Confirmed by high-level international military experts: Israel did not commit war crimes in Gaza

Col. Richard Kemp speaking at the UNHRC in June 2015

The redoubtable British Colonel Richard Kemp, formerly Commander of the British forces in Iraq, has previously defended Israel from accusations of war crimes that were levelled against it by the UN and its assorted agencies, foreign governments, and of course the always reliable (reliably anti-Israel) international media.  You can see him here in action defending Israel after Operation Cast Lead in 2009

And here he is again earlier this year as he spoke at the UNHRC after Operation Protective Edge.

(Both posts linked above have other relevant and very interesting videos on the same subject).

Kemp was recently joined by a group of 11 former army officers, who together formed the High Level Military Group (HLMG)  who spent months investigating the entire 2014 operation in Gaza, and they have now issued their formal opinion. This not only completely exonerates Israel, but it castigates the UN for their false and distorted accusations:

Armies of the world would be rendered far less effective if they were forced to operate under the same restrictions as the IDF during last summer’s Gaza campaign, a group of former military and defense leaders from nine countries claim in a new report released Friday.

Following a months-long investigation into the 50-day conflict, the High Level Military Group — made up of retired generals and defense officials from Germany, Colombia, India, Spain, Australia, the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Italy — found that Israel not only abided by the laws of armed conflict, but far surpassed their requirements, despite damning reports by the UN and non-governmental organizations that accused the IDF of potential war crimes.

The group had already defended Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip earlier this year, submitting their preliminary findings to the UN Human Rights Commission’s probe into the operation, but the group’s final 80-page report goes far beyond their initial assessment.

“Our findings were diametrically opposed to the UN report,” Col. Richard Kemp, one of the document’s authors and the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, told The Times of Israel on Thursday, blasting the lack of military expertise by the United Nations commission that investigated the conflict. “The UN report was done too quickly and was done by the wrong people.”

[…]

A central issue in all of these reports is that of civilian casualties. One of the problems, the report found, was the UN accepted Hamas’s figures for combatant vs. civilian casualties, which put the ratio at close to 70% non-combatants of the 2,000 or so deaths, compared to the dramatically lower 50% that Israel claims.

The HLMG found Hamas’s numbers to be rife with inconsistencies, such as the “inclusion of duplicate names, incorrect ages, combat-related deaths caused by Hamas or its affiliate organizations, such as in the case of misfired rockets, and deaths not related to the hostilities but classified as such.”

More problematic, however, is that the UN and NGO reports were researched from a human rights standpoint and treated the concept of civilian deaths as inherently wrong, even when those incidents occurred under legally acceptable circumstances, Kemp said.

“Human rights law was not the right set of laws to govern this; the laws of armed conflict are,” he added.

[…]

Nevertheless, the 11 former army and governmental officials found that Israel adopted a far higher level of restraint than other militaries, citing Israel’s now famous “knock on the roof” technique of dropping a non-explosive ordnance to alert residents that their building is about to be bombed, the telephone calls and leaflets dropped warning non-combatants to leave the scene of an impending attack and numerous examples of missions canceled due to potential non-combatant casualties.

“That threshold isn’t something other nations could handle,” Kemp said. “We can’t call everyone in Iraq before a strike.”

This standard, which is already beginning to be applied to other armies besides the IDF, is a hindrance to military expediency, Kemp argued. “You can’t achieve that aim and also be effective. It’s why we’re not being effective,” Kemp said, referring specifically to the current coalition campaign against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

[…]

As all members of the group were retired, they did not represent their home countries, and Kemp explained that the potential for backlash and threat to their professional reputations kept the group independent and objective.

Though there was healthy discussion during the investigation, Kemp said, the group was united in its conclusions. “This wasn’t groupthink. If there was a person with a dissenting opinion, we would have heard about it,” he said.

[…]

The report decries the terror organization’s use of human shields and confirms many of the allegations levied against Hamas, namely that they used hospitals, UN schools, ambulances and other “sensitive sites” in order to force Israel into compromising positions and bring about international condemnation against the Jewish state.

In addition to the military aspects of last summer’s operation, the HLMG focused considerable attention on Hamas’s manipulation of the media, noting both censorship and “proactive fabrication” as tools in the terror group’s PR arsenal.

Here is Col. Kemp describing the IDF as the most moral army:

 

Col. Richard Kemp explained to the Jewish Chronicle why he and his colleagues felt it necessary to put their reputations on the line in defending Israel:

There was not a single Jew in the HLMG. Not one had any allegiance to Israel, except the recognition that Israel is an ally and an outpost of the West. But every one of these distinguished former military men concluded that Israel had no choice but to defend its people in the way that it did, had adhered closely to the laws of armed conflict, had not committed any war crimes and indeed had gone further than any other country in seeking to protect the lives of innocent civilians.

