Dion Nissenbaum, Jerusalem bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers
speaks to Lia Tarachansky about the accusation that Israel committed war
crimes in its recent attack on Gaza. He says, “I’m not sure what impact this
UN report is going to have.” He continues to explain, “I think the only thing
that the Israeli government will look at is reports from Israeli soldiers.
Israel has always been skeptical of the United Nations, the international
press, and they are certainly skeptical of what comes out of the
JOURNALIST, TRNN (VOICEOVER): As Gaza lies in ruins, attempting to rebuild after the recent Israeli attack, the world refuses to change the channel on this offensive. The United Nations held a hearing regarding its investigation into whether Israel committed war crimes in its attack. Several human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, investigated the allegations, as well as the possibility that Hamas conducted similar crimes as well. The Guardian has produced a series of investigative pieces into the accusation against the Israeli Defense Forces. The IDF refused to provide an interview responding to the allegations, but issued several statements denying international law was violated, and reasserted that the rules of engagement were followed. The Guardian produced three video reports. The first investigated the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields.
GUARDIAN REPORTER (TEXT ON SCREEN): Did they kill fighters in this operation?
PALESTINIAN CIVILIAN (TEXT ON SCREEN): No. They murdered three generations.
PALESTINIAN CIVILIAN (TEXT ON SCREEN) (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): They started taking us from house to house using us as human shields.
GUARDIAN REPORTER: Bound and in only their underwear, the boys were sent into each house to check they were safe for the soldiers to enter.
PALESTINIAN CIVILIAN (TEXT ON SCREEN) (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): They took us with them because they were scared of getting shot at by the resistance. So if they were shot at the bullets would hit us and not them.
PALESTINIAN CIVILIAN (TEXT ON SCREEN) (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): They took us into this house. We were blind-folded and our hands were cuffed behind our backs. They kept us inside the house for about 15 minutes. Then they took us outside and lined us up against the wall and started shooting around.
JOURNALIST, TRNN (VOICEOVER): The second looked into the targeting of civilians by unmanned aerial vehicles.
GUARDIAN REPORTER: Amnesty International uncovered 48 deaths by armed drones during the course of a wider investigation, but they believe there were many more. Each one of these deaths, including the families of Mariam and Munir, was videoed by the drone that killed them. Every mission is recorded and archived. If Israel wants to refute these allegations of war crimes, it has the evidence to do so.
JOURNALIST, TRNN (VOICEOVER): And the third investigated the targeting of medical workers.
GUARDIAN REPORTER: International law states that medical workers and ambulance drivers tending to the wounded must not be targeted under any circumstances. To do so is a war crime. In the 23-day attack on Gaza, the Israeli army is accused of ignoring that basic law of war, killing 16 medical workers and wounding a further 22. They also bombed 15 of Gaza’s 27 hospitals. The Israeli military had been given all the coordinates of these hospitals and clinics by the UN, yet somehow they managed to hit 59 medical facilities. Did one of the world’s most sophisticated armies get it wrong 59 times? Or did they not care who they hit in their search for Palestinian rocket launchers and fighters?
JOURNALIST, TRNN (VOICEOVER): To the last accusation, the IDF stated that medical workers operating within targeted zones take the risk of coming under fire upon themselves. The Real News spoke to Dion Nissenbaum, Jerusalem bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers, about these charges.
DION NISSENBAUM, JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS: These kind of stories are things that I reported and other journalists reported on right after the offensive ended and we were able to get into Gaza. So there’s sort of, I would say, a stream of new reports coming out. Israeli soldiers are coming out more and more and saying that the rules of engagement in Gaza were so lax that basically they were told to go into neighborhoods and shoot anything that moved. There have been documentaries on Israeli television showing Israeli officers basically communicating those orders and saying if there are going to be any questions about deaths in there, let it be about the Palestinian deaths, not the deaths of Israeli soldiers. Human Rights Watch is releasing a report today talking about Israel’s use of white phosphorous shells, which they say were used illegallyï¿½potentially war crimes.
JOURNALIST, TRNN (VOICEOVER): The allegation of Israel using white phosphorous for smokescreens to disguise the movement of its infantry has also been confirmed by Human Rights Watch.
FRED ABRAHAMS, SENIOR RESEARCHER, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: We saw it hit a school. It hit a hospital. It hit the United Nations, the UNRA headquarters in downtown Gaza City. We found it on the roofs of civilian homes, in courtyards, in residential streets.
JOURNALIST, TRNN (VOICEOVER): The IDF responded, saying:
IDF SPOKESPERSON: The Israel Defense Forces do not use any weapons against civilians. The munitions in question are used as a smokescreen on the battlefield, as is used by Western countries.
NISSENBAUM: The big question for the Israeli military, I think, is: were the incidents that happened in Gaza aberrations? In any war there are certainly mistakes. There are certainly people that go beyond the orders. And the question is going to be: were the incidents that we have written about and seen, were these rogue soldiers? Or was this a policy? If that were to be proven, there would be a shake-up of the Israeli military. You know, there might be new ethical guidelines that would be established. If the Israeli military concludes that these were rogue soldiers, they would most likely be punished and disciplined. And the Israeli military would say, as they’re saying now, is that “This doesn’t represent our code, and these people,” you know, “don’t represent what happened, and they’ve been disciplined because they didn’t follow the orders.” I’m not sure what impact this UN report is going to have. I think it’s part of a larger picture. Now, whether Israel is going to take these seriously, I think that the only thing that the Israeli government will look at are reports from Israeli soldiers. Israel has always been skeptical of the United Nations. Israel is always skeptical of the international press. They’re certainly skeptical of what comes out from Palestinians, especially in Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas. So the only thing I think that the Israeli military is going to take seriously is the testimony of soldiers. We are expecting to hear from more soldiers. I understand that various Israeli human rights groups have testimony from 10, 20 soldiers already about what happened there that have not come out. And so I think in the coming weeks and months we’ll see more what they say and we’ll see exactly how the Israeli government responds.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.