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The Folly of "Investigating" Gaza By: Alan M. Dershowitz
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, March 19, 2009

On March 16, 2009, a group of 16 self-described experts on “international justice and reconciliation of conflict”—including Bishop Desmond Tutu, who has characterized Israeli self-defense actions as “un-Christian”—called for the establishment of “a United Nations Commission” to conduct an “independent and impartial investigation” of war crime allegations growing out of the Gaza conflict.

There is of course no need to conduct any investigation of whether Hamas has committed war crimes: they readily admit—indeed they boast—that they are trying to kill as many Jewish Israeli citizens as their anti-personnel rockets are capable of killing. They also acknowledge, as a Hamas legislator did on television, that they use women and children as “human shields.”

The only real target of this investigation is Israel, which, according to British military expert, Richard Kemp:

"ha[d] very little choice other than to carry on with its military operations until it reaches the conclusion it needs which is to stop Hamas from firing rockets at its people in its territory.…

I think – I would say that from my knowledge of the IDF and from the extent to which I have been following the current operation, I don’t think there has ever been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people than the IDF is doing today in Gaza.

Hamas, the enemy they have been fighting, has been trained extensively by Iran and by Hezbollah, to fight among the people, to use the civilian population in Gaza as a human shield.

Hamas factors in the uses of the population as a major part of their defensive plan. So even though as I say, Israel, the IDF, has taken enormous steps…to reduce civilian casualties, it is impossible, it is impossible to stop that happening when the enemy has been using civilians as a human shield.”

Only a group as skewed against Israel as this one is would regard the United Nations as capable of conducting an “independent and impartial investigation” of anything involving Israel. Such an investigation would not “help build a better peace.” To the contrary, it would encourage Hamas and other terrorist groups to persist in their tactic of targeting civilians from behind human shields.

Moreover, no commission could credibly investigate what Israel did, unless it first set out with clarity what it believed Israel should have done and could have done under international law to prevent Hamas rockets from continuing to target a million Israeli civilians. A United Nations investigation of Israel—in the face of that body’s absolute refusal to investigate Russia, China, Zimbabwe, Iran and so many other countries that routinely violate human rights in an egregious manner—would constitute a major victory for the Hamas double war crime strategy. It would send a powerful message to all terrorist groups that provoking democracies into responding to attacks on its civilians will result in United Nations condemnation.

Let the international community, led by the so-called experts who signed this letter, first decide what the appropriate response is for democracies faced with attacks on its civilians by terrorists who hide behind their own civilians. Only after it is first decided, in a neutral manner, what rules of self-defense should apply to all democracies faced with terrorism by those who hide behind civilians, could an independent body then credibly apply these standards to the actions of a particular country. To conduct a witch hunt against one country, which is what any United Nations Commission would do, before articulating the neutral standards applicable to all democracies, would constitute Alice-In-Wonderland justice: Verdict first, trial to follow. That is the kind of “justice” the United Nations has typically administered when it comes to Israel.

Alan M. Dershowitz is a professor of law at Harvard. He is the author of many books, including, most recently, “The Case Against Israel’s Enemies.”

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