UN Report on Gaza: Improvement over Goldstone, but NGO Reliance Hurts Credibility
Commission’s lack of military expertise and limited fact-finding also evident
Jerusalem — The report of the Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza War is different both substantially and methodologically than its predecessors, including the 2009 Goldstone Report, according to NGO Monitor. However, it still quotes extensively from biased and unreliable political advocacy NGOs. By repeating the unverified and non-expert factual and legal allegations of groups such as Amnesty International, B’Tselem, Palestinian Center for Human Rights, and Al Mezan, the UN investigation is irrevocably tarnished.
“The UNHRC report would be entirely different without the baseless and unverifiable allegations of non-governmental organizations,” said Anne Herzberg, Legal Advisor at NGO Monitor. “Despite efforts to consult a wider array of sources, the report produced by McGowan Davis and her team lacks credibility as a result of NGO influence.”
NGO Monitor’s initial review of the Commission of Inquiry’s “detailed findings” shows that NGOs were referenced, cited, and quoted at a high volume: B’Tselem was the most referenced NGO with 69 citations, followed by Amnesty International (53), Palestinian Center for Human Rights (50), and Al Mezan (29). UNWRA and UN-OCHA were also featured throughout the report. As repeatedly demonstrated by NGO Monitor, these groups are not appropriate for professional fact-finding.
NGOs were also inexplicably sourced for factual claims beyond their capabilities. For example, the report repeats B’Tselem’s conclusions about whether individuals in Gaza “posed  danger to other persons”; Human Rights Watch, as opposed to a military expert, was quoted with regards to the “lethal radius for a 155mm high explosive projectile”; and Breaking the Silence was cited as the basis for the specious accusation that the IDF adopted “the vast scale of destruction…as a tactic of war.”
NGO Monitor also notes that the Commission acknowledged that it could not properly investigate a number of central dimensions of the conflict. For instance, the UNHRC claimed it “was unable to verify allegations made by Israel on the use of civilian buildings by Palestinian armed groups.” Yet, at the same time the Commission “gave particular weight to first-hand testimonies” even though “it was not possible to establish with certainty the factual circumstances of a given incident.” This inconsistency is a fundamental flaw.“The lack of military expertise in the commission and the UN staff clearly hampered the investigation and the resulting publication,” continued Herzberg. “In particular, the COI makes numerous assertions about feasible precautions, identification of military objectives, military necessity, and standards applied by reasonable commanders. In at least four independent studies by military experts, including Richard Kemp, the former head of British forces in Afghanistan, former senior US generals, and the former senior military officer for NATO, all concluded that not only did Israel exceed the requirements of international law in the Gaza Conflict but that its precautionary efforts to protect civilians were unprecedented in the history of warfare.”
NGO Monitor and UN Watch have prepared an independent, fully-sourced, systematic, and detailed book on issues related to the 2014 Israel-Hamas conflict, providing an alternative narrative to the report issued by the UNHRC. Contributors to the publication include Professor Gerald Steinberg, Anne Herzberg, Hillel Neuer, Jonathan Schanzer, Uzi Rubin, Richard Kemp CBE, and Trevor Norwitz. All experts in their fields, these authors are available for interviews about its contents or to comment on the UNHRC and the Commission of Inquiry headed by Judge Mary McGowan Davis.
See here for NGO Monitor’s report, “Par for the Course: EU-&NIF-Funded NGOs Central to UNHRC Lawfare Attack,” June 22, 2015