Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"Human rights abuses" in war

Predictably the UNHRC is reporting a few incidents of Israeli human rights abuses during its military action in Gaza.

My guess is that even if they aren't true, others probably are. I base this on reading Max Hastings accounts of the end of the second world war with Germany and Japan, which especially focus on individual experiences. Nothing that happened in Gaza comes close to the terror and whole scale murder that occurred in both those conflicts. And Max Hastings is careful to point out that the excesses were not just on the Axis side, though the stories of the Battle for Manila or the starvation of the Netherlands and of course the Holocaust make it clear where the bulk of the vast blame lied.

The truth appears to be that under the stresses of battle people do unexpected things and their primal nature come to the fore. In an event when you expected survival can be measured in minutes or seconds, the pressures of civilisation can fall away or prove stubbornly hard to move. ( On the western front many allied soldiers never aimed their weapons as they had an aversion to killing, leaving advances to be achieved by overwhelming artillery).

Reading these accounts also makes me realise that I can't know for sure how I would behave until confronted with the threat itself. The mass and systematic rapes of the Red Army look horrific, but then so where their conditions of service, life expectancy and the blood price the Russians paid to reach Berlin ( a price the armies of the democracies where clearly not willing or able to pay ). The behaviour of German, and especially SS units appears to have been just evil. But who can be so sure they would not have joined in if they had been born in Russia or in Germany in those days ?

I have also met Israelis and Palestinians. Some, many, are civilised and good people. But some have a visceral hatred of each other. Put those people in uniform, arm them, and put them in fear of their lives and very nasty things are going to happen. There are few armies in the world from the British, through to US via Canadian and French and even Dutch who can reflect with 100% satisfaction about the behaviour of all their soldiers over the last 60 years.

Little mention seems to appear in the media of the use of UN facilities by Hamas, its own use of human shields, its regular attempt to kill random civilians and its execution of Fatah supporters in hospitals as they lied in bed.

So I conclude that UNHRC is mostly engaged in ambulance chasing with a specific agenda to pursue.

War is ugly. High explosives do horrfic things to human bodies, and cornered frightened soldiers and militiamen cannot be relied upon to be always saints.

We all know this when we think about it. If UNHRC wasn't reporting human rights abuses, it would be a safe bet they took place, as they do in almost every conflict int he world. ( The Lady from SriLanka who headlines the report might like to return home to see how her own military is behaving with its own civilians. )

But what is really happening is that this is political theatre to attempt to weaken Israel.

If the world cared about those who live in Gaza it would send in military forces to police the area, save the people and guarantee peace. But that's not the real agenda of those who make so much fuss. They too are using the suffering of civilians to advance their own agenda - and is that not a war crime itself ?

PS It is of course right that crimes carried out in war are reported and if possible punished. My point is that we cannot act surprised that they happen given the nature of such conflicts, and we should question those who are so keen to allow the policy of using the people of Gaza as a mass human shield to advance their own agendas, which is surely also a war crime.

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