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The oddity of finding hope while investigating war crimes

+972 speaks with Mary McGowan Davis and Doudou Diène, authors of the UNHRC report on potential war crimes in Gaza. The pair discuss possible consequences of the report, and why their investigation gave them hope.

By Dahlia Scheindlin and Natasha Roth

Mary McGowan Davis at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, March 23, 2015. (UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré)

Mary McGowan Davis at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, March 23, 2015. (UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré)

The main reaction in Israel to the findings of the United Nation’s commission of inquiry into last summer’s Gaza war was rejection. That response tops a process so fraught with politics, that it seemed unlikely the commission would be able to say anything meaningful at all.

Israel views the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the body that commissioned the report, as hopelessly politicized. Indeed, the charge that it is “obsessed” with Israel carries some weight when considering that resolutions about Israel-Palestine  constitute almost half of the UNHRC’s country-specific resolutions.

The Human Rights Council does have other commissions of inquiry investigating North KoreaSyriaEritrea and Sri Lanka. But with countries such as Congo, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia sitting in judgment of Israel’s human rights record, it is plausible that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is sometimes exploited to distract from egregious violations elsewhere. The latest UNHRC-commissioned post-mortem only compounded Israel’s lingering rage against the eponymous Goldstone report, anger so forceful that even its author later expressed qualifications.

Notwithstanding Israel’s knee-jerk defensiveness against any criticism, the UNHRC has in fact lost legitimacy in the eyes of many of the states whose behavior it wishes to change. That raises questions about how functional such a body can really be. In the current case, the Council faced tangible constraints: The original head of the commission of inquiry into Operation Protective Edge, William Schabas, recused himself during the process after relentless Israeli pressure and accusations of bias. He left on the technicality that he had not disclosed a past consulting job with the PLO.

What could the remaining authors, the American judge Mary McGowan Davis and Doudou Diène of Senegal do when starting with such a zero-sum, short-fuse keg of dynamite?

The answer is, quite a lot. Speaking by phone to +972 Magazine from Geneva, the authors of the report admitted that they felt the boot of the political delegitimization of the HRC; Israel not only refused to participate in the inquiry process, it did not even permit the commission members to physically enter Israel or the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s decision was a matter of political principle for Israel, says Diène.

“One could feel that we are a pariah, and it doesn’t make the process any easier,” McGowan Davis recalled.

Doudou Diène at UNHRC in Geneva, June 22, 2015. (UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré)

Doudou Diène at UNHRC in Geneva, June 22, 2015. (UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré)

Whether or not in response to this background, the final result was a report that is much harder for Israel to dismiss, despite its ongoing attempts to do so.

The authors began by interpreting their overall mandate to be more inclusive than the HRC resolution that initiated the investigation. That text spoke only of examining possible human rights and war crimes violations in Palestinian areas. Both McGowan Davis and Diène explained that the commission took a conscious decision to interpret this as including potential violations originating from Palestinian areas – violations by Palestinian forces against Israeli civilians, in addition to the reverse.

The report provides such exhaustive treatment of both sides that the commission has been relentlessly accused of misusing symmetry, either for false equation of strength (as Palestinians claim), or false equation of legitimacy between a state and a terror organization (as Israel has repeatedly claimed). Pro-Israel critics charge that the commission failed to give the context of Israel’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza; others say the political reality is an asymmetrical conflict between a sovereign state with an army, and a weaker, stateless people occupied for decades.

McGowan Davis rejected the accusation, explaining that the commision’s legal mandate was solely to examine conduct during the war – or jus in bello – not the question of going to war itself, which is a different legal category: ad bellum.

“That’s why we treated all sides the same,” McGowan Davis expanded. “Everyone is bound by the same rules: proportionality, precautions, and distinguishing civilians from combatants.” In other words, Hamas and Israel were investigated as, quite simply, the two sides fighting in a conflict.

Perhaps unwittingly, the report draws on numerous sources often accused of anti-Israel bias, in counterintuitive ways. Amnesty International, which supporters of Israel view as hostile, is cited for documenting Hamas weaponry used against Israeli civilians. The authors use UN figures showing the numbers of rockets fired at Israeli civilians, which they point out are even higher than official Israeli sources. Documentation of Palestinian groups firing rockets from populated areas is drawn from the international media, which Israel has taken to humiliating.