Each of us was prepared to stand up and be counted, to challenge the conventional wisdom on the basis of our extensive experience of armed conflict, and in doing so to put our reputations on the line. Why?

Because we recognised that the systematic challenge to Israel’s right to defend itself is a challenge also to our own countries’ rights to defend themselves. We recognised that the incredibly effective anti-Israel political warfare campaign is just a part of a wider conspiracy against the whole of the Western world, intended to inhibit us all and to lead to our subjugation.

The words “Kol Hakavod” or “thank you” don’t feel strong enough for the gratefulness we should feel towards these brave military men – brave not only on the battlefield but also in the media and the hostile anti-Israel environment with they have tangled.

They are to be applauded for their thorough investigation, their brave conclusions, and their courage in publicizing them worldwide.

Their report ought to be required reading in all the UN and human rights’ institutions around the world. Unfortunately I fear that political correctness as well as  the usual widespread anti-Israel sentiment will prevent the correct conclusions from being drawn.

Let us hope that at least in Western armies the right lessons will be learned from Israel’s bitter experience.

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16 Responses to Confirmed by high-level international military experts: Israel did not commit war crimes in Gaza

  1. Rob says:

    This is a great finding and congratulations are absolutely due to the courageous Colonel Kemp and his fellow investigators. But, on a more sombre note, I fear it will not make the slightest difference to the international community’s pathological obsession with – and hatred of – Israel. Any objective observer of the 2015 conflict with Hamas would have already come to the same conclusions as did this panel of military experts. The international (and Israeli) Left will simply ignore the finding, even if they first try, and fail (as they will), to discredit it, in the same way as they ignore the facts about Rachel Corrie, Mohammad al- Dura, and a whole host propaganda exercises that were exposed long ago. How much attention was paid to the UN (!!) report which exonerated Israel over the Marvi Marmara incident?

    Sorry to sound so gloomy, but that’s how I see it. Hopefully I will be proved wrong.

    (On a more personal and cheery note – if I may? – I made my first visit to Israel this past March and absolutely loved it. What a fantastic nation you Israelis have built on the east Mediterranean seaboard, and what a huge vindication of the Zionist project. I came away thinking the world has not seen anything like it in the way of nation/city state building since Venice – which was also founded by refugees as a protective sanctuary and redoubt. Will be back for a longer stay in 2017.)

    • anneinpt says:

      I agree with your gloomy prognosis but I must disagree with one angle. The Israeli Left was as solidly behind the IDF as the Right. There was almost unprecedented solidarity and unity through those days of the war and its aftermath. There were literally one or two extreme leftists, Haaretz journalists of course, who opposed the army’s actions but otherwise it was wall-to-wall support.

      I’m delighted that you visited here and had such a good time. I hope your next trip will be equally as enjoyable if not more so. Thank you for your compliments of my country. Although not aimed at me personally I always feel very chuffed and flattered when people love our country. 🙂

      • Rob says:

        Yes, I was thinking of Ha’aretz and the +972 crowd. (How that Lisa Goldman has changed!)

      • Brian Goldfarb says:

        Further to Anne’s response to Rob, the “War cabinet” during Protective Edge included Tzipi Livni, hardly a rightist, indeed, a former Cabinet member and a serious contender for a Cabinet post in the event of a left-liberal victory at the polls. As Anne notes, apart from the Arab List (or most of them) and a couple of ultra-leftists, when something like Protective Edge comes along, it’s wall-to-wall backing for the IDF. Oh, there might be some quibbling over detail, but then, hey, Israel is a democracy and it is the right of democratically elected politicos to disagree.

        Do you think that during WW2, none of Roosevelt’s or Churchill’s (or even Stalin’s, according to Richard Overy in his book “Why The Allies Won”) advisers and colleagues ever disagreed with them over tactics and strategy?

        Of course, the good sense the military men show won’t be reflected by the mass of the BDS, anti-Zionist, “as-a-Jew” mobs out there, but then nothing will satisfy or convince them other than the disappearance of Israel. However, while the political classes in the democracies (for the most part) continue to support Israel – and all those who actually engage in the battle against Islamist/Jihadist extremism do – who cares what such people and governments as Sweden say? Or what the left “progressives” say? Or what noise the empty vessels of the Palestinian Solidarity Committees and their avatars around the world make?

