THE JERUSALEM POST Oct. 16, 2009
The former commander of British forces in Afghanistan said on Friday that
the IDF took more precautions during Operation Cast Lead than any military
in the history of warfare.
Col. Richard Kemp made the comment in an address to the president of the UN
Human Rights Council, Alex Van Meeuwen of Belgium, at its special session on
the Goldstone Report in Geneva. Kemp's address is printed below:
I am the former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan. I served
with NATO and the United Nations; commanded troops in Northern Ireland,
Bosnia and Macedonia; and participated in the Gulf War. I spent considerable
time in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, and worked on international terrorism
for the UK government's Joint Intelligence Committee.
Mr. President, based on my knowledge and experience, I can say this: During
Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defense Forces did more to safeguard the
rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of
Israel did so while facing an enemy that deliberately positioned its
military capability behind the human shield of the civilian population.
Hamas, like Hizbullah, are expert at driving the media agenda. Both will
always have people ready to give interviews condemning Israeli forces for
war crimes. They are adept at staging and distorting incidents.
The IDF faces a challenge that we British do not have to face to the same
extent. It is the automatic, Pavlovian presumption by many in the
international media, and international human rights groups, that the IDF are
in the wrong, that they are abusing human rights.
The truth is that the IDF took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians
notice of targeted areas, dropping over 2 million leaflets, and making over
100,000 phone calls. Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military
capability were aborted to prevent civilian casualties. During the conflict,
the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza. To deliver aid
virtually into your enemy's hands is, to the military tactician, normally
quite unthinkable. But the IDF took on those risks.
Despite all of this, of course innocent civilians were killed. War is chaos
and full of mistakes. There have been mistakes by the British, American and
other forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq, many of which can be put down to
human error. But mistakes are not war crimes.
More than anything, the civilian casualties were a consequence of Hamas's
way of fighting. Hamas deliberately tried to sacrifice their own civilians.
Mr. President, Israel had no choice apart from defending its people, to stop
Hamas from attacking them with rockets.
And I say this again: The IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians
in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.
Thank you, Mr. President.