Critics of Israel seem to focus only on damaging media reports, while ignoring the wealth of credible evidence of the great lengths to which the Israeli army goes to minimize civilian casualties.
A recent statement by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, the Zionist Federation and the Chief Rabbi, supporting Israel's military operation in Gaza, provoked a protest letter signed by more than 300 South African Jews, dissociating themselves from the community statement and accusing Israel of disproportionate use of force and collective punishment prohibited under international law.
This was followed by a letter signed by Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson and several other well-known personalities, including
Supreme Court judges supporting the protest letter. The complete correspondence may be viewed at http://maurice-ostroff.tripod.com/id202.html.
The knee-jerk condemnation of Israel by some laypersons may perhaps be understood, even if not condoned, in the prevailing atmosphere of Israel-bashing that has become the norm in academia and on campuses. But to all who believe in the integrity of the justice systems in the Western world, the alacrity with which senior judges rush to declare Israel guilty of criminal behavior, without even the pretence of "a fair hearing" is extremely disturbing.
They seem to focus only on damaging reports about Israel, while ignoring the wealth of credible evidence of the great lengths to which the Israeli army goes to minimize civilian casualties and the impossible conditions under which the Israel army had to operate.
They ignore, for example, the expert oral evidence of senior advisor on army issues to the British government, Colonel Richard Kemp, who said during an interview on the BBC, "I would say that from my knowledge of the IDF and from the extent to which I have been following the current operation, I don't think there has ever been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people than the IDF is doing today in Gaza." The complete interview is available at http://maurice-ostroff.tripod.com/id199.html.
But, as media reports, pro- and anti-Israel, have been proven to be misleading on occasion, one must hope that none of the eminent jurists who signed the document would pronounce judgment on an accused person, or country, in absentia with only media reports as evidence.
Sadly, even highly respected members of the mainstream media have been proven to display blatant bias and even distortions as in the Al Dura affair. Even Reuters and AP have pleaded guilty to egregious lapses as described on my website at http://maurice-ostroff.tripod.com/id62.html and http://maurice-ostroff.tripod.com/id90.html.
As happened in Jenin, many accusations against Israel have proved to be groundless and similar occurrences are now coming to light in the case of the Gaza operation. A recent report in the Canadian Globe and Mail confirmed that earlier damming reports, accusing Israel of firing shells into an UNWRA school, have been proven to be false. Contrary to reports, no one in the school grounds was killed and UNRWA's John Ging has admitted that Israel didn't attack the school. The full report is available at http://maurice-ostroff.tripod.com/id201.html.
In view of the proven unreliability of the media, and in the absence of the results of an impartial investigation, it is evident that Israel has been denied a "fair hearing" in contravention of Article 10 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It is not that the eminent judges who condemn Israel are unconcerned about the right to a "fair hearing." In a paper entitled "What's happening to the right to a fair hearing" published in the Israel Law Review last year, Judge Chaskalson expressed his concern about terror suspects being denied "fair hearings" and he warned of the danger that "The exception becomes the rule; the temporary becomes permanent; and fairness and due process cease to have the meaning they once had."
The relevance of this warning should be evident to all who are prepared to view the Arab-Israel conflict objectively. It has become obvious that with the hasty examination of every Israeli action with a magnifying glass, eagerly seeking evidence of misconduct and the unseemly rush to judgment, Israel has become the exception.
While hastily organized mass demonstrations against Israel in world capitals have become routine and boycotts against Israel are called for in academia, there have been no similar mass protests against the very real horrors in Zimbabwe, Darfur, Rwanda or Chechnya. Skilful, well-funded propaganda has succeeded in influencing well-meaning persons world-wide to make an exception of Israel as the scapegoat. And as Judge Chaskalson has warned, in singling out Israel for harsh criticism, the exception has become the rule.
It is also very difficult to understand why the signatories, in their concern about justice in Gaza, did not include a word about the inhumane cold-blooded mental torture of the family of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, by Hamas, deliberately keeping them in the dark about Gilad's condition, and even his very existence.
As persons concerned about their fellow human beings, it would have been an act of human kindness were they to have appealed to Hamas to at least allow Shalit to send and receive letters and to be visited by the Red Cross as provided by the Geneva Conventions.