Hearing at the European Parliament Human Rights Committee with Stand with Us and Breaking the Silence
“The truth is rarely pure and never simple”, said Oscar Wilde.
At the European Parliament’s subcommittee on human Rights meeting today in Brussels, this adage was put to the test.
On the one side, was Breaking the Silence, presenting their testimonies gathered from 70 soldiers who served during Operation Protective Edge alleging that Israel acted illegally in that war, on the other Matan Katzman, a former soldier, trainee lawyer and Regional Executive of Stand With Us, and Ohad Zemet, from the office of the legal adviser at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem.
There is no doubt that last summer’s war was bloody, awful and should not be repeated.
But what became abundantly clear as the meeting progressed was the stark contrast between Hamas and the IDF when it came to respect for fundamental human rights. Whilst Hamas eagerly uses the Palestinian population as collateral damage in their PR war, Israel respects International Humanitarian Law and laws of armed conflicts, as repeatedly stated by high ranking generals and majors from the US and other countries who have observed and seek to emulate IDF best practice in cases of armed conflict.
In a moving and deeply personal testimony, Mr Katzman outlined a number of situations he found himself in during the army’s incursion into Gaza.
As far from the IDF blood lust as propagated by Hamas and some such as Breaking the Silence as it is possible to get, Mr Katzman outlined a restrained and moral approach by the IDF, guided by his training and the maxim “if in doubt, don’t shoot”.
Not only is this a moral imperative, but a legal one too. Mr Zemet outlined the strict guidelines in place that ensure Israel meets, and often exceeds international legal norms.
This approach entails extensive early warning systems, limitations on timings and locations of counter strikes. “Hamas is probably the only enemy in the world that receives advance warnings of places and timings of counter strikes” said Mr Zemet.
“Of course”, surmised Mr Katzman, “there are bad eggs in every batch, but Israeli society rejects them. They don’t represent the army as a whole and are judged, trialled and sentenced to the full extent of the law.”
Not something that can be said for Hamas terrorists who use human shields and whose actions are glorified and celebrated with impunity.
This is one truth that even the contrarian Mr Wilde couldn’t dispute