel’s clear and present security concerns. They are to be handled at some indeterminate time in the future. In the meantime, his call for an immediate opening of all border crossings would make an already untenable security situation much worse.
At a press briefing at UN headquarters on July 30th the UN’s second highest ranking official – Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson – said that Israel was responding in a disproportionate manner to Hamas’s attacks. I asked him what precisely he expected Israel to do in the circumstances it finds itself. He had no real answer. All he could say was that the UN wants an immediate end to the fighting. So does Israel, but not Hamas unless it remains free to resume its attacks at a time of its own choosing.
“Question: You mentioned the brief humanitarian pause that Israel had initiated and you didn’t say explicitly but Hamas rejected. In the last 24 hours, the leader of the military wing of Hamas has said no ceasefire until all of their conditions are met, including complete open access through the crossings, and he talked about jihad, which essentially is repeating the charter of Hamas, which calls for the killing of Jews and destruction of the State of Israel. So, in light of all of that, if Hamas refuses to even honour any pause, tell me exactly what you expect Israel to do? To unilaterally just cease all fire, withdraw the IDF, allow the tunnels to continue to remain in place? Just in that situation, assuming Hamas continues to refuse a ceasefire as has been proposed by Egypt, et cetera.”
“Deputy Secretary-General: You’re asking me to provide the golden formula, but let me say that, of course, what we ask for is an immediate end of the fighting. The problem is that both sides have demands that go beyond the urgent situation today. Israel demands that, of course, the rocket attacks end, but also that the tunnels into Israel be destroyed, which has a timeline of a different character. And Gaza, Hamas and the Palestinians require that there are indications and guarantees that something will happen on the blockade of Gaza. And here, I think, it is important that we try to see this now as an absolutely humanitarian urgency to stop the fighting, and during that end of the fighting there might be a chance then to work for the more durable ceasefire, where those larger issues can be raised.”
I was not asking for the Deputy Secretary General to provide “the golden formula.” I was simply asking for him to acknowledge the dangerous situation that Hamas itself has created both for Israeli civilians and Palestinian civilians. Israelis are not looking for sympathy. But they are requesting basic fairness and an end to the double standard that pervades the United Nations and much of the mainstream media. They also know not to hold their breath waiting.
The Israeli writer Naomi Ragen, in her searing, heartfelt article entitled “Don’t Cry for Us Israelis,” articulated this sentiment perfectly:
“We aren’t greedy for sympathy. After all, we got so much after the Holocaust, we prefer other people to have their share now. These days, we prefer to live, rather than have people cry over us and the injustices done to us.
So by all means, cry for the Palestinian people – men women and children – whose duly elected leadership has callously left them without protection from just retribution for their terrorist crimes. The leaders who took their people’s aid money and are living in Qatar in five star hotels building shopping centers for themselves. Who built terrorist tunnels under their homes, mosques, hospitals and schools, and recruited their sons to die for Allah, while they sit in bunkers waiting for the U.N. to rescue them.
Don’t cry for us, or our families, or our children, or grandchildren. Not this time. Not ever. Not if we can help it. Because this time, thank God, we have a country. We are armed. This time, with God’s help, we know how to protect ourselves from Nazis and their high-minded media cheerleaders.”
Ms. Ragan has ably articulated Israel’s own “golden formula” to ensure its survival against jihadists determined to kill every Jew they can find and destroy the state of Israel if given a chance.
Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.