23 March, 2019

Human Shields – complex realities of the modern battlefield

On the 20th of March, I had the pleasure to host in the European Parliament a conference entitled “Human Shields – complex realities of the modern battlefield.”

The meeting was co-hosted by my colleague Andi Cristea from (S&D) and organized by the Europe Israel Public Affairs in partnership with MyTruth.

Below is my intervention at this event.

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The “Human Shields” report, which generated the discussion we are having today, is an extremely valuable document. Many should carefully read it, no matter if they are EU decision makers, media representatives, or they are just interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 

It certainly opens the debate on a challenging and difficult topic!

 

We can actually look at today’s debate as a fact-finding mission in an area that witnessed more armed conflicts than most of the world. This is because we have a rare opportunity, to freely address questions to some of those that have personal experience in conflicts from places like Gaza, West Bank or the Golan Heights.

 

The “Human Shields” report is not the first one of its kind. I remember another valuable document, the 2015 High Level Military Group Assessment on the 2014 Gaza Conflict[1]. It was followed by several other reports, examining various operations, exploring comparative national approaches in a variety of modern conflict scenarios that Western nations have fought in recently.

 

One thing, which we can understand going through the “Human Shields” report, is that the issues in discussion do not relate just to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They are common to many of the conflict areas, where UN peacekeeping missions are present or NATO forces are involved in support missions. We are talking about Western Sahara, Sudan, Libya, Mali, Iraq or Afghanistan. In all these places, there are active terrorist groups with a complete disregard for the Law of Armed Conflict and no respect for human lives.

 

Romanian, Italian, French or Belgian soldiers, serving their countries, encounter similar situations with those described by the Israeli Defence Forces. This makes today’s topic to be important both for the EU and the Member States.

 

Here, in the European Parliament, but also in the Commission and in the Council, we take decisions that ultimately affect the citizens of the European Union. However, being a global power, our decisions also affect other people, all over the world. Sometimes, we vote based on very strong convictions, but without having a complete and correct understanding of the facts.

 

Discussing here today, we have the opportunity of a dialogue, so our decisions could come out more deliberated and better informed.

 

Thinking about past decisions, I remember the 2018 European Parliament Resolution about the Situation in Gaza Strip[2].

 

I know that, at that time, the Parliament had a very correct stand, calling for the remains of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul to be returned to their families. Almost one year passed since then and almost five years since their disappearance and the situation is unchanged.

 

We also acknowledged and condemned “the persistent tactic of Hamas of using civilians for the purpose of shielding terrorist activities”.

 

I also know that what Hamas and Hezbollah are doing, is clearly hybrid warfare with asymmetric tactics. Here I will quote, not the “Human Shields” report, but the one belonging to our military, that I’ve mentioned earlier:

 

Hamas’s strategic concept is the active encouragement of harm to its own civilians.

Hamas understands clearly that it benefits from harm to its own civilians not only in seeking to galvanise Palestinians for its war on Israel, but rather by pursuing an asymmetric strategy aimed at the court of international public opinion, where Hamas’s tactic of drawing Israel into fighting in civilian urban areas with the resultant casualties and television pictures is a targeted attempt to erode Israel’s legitimacy at the cost of Gaza’s civilian population.

This hybrid strategy is a targeted and alarmingly effective effort on the part of Hamas to exploit the protections of, and misguided notions in international forums about the Laws of Armed Conflicts”.

 

This situation, which exists for many years already, leads me to say that there is a connection between a growing anti-Semitic attitude within the EU and Hamas or Hezbollah hybrid tactics of warfare.

 

Terrorist organisations are successful in promoting their narrative at the highest levels of the EU decision! But also among the EU citizens.

 

Such a reality is extremely dangerous. History, especially the one of Europe, tells us that the anti-Semitism it always begins with the Jews, but it never ends with them.

 

In various places and at different moments in time, the well-being of the Jews was a sure indicator of the health of society as a whole:

“A country that turns against its Jews is preparing the path for greater hardships.”[3]

 

It is our duty, as decision-makers, to make sure that evil, out-lawed organisation can’t put a spell on us and our citizens, altering our perception about reality.

 

It is also our duty to learn from the experience of others. The IDF is, for sure, among the most experienced forces in dealing with modern, urban, asymmetric warfare. Learning from them, we can help our own citizens, especially those serving their countries.

 

I am glad we have the chance of this discussion today, in the European Parliament, and I hope that all those who got a copy of the “Human Shields” report will see its added value for all of us.

 

I want to thank My Truth for the effort in bringing to us this report and the support of Europe Israel Public Affairs in organising the debate.

[1] http://www.high-level-military-group.org/pdf/hlmg-assessment-2014-gaza-conflict.pdf

[2] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=TA&reference=P8-TA-2018-0176&language=EN&ring=P8-RC-2018-0191

[3] James Kirchick – “The End of Europe – Dictators, demagogues and new dark ages”