Rules of War

26 Aug 2014

As ceasefire after ceasefire crumbled in Israel and Gaza, negotiations conducted by Egypt have been unfruitful and inconclusive.

Yet, the international community remains in a state of unrest, still consumed by the conflict.

Since its eruption in July, the latest bout of conflict has remained an unrivalled headliner in news updates across the world.

Articles featuring critique and analysis flooded the internet.

Pro-Palestine protesters forcefully took to the streets.

Also, many have sprung to Israel’s side, defending their right to protect its civilians whilst also pleading for a stop to Hamas terrorism.

The United Nations is a prominent stakeholder in the conflict and frequently contributes to the media bustle that covers the Middle East.

Since 2006, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have passed 45 resolutions condemning Israel – more than the rest of the world combined.

Navi Pillay, Spokeswoman for UNHRC, the UN’s peak human rights body recently criticised the Israeli Government’s ground offensive in Gaza:

“Israel has stated that it has alerted Gazans conducting strikes, including by using telephones, text messages and so-called warning ‘roof knocks,’ using relatively light munitions. Even if Israel has attempted to warn civilians to, for example, leave their homes or conducted an evacuation before an attack, this does not release Israel from its obligations under international humanitarian law. Any warning for civilians must meet with the requirements of international law, including that this warning be clear, credible and allows sufficient time for people to react to it.”

Professor James Allan, Professor of Law at The University of Queensland believes that Israel is held to a higher standard than other Western countries in wartime:

“Clearly Israel is being held to a higher standard than the whole of the Middle East. That might be fair enough. Israel is a democracy; there is no other democracy in the Middle East. Maybe Israel shouldn’t be held to the same standard of some turbid little dictatorship of theocracy.

“That might be why. Even then if you’re going to hold Israel to a higher democratic standard, you’re still holding it to a standard that you have to meet in wartime. If you look at the kind of standard the Americans, Brits, and Canadians practice in wartime, I think Israel is meeting it.”

Further, he believes that it is a waste of the UN’s resources to constantly monitor Israel’s actions.

“There are 192 countries on earth and you’re supposed to believe that in terms of treatment of women, treatment of minorities, native people, we’re supposed to believe that there are worse problems in Israel than the rest of the world combined together… it’s a joke!

“There are countries in the Middle East where women can’t drive, you can only build one sort of religious building. There are all sorts of problem places in the world.”

Navi Pillay also condemned Hamas, the militant party who rule the Gaza strip for firing over 3,000 rockets into Israel unprovoked.

“As we speak, the indiscriminate firing by Hamas and other armed groups of more than 2,900 rockets, as well as mortars, from Gaza continues to endanger the lives of civilians in Israel. I have repeatedly condemned such indiscriminate attacks in the past. I do so again today.”

Prof. Allan suspects that the UN won’t follow through with their war crime allegations, yet he states that the UN is a crucial entity.

“There are a lot of problems with the UN but it’s a body we need to have. It does a lot of work in terms of smoothing the oil for international relations… It’s really aimed at the lesser countries.”

Despite the lack of progress in resolving the Israel-Gaza conflict thus far, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may turn to the UN to instigate a new resolution to curb the conflict.