The more balanced approach, observed even by much of the Israeli media, should open minds to the significant critical findings. Many of those findings challenge Israeli talking points about the war — “hasbara” – head on.

One such criticism that runs headlong into hasbara involves proportionality. Israel repeatedly claimed that its civilian to combatant casualty ratio is better than other conflicts.

Asked whether that is a reasonable yardstick, however, McGowan Davis simply said “No.” She went on to explain, “It’s not the overall ratio, but attack by attack – a house where a bomb is dropped and 20-odd people are killed and maybe there’s a militant of some sort, but when you weigh that against 21 innocent lives, women and children, is that proportionate?”

Relatives walk amidst the rubble of the home of Zaki Wahdan in the city of Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza City, November 10, 2014. Eight members of the Wahdan family, mostly women and children were killed. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Relatives walk amidst the rubble of the home of Zaki Wahdan in the city of Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza City, November 10, 2014. Eight members of the Wahdan family, mostly women and children were killed. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Yet she was quick to observe the complexity of assessing military targets, which makes it hard to judge proportionality. “That’s difficult. I’m not suggesting otherwise. But it’s not a matter of simply saying, we only killed 500 and someone else killed 5,000.”

Diène was unequivocal: “We concluded that the principle of proportionality was not respected.” He recalled writing to Israel asking for a justification of strikes on densely populated urban areas, in vain. “They did not respond. And as you know, our conclusion [about bombing densely-populated neighborhoods] is that it amounts to a war crime.”

Other tough findings for Israel include the determination that under international law Israel still “effectively controls” Gaza – something most Israelis fail to realize – or that the much-vaunted “warning system” to protect Palestinian civilians was insufficiently effective.

And still, they meticulously documented every possibility, even rumors, that there may have been a military target among civilian casualties. They examined claims of Hamas firing from civilian areas and infrastructure, and wrote of the execution of suspected collaborators. Those make it still harder to discredit the report.

Ignoring the report altogether may further damage Israel’s cause, Diène hinted. Both authors raised doubts that either side would genuinely investigate or change its own conduct in the future. They pointed to the International Criminal Court as a means to strengthen accountability. McGowan Davis hoped the U.S. would not hinder the ICC: “[In the U.S.] there is talk of punitive measures that might be taken towards the ICC, and that’s not what’s called supporting the process.”

A relative of a child killed earlier in a playground in al-Shati refugee camp mourns at a cemetery, Gaza City, July 28, 2014. Reports indicated that 10 people, mostly children, were killed and 40 injured during the attack which took place on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A relative of a child killed earlier in a playground in al-Shati refugee camp mourns at a cemetery, Gaza City, July 28, 2014. Reports indicated that 10 people, mostly children, were killed and 40 injured during the attack which took place on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

In the course of the ICC’s ongoing preliminary examination into the situation, this report will be first formal document it draws on, explains Diène. Israel’s official position will be glaringly absent.

Their doubts about local capacity for self investigation were compounded by the Israeli Military Advocate General’s decision, just days before the report’s publication, to close its investigation into four Gazan children killed on the beach in an air strike. Both authors were disappointed.

“It was an incredible decision,” Diène says. “It was an emblematic case in which I thought Israel would try to strengthen the credibility of its accountability mechanism. What happened? Where is the reasoning?”

But what truly distinguishes the Human Rights Council report is its unapologetic emotional and humanizing style.

Despite the Israeli government’s non-cooperation McGowan Davis and Diène told +972 Magazine that many private Israeli citizens reached out to tell their stories. The judge felt that these people still had faith in the UN as a forum for justice. Together with Palestinian testimonies, each seem to have experienced both sides of the war very personally. The report treats all suffering extremely seriously, despite the asymmetry of death, lifelong wounds and physical destruction.

