Geneva Convention: another global forum for Israel-bashing

Issue 520

The following op-ed appears in this week’s edition of The Jewish Chronicle of London.

Geneva Convention: another global forum for Israel-bashing

By Hillel Neuer
After the Holocaust, the world met in Geneva to affirm the laws of war. And last week, for only the third time in history, the UK, France, Germany and another 123 signatory states to the Fourth Geneva Convention assembled in order to call out a perpetrator.
And for the third time, the one they condemned was Israel.

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To their credit, the U.S., Canada and Australia joined Israel in boycotting the conference.
In a ten-point declaration prepared in advance, the attendees “call[ed] on the Occupying Power to fully and effectively respect the Fourth Geneva Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.”
They equally expressed “their deep concern, from an international humanitarian law standpoint, about certain measures taken by the Occupying Power in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the closure of the Gaza Strip.”
Though the text did include several anodyne references to the obligations of “non-state actors,” presumably Hamas, the goal of the Palestinian-initiated gathering and its declaration was to rebuke the Jewish state.
Israel’s actions are not immune from criticism. Yet by portraying the IDF as the worst perpetrator of war crimes on the planet, and the Hamas terrorist group as the victim, Geneva gave the world an inverted, false and dangerous message.
In doing so, the conference undermined the principles of international humanitarian law.
The truth, as former British commander in Afghanistan Col. Richard Kemp stated in 2009, and again this summer, is that no army in the history of warfare has done more to avoid harming civilians in a combat zone than the IDF in Gaza.
That conclusion was echoed by General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Speaking recently of this summer’s war, Dempsey said that “Israel went to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties.” In fact, the U.S. sent a special team to learn from these Israeli preventative measures.
All of this was ignored by the conference, which, as with its similar 1999 and 2001 gatherings against Israel, tainted the Geneva Conventions with politicization.
Consider the double standards. Despite their gross and systematic war crimes, the regimes of Bashar al-Assad, Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi were never called out by the High Contracting Parties.

Nothing ever on Sudan, Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas or the PA, whose President Abbas incited to the recent terror attacks in Jerusalem.

And nothing on this year’s Russian invasions of Crimea and Ukraine, which have killed thousands, or Pakistan’s displacement of one million people in an ongoing anti-Taliban operation. Only Israel.
When the Swiss solicited support for the conference, the EU should have said no. At a time when Islamic extremists worldwide are, with singular barbarism, targeting civilians—kidnapping, beheading and shooting men, women and children from Nigeria to Iraq to Pakistan—it is telling that London, Paris and Berlin chose to go along with singling out the Jewish state.
Scapegoating the Jews is always easy. For decades Middle East despots profitably diverted attention from the pathologies and suffering of their societies. But that did not make them go away. They festered.

In the failed cities of Cairo and Tripoli, in the wasteland of death of Syria and Iraq, we see the results.
Hillel Neuer is the executive director of UN Watch in Geneva.

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