To the colossal compost heap of anti-Israel screeds churned out by the United Nations, we can now add the so-called Schabas Report on the 2014 summer war between Gaza and Israel.
Not that the eponymous William Schabas saw the production of this report right through to the end. Appointed last summer as chair of this UN inquiry, Schabas was forced to resign this past February when news emerged that he had served as a paid adviser to the Palestinian Authority. (This UN report notes that he resigned — but does not say why.)
Officially, this document is titled: “Report of the independent commission of inquiry established pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution S-21/1.”
A more fitting title would be: “A UN Field Guide to Making the Most of Human Shields.”
Of course there’s more than that to this report, which runs 34 pages, accompanied by 200 pages of “detailed findings.” There is the UN’s usual moral equivalence between the democratic state of Israel — which withdrew from Gaza in 2005 hoping for peace — and the Hamas terrorists who then came to power in Gaza, devoted in practice to terrorizing Israel and dedicated in their charter to obliterating Israel entirely.
You can find a good rundown on the overall report from Anne Bayefsky writing for Fox News, and no doubt there will be more coverage when this report is formally presented next Monday for what the UN Human Rights Council is pleased to describe as “debate.” But let’s focus here on how this report deals with the Hamas tactic of using human shields.
So pervasive is this horrifying practice that even the UN’s investigators cannot quite manage to ignore it. So they make do, instead, with embarking on a series of bizarre locutions that effectively excuse it.
Step One, in paragraph 63 (page 16) of the main report, is to suggest uncertainty that any such thing might have happened (boldface mine):
Palestinian armed groups allegedly often operated from densely populated neighborhoods, including by firing rockets, mortars and other weapons from built-up areas. In addition, they were alleged to have frequently placed command control centers and firing positions in residential buildings and to have stockpiled weapons and located tunnel entrances in prima facie civilian buildings.
“Allegedly”? “Alleged”? The report goes on in this vein, beset by existential doubts.
Step Two, in paragraph 64, is to excuse this use of human shields just in case it really did happen:
The commission recognizes that the obligation to avoid locating military objectives within densely populated areas is not absolute. The small size of Gaza and its population density make it difficult for armed groups to comply with this requirement.
Beyond the technical point that even in densely populated Gaza there are open areas, this UN locution reduces the use of human shields to an accident of bad urban planning — as if the solution were to provide Hamas with more acceptable locations from which to launch its attacks.
The real problem is that instead of providing civilized government in Gaza, Hamas and its brethren “armed groups” devote themselves to firing rockets and mortars and digging attack tunnels into Israel. Those were the prolific bombardments and threats that triggered the 2014 conflict. And when Israel finally acted in its own defense, the horrifying use by Hamas of human shields provided the expected grist for propaganda aimed at damaging Israel, including this report.
But the UN investigators are not done with this topic.
Step Three: just in case the “alleged” use of human shields was not entirely a function of inconvenient geography, they slather on the kind of bureaucratic language that would have captivated George Orwell (boldface mine):
While the commission was unable to verify independently the specific incidents alleged by Israel, the frequency of Palestinian armed groups carrying out military operations in the immediate vicinity of civilian objects and specially protected objects suggests that such conduct could have been avoided on a number of occasions. In those instances, Palestinian armed groups may not have complied to the maximum extent feasible with their obligations.
The problem was not that Hamas and its fellow terrorists used “objects” as protection, but that these terrorists used other human beings as shields. And the grave abuse here was not that that Hamas “could have” avoided such conduct, but that it didn’t.
Step Four: the UN investigators conclude (paragraph 65, page 17) that however questionable “the case-by-case legality of the actions of Palestinian armed groups,” that “does not modify Israel’s own obligations to abide by international law.”
How is Israel supposed to defend itself from very real terrorist bombardments by “Palestinian armed groups” whose members may have allegedly, reportedly, perhaps not entirely complied to the maximum extent feasible with their obligations to avoid using other human beings as shields? The UN investigators do not explain.
This report serves brilliantly as a guide for terrorists who might on future occasions wish to make use of human shields. The lesson: as long as they are attacking Israel, the UN can be relied upon to give them a pass.