Yet the writers were simultaneously struck by the hope for peace and empathy witnesses on both sides expressed. “We spoke to one [Palestinian] man who lost eight members of his family,” McGowan Davis recalled. “What do you say in these situations? … It was hard to experience and take it in.” But she continued, “In the end [the people we spoke to] want peace. They say, ‘I’m concerned about my neighbor on the other side.’ They want peace and they want their leaders to achieve it. It’s extraordinarily humbling as an outsider to come in and hear these things.”

Diène said: “We have heard testimonies from people who have lost relatives, yet have expressed a very deep feeling for the suffering of the other side.” He went on: “The father of Mohammed Abu Khdeir told me that many Israelis came to his house to express their solidarity [after the murder of his son]. …On the other side, the [Israeli] mother of a 4-year-old child that was killed [by a Palestinian rocket] expressed very emotionally her deep thoughts for mothers on the Palestinian side. There was a human side to this war that was not really perceived by the outside world.”

They purposely chose the emotional tone throughout the report, hoping to recall the humanity of each side and generate some hope. It’s not something anyone has come to expect from the international investigations of all-too-regular wars.

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    1. Ginger Eis

      “William Schabas,recused himself during the process after relentless Israeli pressure and accusations of bias. He left on the technicality that he had not disclosed a past consulting job with the PLO”.

      That’s a very, very poor attempt to whitewash a rotten corpse. William Schabas was on the pay-roll of the PLO. That’s conflict of interest – plain and simple, that further more raises serious questions of impropriety. How long and how much he was paid by the PLO are immaterial and wholly and utterly irrelevant. That is what disqualified him, not the little white lie told by Ms. Dahlia Scheindlin. In addition to that, prior comments and conduct of Mr. William Schabas against the Israeli political echelon and top IDF-brass disqualified him. Any Court in the United States, Germany, The Netherlands, the UK, Israel, etc. that was presented with a Motion to disqualify Mr. William Schabas predicated on the fact that he was on the pay-roll of the PLO would definitely have granted the Motion! But in the jungle of International “law”, everything goes – as long as your name is Israel! As someone who claims to be a jurist, Mr. Schabas should have known that he was unqualified and, as such, not allowed himself to be appointed in the first place, and after he was appointed recused himself sua ponte (!) instead of putting himself in a position where he was forced to take a hike and exposed as someone who is dishonest and lacked the professional integrity to follow very simple, well established legal principles that form important part of the General Principles Of Law of Civilized Peoples.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ginger Eis

      Proportionality

      “The more balanced approach, observed even by much of the Israeli media, should open minds to the significant critical findings. Many of those findings challenge Israeli talking points about the war — “hasbara” – head on. One such criticism that runs headlong into hasbara involves proportionality. Israel repeatedly claimed that its civilian to combatant casualty ratio is better than other conflicts. Asked whether that is a reasonable yardstick, however, McGowan Davis simply said “No.” She went on to explain, “It’s not the overall ratio, but attack by attack – a house where a bomb is dropped and 20-odd people are killed and maybe there’s a militant of some sort, but when you weigh that against 21 innocent lives, women and children, is that proportionate?” Yet she was quick to observe the complexity of assessing military targets, which makes it hard to judge proportionality. “That’s difficult. I’m not suggesting otherwise. But it’s not a matter of simply saying, we only killed 500 and someone else killed 5,000.”

      Folks, the above is another poor attempt by Comrade Scheindlin to mischaracterize Israel’s position and smear the Jewish State.

      What is Israel’s position?

      Israel’s position is- and has always been that all her attacks in defense of her civilian populations against barbaric and murderous Terrorist Organizations in Gaza that caused incidental loss of Palestinian-Arab lives or injury to said Arabs or damage to their civilian objects were NOT excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage she anticipated from the attack.

