Gaza: to inquire, or not to inquire

Writing this only metres from the historical site of the theatre where the first Shakespeare plays were performed (really!) I think I can be forgiven for bastardising the Bard. Because today the question in this post is: “to inquire, or not to inquire”?

Or: how should we react to news that Israel has (with crushing inevitability) rejected the summary findings of a United Nations Board Of Inquiry into attacks on UN facilities during the Gaza conflict?

Official Israeli spokesman Mark Regev was (with crushing inevitability) dismissing the report as unreliable on the radio last night (about the 10.30pm point on the playback). For good measure he also said (sweepingly) that Hamas uses buildings containing civilians as human shields. He didn’t see any contradiction in trying to rubbish the report while implicitly accepting that Israeli attacks may have happened as described but only because Hamas were firing from these sites. (His argument: on the one hand the report’s wrong and where it’s right it’s also wrong).

As Regev should have known, simply saying “they use human shields” isn’t a magical way of absolving a military force from the responsibility not to endanger civilians. (Carry on listening to the Regev radio piece for a good rebuttal from Amnesty’s researcher Donatella Rovera).

But that question again: should there be an inquiry, or shouldn’t there? Israel is defiant about the UN’s investigation but hasn’t, apparently, even seen the full report yet. Why not? Because, mystifyingly, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is stopping its publication (a decision that the UN’s own special rapporteur to the region Richard Falk has – with delicate UN understatement – described as “disappointing”).

Frankly, I don’t get this at all. First the UN commissions a limited inquiry into UN-specific attacks (not the full one that should have been arranged from the start), then when it finds that Israeli forces acted with “recklessness or negligence”, its boss steps in to prevent its full publication. Not only this, Ban Ki-moon is also saying that he’s rejected a key finding of the UN report – that there should be a fuller Gaza inquiry.

Antiwar sees the “stripping down” of a 184-page report to a 27-page summary as “mostly due to political sensitivities and on security grounds”.

Meanwhile, with Israel’s defence secretary Ehud Barak brazenly declaring (again) that the IDF are the “most moral army in the world” and laying all blame on Hamas, you really have to wonder whether anything at all is going to be learnt from the appalling violence of the Gaza fighting. Maybe not.

But if you’re in the London area tomorrow night (Thursday) please come along to a special Amnesty event where you could actually learn about Israelis and Palestinians determined to move beyond recrimination and bloodshed. It features Ali Abu Awwad, a Palestinian whose brother was killed at an Israeli checkpoint, and Robi Damelin, an Israeli mother whose son was killed by a Palestinian sniper.

There’s a short film and free drinks after as well. If that isn’t enough, you’ll be only metres away from Shakespeare’s first theatre …

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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