        • Rob says:

          I hope you are right, Brian, but I’m not so optimistic. Here in Australia, we have seen support for BDS move from the fringe Greens Party to being embraced by influential players in the mainstream Labor Opposition. It’s not party policy yet, but in time it may well be.

  2. ShimonZ says:

    I regret to say that I agree with Rob’s pessimism. It is not so much the successful lying of our Arab enemies as much as the hatred and jealousy of the other nations of the world, who look for any excuse to knock us down and de-legitimize us. It has been long forgotten that the so called occupied territories were won in self defense after our neighbors tried to squeeze the life out of us and push us into the sea (I remember those broadcasts on the radio). And now, the western democratic countries join hands with the most barbaric in a united front against us.

    • anneinpt says:

      While I agree with you that we are fighting a difficult and unjust war against us in the delegitimization and demonization of Israel, in practice there is no actual boycott.. Israel’s relations with foreign countries, both in Europe and in Asia, have grown closer, trade has grown exponentially, and of course foreign armies don’t listen to the defamers – they are the ones who put their lives on the line and want to learn from the experts.

      Of course I don’t belittle the efforts of the defamers and delegitimizers, but after all their huffing and puffing they haven’t gotten further than a bunch of irrelevant UN resolutions.

      Again, I agree – it is bloody unfair, unjust, and the injustice screams to the heavens, but when you look at the makeup of the UN – be honest – do you WANT to be honoured by people like that??!

  3. Reality says:

    What a wonderful group of soldiers.Our own”Breaking the Silence”group of leftist soldiers would do well to heed them.If nothing else,this report will give the UNHRC pause for thought before continuing on their usual Israel bashing road.They now know that there are people,with good solid backgrounds,with no political allegiance to Israel,who will stand up to them,and perhaps even take their own nations Israel bashing ambassadors to task.
    There is here in Israel a new group also called Breaking the Silence,but this one is a counter group,of soldiers with stories about the human level of kindness carried out in enemy homes,to great danger to themselves.There is one event,where having gone behind enemy lines looking for a specific terrorist,they entered his house,surprised him and arrested him.(Other armies would simply have bombed the house or shot him).As they were leaving,they saw his young son constantly scratching his foot.The Israeli soldiers stopped to look,discovered the child’s foot wrapped in rags,covering rat bites.They called over their platoons medic,who cleaned, rewrapped the foot in new clean bandages,after treating bites with antibiotics,and gave the mother the rest of the antibiotic creams and bandages with instructions how to continue treatment until she could get to a doctor..These are our humane soldiers.May G-d watch over them and keep them safe,including these wonderful ex soldiers of the HLMG.Amen!

    • anneinpt says:

      Thank you for the story on the Breaking the Breaking the Silence. I was looking for info about that.

      I simply cannot understand those ex-soldiers who peddle their stories to BtS outside of Israel. If they’re so concerned about the IDF’s behaviour why not complain within Israel? It proves that they don’t want things to change, otherwise they would make use of the complaints procedures and ombudsman, even the Israeli press. Instead they defame Israel to our enemies abroad – showing their real agenda.

      Kol hakavod to the counter-group. I bet they don’t get half the press coverage in Israel, and none at all abroad. Haters don’t want to be confused with facts. They want to keep comfortable with their Jew-hatred.

  4. Pingback: The enemy within | Anne's Opinions

  5. Brian Goldfarb says:

    I concur with Anne’s view on the actual effect that BDS has had – which is zilch. There’s a recent UK YouGov poll which shows (as do all properly conducted and unbiased polls do) that a clear majority of Brits regard Israel very positively. The noise that BDS etc make does not translate into action by anyone else. For all its green credentials and its anti-Israelis, the Green Party in the UK has exactly one MP and only a handful of councillors. Frankly, unless and until the UK Labour Party gets rid of Corbyn and his ilk, it doesn’t matter what his policy on the Middle East is, the Party isn’t going to form a government in 2020, no matter how many previously unmotivated young people he motivates into action.

    And Cameron is clearly very pro-Israel (as anyone facing the reality of terrorist action which might cross the Channel would be); the US Congress (forget Obama, he’s effectively a lame-duck President) keeps showing its support for Israel; as does (to many commentators surprise) the new Liberal Government in Canada. Further, Hollande in France (along with Sarkozy) plainly knows where his border to the east actually runs these days, as does Merkel in Germany.

    Given the support of Egypt – in the same boat as Israel – and Jordan’s awareness of its vulnerability, and Putin’s understanding that he doesn’t, really, really, doesn’t, want to get involved with the IDF & the IAF, does anyone else count in this mess?