      That position in- and of itself is completely in line with the requirements of International law. Mary McGowan Davis and Diene Doudou did not present any conclusive evidence that showed that Israel violated the proportionality principle. In fact, they lacked that evidence and could not make determination either way on the issue of proportionality, and they knew it. All we have of them are emotional and sentimental pontifications that are of no evidentiary value.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Please read the 183-page HRC Report. This attack on Dahlia Scheindlin and on her account of the Report bears no relationship to the facts. That being the case, it is churlish to accuse Ms. Scheindlin outright of lying or harboring intent to smear. Similarly, to simply state that the facts of Mr. William Schabas’s recusal are “immaterial and wholly and utterly irrelevant”–does this not ride roughshod over all sorts of distinctions that matter? I was under the impression that you were rather a stickler for the facts, Ms. Eis, so why this sudden lapse in keenness? Regarding proportionality, I am afraid that the Report’s detailing of and reasoning about just two events among others–the 1 August 2014 ‘Hannibal Directive’ bombing of the closed off areas of Rafah and the 30 July 2014 shelling of the Shuja’iyeh Market neighbourhood–decisively show, and with regard to relevant legal standards, that neither the HRC version nor your claimed version of proportionality was met. Readers will find, however, that Ms. Scheindlin is not lying: the HRC Report has integrity. It is fair-minded and balanced and judicious about the evidence available to and the evidence withheld from the HRC by the two sides, and it draws careful distinctions.

        Reply to Comment
        • Zeus

          Ben, I suggest you first read the post you are replying to. Then ask yourself if you actually understand what is being said. After that you pinpoint exactly what it is that you disagree with and why. Then you respond. I am certain you don’t understand the purely legal arguments made by Ginger which explains why your response is completely unresponsive to Ginger’s post. If you don’t understand her arguments, it is probably better not to respond. But it seems you feel a strong need to respond to everything she say on every thread even when you don’t understand what she is saying – which has led others to opine that you are compulsively obsessive re Ginger. Maybe you need to take that allegation a little serious.

          Reply to Comment
      • “Comrade Scheindlin”? Is this in praise or derision?

        Reply to Comment
    3. Marnie

      “Yet the writers were simultaneously struck by the hope for peace and empathy witnesses on both sides expressed. “We spoke to one [Palestinian] man who lost eight members of his family,” McGowan Davis recalled. “What do you say in these situations? … It was hard to experience and take it in.” But she continued, “In the end [the people we spoke to] want peace. They say, ‘I’m concerned about my neighbor on the other side.’ They want peace and they want their leaders to achieve it. It’s extraordinarily humbling as an outsider to come in and hear these things.”

      It’s amazing how well the Israeli propaganda maching has worked as to surprise outsiders at the ordinary hope, humanity and love Palestinians have for each other and humanity. Maybe I’m being harsh here, the writer said it was “extraordinarily humbling”. I agree. If the Israelis only loved each other as much as they love material things, always having all the marbles, never sharing, never seeing the humanity in themselves let alone anyone else. The mentality for many is to project onto others the very sins they themselves are guilty of. The Palestinian people live and will continue to live, no matter how many times the IDF (an amoral army like so many) unleashes hell upon them. They aren’t going anywhere. The world is mostly indifferent to their suffering because they don’t have the wealth to buy newspapers and politicians. This will continue, of course, but it cannot, for everyone’s sake.

      Reply to Comment
      • Pedro X

        “In the end [the people we spoke to] want peace.”

        Maybe she spoke to the wrong Palestinians.

        Palestinians talking to Palestinian Pollster PSR told them that 80% of Palestinians approved of Hamas’ tactics and war. A majority of Palestinians said that they wanted Hamas’ tactics and weapons transferred to the West Bank.

        PSR Poll 54, December 3-6, 2014:

        “a majority of 79% favors Hamas way of resisting occupation; this percentage stood at 81% three months ago. Support in the West Bank for Hamas’ way stands at 80% and in the Gaza Strip at 78%. Support for Hamas’ way rises to 98% among Hamas supporters compared to 62% among Fatah’s.”

        “Furthermore, 62% favor the transfer of Hamas’ armed approach to the West Bank and 36% oppose that.”

        “The largest percentage (42%) believes that armed action is the most effective means for establishing Palestinian state while 26% believe in negotiations”

        “Majority continues to support launching rockets from Gaza if the siege and blockade are not lifted.”

        “80% support attempts by individuals to stab or run over Israelis.”

        “48% support and 51% oppose the two-state solution.”

        “Findings show that 38% support and 60% oppose a package of a permanent status agreement based on the Clinton Parameters and the Geneva Initiative.”

