Richard Kemp
Richard KempPR photo

British Army Colonel (ret.) Richard Kemp, former Commander of the British Forces in Afghanistan, completely deconstructed and debunked the UN report which on Monday accused Israel of "war crimes" in its fight against Hamas terrorists in Gaza last summer.

Writing in an op-ed on Thursday in the New York Times, the colonel explained how the report, led by Judge Mary McGowan Davis of the infamous Goldstone Report which likewise charged "war crimes," constitutes a threat and "can only provoke further violence and loss of life."

"The report starts by attributing responsibility for the conflict to Israel’s 'protracted occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,' as well as the blockade of Gaza," wrote Kemp. "Israel withdrew from Gaza 10 years ago. In 2007 it imposed a selective blockade only in response to attacks by Hamas and the import of munitions and military matériel from Iran. The conflict last summer, which began with a dramatic escalation in rocket attacks targeting Israeli civilians, was a continuation of Hamas’s war of aggression."

The military expert noted that while the report accuses Israel of breaching international law, "no evidence is put forward to substantiate these accusations. It is as though the drafters of the report believe that any civilian death in war must be illegal."

He added that the report "is characterized by a lack of understanding of warfare. That is hardly surprising. Judge Davis admitted, when I testified before her in February, that the commission, though investigating a war, had no military expertise. Perhaps that is why no attempt has been made to judge Israeli military operations against the practices of other armies. Without such international benchmarks, the report’s findings are meaningless."

Kemp pointed out that the report claims the IDF's "use of air, tank and artillery fire in populated areas may constitute a war crime...yet these same systems were used extensively by American and British forces in similar circumstances in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are often vital in saving the lives of our own soldiers, and their curtailment would jeopardize military effectiveness while handing an advantage to our enemies."

Further, while the report condemns Israel for causing civilian casualties, it offers no suggestions as to what more Israel could have done to avoid such casualties faced with Hamas's tactics of embedding its terrorist infrastructure among civilian centers, he said.

The report "even criticizes Israel for using harmless explosive devices - the 'knock on the roof' - as a final warning to evacuate targeted buildings, suggesting that it created confusion. No other country uses roof­knocks, a munition developed by Israel as part of a series of I.D.F. warning procedures, including text messages, phone calls and leaflet drops, that are known to have saved many Palestinian lives."

In fact, international legal experts have slammed the IDF precisely for over-warning residents of Gaza and thereby harming the ability of Western democracies to fight terrorism, something Kemp has warned against as well.

Where does Hamas come in?

Kemp noted that "in an unusual concession, the report suggests that Hamas may have been guilty of war crimes, but it still legitimizes Hamas’s rocket and tunnel attacks and even sympathizes with the geographical challenges in launching rockets at Israeli civilians: 'Gaza’s small size and its population density make it particularly difficult for armed groups always to comply' with the requirement not to launch attacks from civilian areas."

He stated that the large number of Gaza residents who died last summer was not caused by Israeli policy but rather Hamas's strategy, given that the terrorist group deliberately placed its "fighters and munitions in civilian areas, knowing that Israel would have no choice but to attack them and that civilian casualties would result."

"Unable to inflict existential harm on Israel by military means, Hamas sought to cause large numbers of casualties among its own people in order to bring international condemnation and unbearable diplomatic pressure against Israel."

While the report acknowledges the IDF took steps to save lives, it "without foundation accuses 'decision makers at the highest levels of the government of Israel' of a policy of deliberately killing civilians," said Kemp. "Incredibly, she (Judge Davis) 'regrets' that her commission was unable to verify the use of civilian buildings by 'Palestinian armed groups,' yet elsewhere acknowledges Hamas’s widespread use of protected locations, including United Nations schools."

In conclusion, the colonel remarked on the potential security threats posed by the report and the actions it calls for, which could allow Hamas free reign in smuggling weapons into Gaza.

"Most worrying, Judge Davis claims to be 'fully aware of the need for Israel to address its security concerns' while demanding that it 'lift, immediately and unconditionally, the blockade on Gaza,'" he noted. "Along with the report’s endorsement of Hamas’s anti-­Israel narrative, this dangerous recommendation would undoubtedly lead to further bloodshed in both Israel and Gaza."