    • Rob says:

      There are a lot of people around the world, Jews and non-Jews (I’m one of the latter) who are actually very worried about BDS (unjustifiably, in your view, I guess?)- about how it has effectively taken over campuses across the US and the UK to the point where it is very difficult (and often physically unsafe) for a pro-Israel voice to be heard. And about the way it is insinuating into institutions – not least the Christian churches – in their home countries. Very many of these folk are actively organising counter demonstrations opposing the BDS activists – challenging them in the media space they have had pretty much to themselves for many years. (In Australia, for example, they are trying to challenge the periodic outbursts against Max Brenner chocolate shops.) What are you saying here, Brian? That we should all shut up and go home because there’s nothing to worry about?

      • anneinpt says:

        Your point about BDS on campus is a very relevant one Rob, and is probably the one aspect that is the most dangerous and the most likely to have an influence precisely because it is targeting young and impressionable minds – and those youngsters are the leaders of tomorrow.

        I don’t think Brian was saying there si nothing to worry about and we can sit back and relax. What he was trying to say, and I agree for the most part with him, is that AT THE MOMENT, for all its efforts in the political and economic spheres, BDS and the like have had almost zero influence on the actual reality in Israel today. Foreign countries, statesmen, politicians etc. are still visiting, trade ties are growing stronger worldwide, and military cooperation is at a very high level between Israel and a host of countries, some of whom didn’t have diplomatic relations with Israel till very recently, and some still don’t.

        But of course that does not mean we can rest on our laurels. First of all the poisonous atmosphere created by BDS has a direct influence on the Jewish communities in those countries, and there has been a huge upsurge in antisemitic attacks in many countries. Secondly, as you say, we cannot rely on the fact that just because BDS hasn’t been a success so far it won’t be a success in the future.

        So in conclusion – yes, we do have plenty to worry about and to combat, but we need to keep a sense of proportion for the moment. Giving the BDS “credit” where it isn’t due just adds to their sense of self-satisfaction and gives them a morale boost which we must not allow.

        I have to add that I stand in awe and admiration of all Israel’s supporters, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who support us so strongly and loudly in the public sphere, on campus, in politics and elsewhere. I know this takes a lot of courage, both moral and even physical. You should know that Israelis deeply appreciate this support and we know that we would be in a far worse place without it.

        Stay strong and don’t despair! We are all in this together.

  6. Brian Goldfarb says:

    I would add to Anne’s points that at least part of the reason for the lack of effectiveness (beyond convincing themselves that they are about to conquer the world while most other people are asking “what are they on?”) of BDS is the effort of all those who oppose it, without denying that, like any other genuine parliamentary democracy, Israeli governments of all stripes will get it wrong on occasions.

    I suppose my message would be: don’t despair (as Anne says) and keep confronting these people wherever it is safe to do so: they find it difficult to cope with the truth, especially if they aren’t trolls and thus still have (however tenuous) a grasp on reality.

    Oh, and here’s a killer link for you: whenever anyone asserts that Israel is an apartheid state, refer them to F.W. De Klerk, the last “apartheid” President of South Africa (here: http://www.timesofisrael.com/south-africas-de-klerk-israel-not-an-apartheid-state/?utm_source=The+Times+of+Israel+Daily+Edition&utm_camp), and then note that different rules apply to occupied territories. (sorry for that unfortunate phrase, Anne!) If they bluster and say but, but…, tell them to go and find their own link to the Rome Treaty on Apartheid.

    Rob, non-Jews with 20/20 vision for the truth and with a respect for evidence and logical argument are worth, sadly, a lot, if only because jews such as Anne and I are often dismissed on the basis of “well, you would say that, wouldn’t you?”

    If you need any further encouragement, search out the “Divest This” website on how ineffective the efforts to persuade US food Co-ops to bar Israeli products has been.

    All that said, the real problem is the threat to free speech and open and honest debate on campus. Here, the problem lies with administrations who are afraid to assert the rights of the minorities who are being denied their right os free expression and safety on campus.

    But no major US college or university has yet taken any notice of student resolutions to divest from investments in Israel or in companies that do business in Israel.

    No Pasaran! (They will not pass)

    • anneinpt says:

      Thanks for that great comment.

      • Brian Goldfarb says:

        Anne, shoulder to shoulder on this, despite how our basic political philosophies might differ. As I’ve noted before (here and elsewhere), when it comes to Israel, people would be surprised how “right-wing” this member of the “sane left” can get.

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