        Since the end of the war Hamas has been rearming and is conducting major military exercises near the border with Israel. It has been firing missiles into the sea in tests to improve the killing capacity of its missiles. Hamas claims it has built new tunnels including under Israel’s borders. Meanwhile Hamas continues to try to build up its terror infrastructure in the West Bank. Israel announced it had arrested 40 members of a terrorist cell in the midst of procuring materials for terror attacks. In the raid Israel seized over 1 million dollars in cash and gold.

        11 terror attacks have been carried out in the last week alone.

        Meanwhile in the Sinai, rebels supplied with Hamas weapons carried out a major attack on Egyptian soil.

        Yet some say the Palestinians want peace.

        Reply to Comment
        • Marnie

          It’s incredible how you worry about a people who have at their fingertips one of the most heavily financed armies in the world, and haven’t a drop of compassion for the Palestinians being used by this army so said army can go to weapons shows and say their advanced weaponry is “battle tested”. It really pisses you off that all Palestinians don’t just line up against the “separation fence” to be shot, doesn’t it? They’re fighting for their lives. Get used to it.

          Reply to Comment
          • Pedro X

            No one wants to line up Palestinians and kill them. Additionally, no one in Israel wants to be injured or killed by Palestinians and will prevent Palestinians from killing or injuring Israeli civilians by exercising Israel’s right of self defence.

            Israel left Gaza completely and Gazans turned the Gaza Strip into a firing range for missiles to be shot at Israeli civilians. Shooting missiles at Israeli civilians had nothing to do with Gazams fighting for their lives. Prior to the disengagement, Israel offered Gaza a link to the West Bank. The Palestinians responded with suicide attacks including one in Netanya. Israel still vacated the Gaza strip and the suicide attacks continued in the fall of that year including another suicide attack against Netanya. Israel left computerized greenhouses in Gaza which generated 100 million dollars of produce a year. Gazans tore down the greenhouses. Following Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, thousands of missiles rained down on Israel.

            Gaza lost its airport and the building of a port due to the terror attacks of the second intifada. Gazans had an opportunity to build a Singapore of the Middle East following Israel’s withdrawal, but chose to build an armed terrorist base for the purpose of attacking Israel and killing Jews in accordance with Hamas’ Charter. This had to do with Gazans having elected an extremist, fundamentalist terrorist group to carry on attacks against Israel and its Jewish population. This had nothing to do with fighting for their lives.

            Palestinians could have chosen to disarm Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the other terrorist elements in Gaza, and elect leaders who will make peace. However, this is unlikely since there is no peace movement of any size in Palestinian society. There are no peace marches, only rallies supporting Hamas, the resistance and terror.

            Reply to Comment
    4. bar

      It was unethical to launch this investigation considering the historic bias of the UNHRC against Israel.

      It was unethical to launch this investigation with a chair who publicly supported putting Netanyahu is The Hague.

      It was unethical to accept a mandate for this investigation that specifically demanded investigation of Israeli crimes.

      It was unethical to accept a mandate for this investigation dated one day AFTER the murder of the three Israeli teens who were kidnapped and killed in cold blood by Hamas-affiliated terrorists.

      It was unethical to conduct an investigation by using openly anti-Israel and Israel-critical NGOs who provided unsubstantiated and anonymous reports and who were proven wrong in the last Gaza operation.

      It was unethical to use the death counts provided by Hamas to the UN (under the guise of the “Health Ministry”) as legitimate and accurate – especially because non-Israel-gov’t bodies have amassed readily available information proving Hamas lied and these numbers are false.

      It was unethical and irresponsible to make any claim about even a single incident in this war without access to IDF information. This applies to single attacks as well as to the proportionality claims.

      This investigation and the report are simply unethical. Shame on the authors.

      Here’s David Horovitz putting it better than I could: http://www.timesofisrael.com/shame-on-you-mary-mcgowan-davis/

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        The Report, as Scheindlin and Roth explain, as per its mandate rightly confines itself to jus in bello issues and purposefully does not address jus ad bellum issues. And McGowan Davis and Diène in fact interpreted that mandate to include violations by both sides, looking at violations both in and originating from Palestinian areas. One cannot convincingly cry that it is “unethical and irresponsible” to make any claim about any incident without access to IDF information when that same IDF refused to provide that information. The logical consequence of that cry is to hand the IDF total impunity. Please reread the +972 article above. All of these points are covered. The Report is not “simply” anything. It is a good faith, complex effort to address a complex situation. The authors of the Report have nothing to be “ashamed” of, quite the contrary.

