UN Watch addressed the disconnect between one-sided statements emanating last week from United Nations bodies and officials, and the reality that Israelis were facing in bomb shelters as Hamas began its escalation of violence against Israeli civilians.
Several days later and despite over 4,000 rockets fired from Gaza, much of the UN system has still failed to internalize the situation, preferring to fall back on knee-jerk anti-Israel responses. Below are recent examples of egregiously biased statements from the UN Human Rights Council, UNRWA and UNICEF.
UNHRC Appointees Distort International Law to Attack Israel
The UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a statement from five UNHRC “experts” led by Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk, who consistently turns a blind eye to both Palestinians and Israelis victimized by human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, and others in favor of focusing solely on attacking Israel.
“This most recent violence has a depressingly familiar pattern to it,” said the experts. “Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza exchange missiles and rockets following dispossession and the denial of rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, with Israel’s far greater firepower inflicting far higher death tolls and injuries and a much larger scale of property destruction.”
Nowhere in the statement is the primary initiator of this recent violence mentioned by name: Hamas. Nowhere is Hamas’ role in escalating this violence mentioned. Instead, it is Israel that is held responsible as the party that has far greater firepower, that inflicts far higher death tolls and denies Palestinians their rights according to the UN experts.
False Moral Equivalence
The reference to an “exchange of missiles and rockets” creates a false moral equivalence between one side that initiated hostilities by deliberately firing at civilians and the other that is exercising its legitimate right to self-defense.
The statement says that Israel’s actions to stop the rocket fire from Gaza “constitute indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks against civilians and civilian property. These attacks likely violate the laws of war and constitute a war crime.” That this is followed by a paragraph claiming that rocket fire from “Palestinian armed groups” is deemed merely ‘reckless’ while “similarly” to Israel’s actions also “likely a war crime.”
Five UNHRC appointees condemn only Israel for "indiscriminate attacks against civilians."
Meanwhile, Hamas launching thousands of rockets at civilians is merely "reckless."
— UN Watch (@UNWatch) May 20, 2021
On the contrary, as former U.S. military judge advocate David French states: “The use of an otherwise-civilian building for military purposes converts it into a military target. This is a basic aspect of the law of war. The blame for the attack on the target thus rests with the entity that converted it into a military target.”
Hamas has deliberately embedded its military assets within the civilian population, firing rockets from residential neighborhoods, thus turning these buildings into legitimate military targets under international law. Despite this, Israel has gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid civilian casualties, warning civilians by phone to evacuate in advance of airstrikes, and other methods such as the “knock on the roof,” where non-explosive missiles are dropped to warn those inside to exit before larger bombs destroy the building.
Yet the statement by the five UNHRC appointees distorts the concept of proportionality in armed conflict to accuse Israel of violating international law when, in reality, by hiding behind its own civilians, exposing them to attack while deliberately targeting Israeli civilians, it is Hamas that is the guilty party. Despite this, the UN experts seek to deny Israel’s right to self-defense.
Falsely Accusing Israel of Targeting Journalists
According to the statement:
The experts condemned the Israeli attack on a civilian apartment building which housed the offices of several international news agencies. “Violence or threatened violence against journalists, particularly those reporting in a conflict zone, breaches the freedom of expression and the right of the media to report unhindered,” they said.
Yet it was not the news agencies in the building that were targeted but Hamas assets located there. Rather than threatening or carrying out violence against journalists, the IDF warned the occupants of the building in advance in order to ensure civilians, including those journalists, were not injured or killed.
Former AP correspondent says source close to IDF suggests “there were indeed Hamas offices” in Gaza building that housed AP.
“Any press organization operating in a dictatorship is going to be compromised, and will further compromise itself to conceal how it has been compromised.“ https://t.co/mNRT4zqzJ9
— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) May 16, 2021
All About the “Occupation”
Ultimately Hamas gets a free pass from the UN experts as the root cause of the violence does not include systemic factors such as Palestinian rejectionism, terrorism, incitement, antisemitism or the rejection of multiple peace offers over the decades. Instead:
“The underlying reality is that there is an occupying power, with one of the best equipped militaries in the world, ruling over an occupied people who have the right to be freed from an unwanted and protracted alien regime,” they said. “This struggle is deeply unequal. The 54-year-old Israeli occupation – already the longest occupation in the modern world – is becoming even more entrenched and even more abusive of fundamental human rights.”
The current conflict is emanating from Gaza, a territory that has not been occupied since Israel’s withdrawal in 2005. Hamas has turned Gaza into a terror statelet with significant consequences for the entire Palestinian people. The UN experts, however, choose to ignore the human rights abuses of a Hamas regime that keeps its own people under its brutal control.
It becomes clear that the priority of the UN experts is not to bring any positive contribution to restoring regional stability. For the experts, it’s about punishing Israel as peace is only possible by “imposing a meaningful cost on Israel, the occupying power, to fully end its illegal occupation.”
Hamas Prevents Humanitarian Aid; UNRWA Blames Israel
Nothing illustrates the disconnect between UN bodies and the reality of the situation more than UNRWA’s press release calling on Israel to “enable humanitarian supplies and its staff timely access to Gaza, in accordance with its obligations under international law.”
On the very same day, Israel reopened its Kerem Shalom and Erez border crossings to enable humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. Hamas, however, launched a mortar attack on the Kerem Shalom crossing, injuring an Israeli soldier who was facilitating the transfer of the aid.
To her credit, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Lynn Hastings unequivocally condemned the attacks.
🇮🇱 Israel reopens border crossings to facilitate entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza.
🏴☠️ Hamas bombs the crossings preventing the aid from entering.
— UN Watch (@UNWatch) May 19, 2021
Yet, UNRWA’s spokesperson was still tweeting footage of television interviews 24 hours later, calling on Israel to open the crossings even as Israel was attempting to facilitate a transfer of humanitarian aid from Jordan before this too was prevented by another mortar attack.
UNRWA continues to call on Israel to enable access to the Gaza Strip:
“Humanitarian corridors are always extremely effective in situations of conflict. They’re supposed to protect humanitarian convoys going into a danger zone.”
— UNRWA (@UNRWA) May 19, 2021
UNRWA has so far failed to condemn Palestinian attacks on border crossings that have prevented humanitarian aid from reaching their own people. While the crossings have been forced to shut as a result, UNRWA continues to falsely place responsibility on Israel.
UNICEF: Only Gazan Children Count
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, who was famously probed by then Senator Barack Obama for racism, issued a press release that stated: “Gaza’s one million children are reeling from the mounting consequences of violent conflict with nowhere safe to turn. Lives have been lost, and families shattered.”
Gaza’s one million children are reeling from the mounting consequences of violent conflict with nowhere safe to turn.@UNICEF is calling for the immediate cessation of hostilities on humanitarian grounds to allow the entry of staff and essential supplies. https://t.co/y0kySBcYs9
— Henrietta H. Fore (@unicefchief) May 18, 2021
While Fore focuses on child deaths, injuries and mental health issues in Gaza, she fails to note the suffering of Israeli children, particularly those in the south of the country who have been subjected to the trauma of rocket barrages.
Children’s rights should be universal. Yet UNICEF’s statement only pays lip service to Israeli children in its final paragraph.
In addition, Fore repeats UNRWA’s call for the entry of humanitarian aid while ignoring Hamas’ bombing of the border crossings and Israel’s efforts to facilitate that aid.