        In regards to Horovitz’s general complaint that the HRC Report fails to “distinguish between aggressor and defender,” well, as posted by Bruce Gould elsewhere today, “Israel’s assault on Gaza, as pointed out by analyst Nathan Thrall in the New York Times, was not triggered by Hamas’ rockets directed at Israel but by Israel’s determination to bring down the Palestinian unity government that was formed in early June, even though that government was committed to honoring all of the conditions imposed by the international community for recognition of its legitimacy.” (See the article by Natasha Roth today.) And we could go further back to 2006, to the US-backed and engineered, Fatah-led coup attempt against another democratically elected Palestinian government that contained 74 Hamas and 45 Fatah MPs in a 132-seat Parliament. Israel and its “no daylight” partner the U.S. have never let the Palestinians unify all the while saying in effect, “sadly, we have no ‘unified partner’ with whom to negotiate, so unfortunately we have to continue the occupation which of course we’d love to end if only we could.” And furthermore, as Amira Hass I think put it recently, one makes peace with enemies, not “partners.”

        Reply to Comment
        • Bar

          I know you desperately want me to be wrong, but nothing you wrote counters the facts I stated. For example, if the IDF didn’t grant a biased committee from a biased UN body access to relevant information, the committee cannot then claim to know what took place. They simply don’t. The right action would have been to either fold the committee or to explain that they don’t know what happened in any of the attacks. Instead, they came to conclusions and often on the basis of groups hostile to Israel.

          For heaven’s sake, they don’t even have the casualty numbers right.

          Reply to Comment
          • Zeus

            Engaging Ben in discussions is mostly a complete waste of time. He rants and rambles and seems not to have any idea of what the post he is responding to is actually saying. In this particular instance he employs the terms ‘jus in bello” and “jus ad bellum” without understanding what those concepts actually mean. You are arguing the ethics and morality of the investigation and the underlying mandate, but he confuses that with “jus in belllo” and “jus ad bellum” both of which have nothing to do with your arguments! That guy appears to be a complete talkative fool.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Did you actually read the HRC Report? It doesn’t look like it. It won’t suffice to call your several contentions “facts.” The committee does not claim anywhere to have perfect or exhaustive knowledge of what took place. It is quite clear about what it knows and does not know. The committee does argue on the basis of evidence gathered that some things, whatever else may also be true, did happen. And one of those things was military responses that lacked proportionality. To claim the HRC had no right to investigate potential war crimes because neither side would cooperate is absurd. No sensible investigation proceeds that way. And as noted by Dahlia Scheindlin:

            “the report draws on numerous sources often accused of anti-Israel bias, in counterintuitive ways. Amnesty International, which supporters of Israel view as hostile, is cited for documenting Hamas weaponry used against Israeli civilians. The authors use UN figures showing the numbers of rockets fired at Israeli civilians, which they point out are even higher than official Israeli sources. Documentation of Palestinian groups firing rockets from populated areas is drawn from the international media, which Israel has taken to humiliating.”

            But you could always get your name changing bullyboy here to stalk me for a few more posts. That’ll show ’em. LoL.

            Reply to Comment
          • Zeus

            1. Again, Ben, you demonstrate that you have no idea of what the post from Bar which you are responding to is talking about. Bar did not say that the “HRC has no right to investigate war crimes”. She said that the investigation and the underlying mandate in this particular case are unethical and immoral. She gave SEVEN clear arguments to support her claim. You have neither disputed nor debunked any of that.

            2. Bar also essentially tells you that ‘proportionality’ has specific, FIXED components that cannot be altered, or substituted with something else. If you don’t have all the components, you cannot make any determination on ‘proportionality’. McGowan and Doudou are dependent on Israel for the components necessary to make determinations on proportionality. They did not have those components and could not make any valid determinations on proportionality. Do you understand that, Ben? It ain’t rocket science.

            3 “The committee does not claim anywhere to have perfect or exhaustive knowledge of what took place. (…). The committee does argue on the basis of evidence gathered that some things, whatever else may also be true, did happen.“

            Exactly Bar’s point! “The committee” does not have all the information necessary to make any determination on proportionality. Additionally, the “whatever else may also be true” may contradict the conclusions of “the committee”! You are not very clever, Ben, are you?

            4. “Did you actually read the HRC Report? It doesn’t look like it.”

            Actually, the report is 184 pages, Ben, not 183 as you have claimed several times now.

            Maybe you should start citing the page number of the report you claim to have read so that we can discuss the evidence on which the report is based.

            Reply to Comment
    5. Ginger Eis

      What was cause the cause (high) civilian casualties in Gaza?

      Here is the undisputable EVIDENCE of Hamas using Palestinians civilians as Human Shields and causing their deaths!

      Watch. And weep!

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXZEzbT0H1s

      This evidence bears witness to you about the real cause of (high) civilian casualties in Gaza. Did Mary McGowan Davis and Doudou Diène consider that extremely important evidence that was and is in plain view? Of what value then is their “investigative report”?

      Anyone who claims to be involved in this conflict, because of “human rights” or merely concerned about innocent Palestinians, but chooses to be blind to- and is unwilling to openly, publicly and very forcefully both in speech and in writing condemn the barbarous acts of Hamas et al. as seen in the video clip above is a complete hypocrite and a liar! And I am not calling anyone a liar/hypocrite. Not at all.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Cowboy

      Really? I consider myself a thoughtful Jew also, sensitive to Palestinian Human Rights. I’ve also engaged with the BDS movement and have found a high proportion of the folks there are nothing more than the bearers of anti-semitism through a new mechanism. Or Jews worried that the imperfections of Israel, a foreign state, might somehow reflect on them. The BDS movement is famous, at its core, for failing to state its core aim – because that aim is the delegitimisation and annihalation of Israel. And when it comes to aiding the Palesitinians, it had nothing, and I mean nothing to say when the inhabitants of Yamouk in Syria 200,000 Palestinians, were literally starved over two years by ISIS and others. Only at the end did the beheadings and deaths from thirst did BDS stir. A bit. So where is BDS going? At this point in history, to be demonising a genuinely democratic state where a gay Arab woman can walk proud down the street, get an education, sleep with who the hell she likes and give up her religion – to demonise that while Islamism reduces Gays, Women, Muslim Apostates to those worthy of death – to focus your energy on Israel as the ‘problem’ is, frankly, insane. Unless you’re an antisemite. Israel is a country under existential threat, it is imperfect, it has proportional representation that gives extremists a say in government, but it is no worse than the US or the UK when it comes to its failures. Thanks to ISIS, we now understand what Hamas and Hezbollah really signify. And so if you think BDS is on the cusp of turning, yeah, right. But not the way you think. Wrong side of history. And: WRONG

      Reply to Comment
    7. Hercules

      Well written and balanced article. My only remark is that is that Human Rights Council, as the article correctly pointed out, is obsessed with Israel and unjustly singles Israel out. But the article failed to discuss the implications of that for the mandate of Mc Gowan Davis and D. Doudou. One conclusion must then be that Human Rights Council abuses its authority by applying it discriminatorily. That makes the exercise of that authority and mandate of Gowan Davis and D. Doudou illegitimate. Also, at least from some of the comments above, its seems to me that, besides the fact that the report contains factual errors, Mc Gowan Davis and D. Doudou did not have all the information that is necessary for them to reach conclusion on proportionality, something that Gowan Davis and D. Doudou themselves explicitly said in their report. I am therefore surprised that Doudou claim in an interview with your magazine that they concluded that proportionality was allegedly violated.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Cowboy

      The McGowan Davis report attempts to differentiate between Hamas and what it calls “Palestinian armed groups,” This is all we need to know that the report is political in nature and in reality, is a pile of shit. Nothing that is written in the report should be taken as the truth. It’s a shame.

      Reply to Comment