Robbie Sabel defends Israel’s conduct during ‘Cast Lead’

Posted: May 8, 2009 by Jonathan Boyko in Cast Lead, Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, United Nations

Dr Robbie Sabel MEET ROBBIE SABEL – a lecturer in international law at Hebrew University, located in Jerusalem. Sabel has more experience than lecturing – at one point, he was legal adviser for the MoFA (Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs), 1985 to 1993 and published several books.

In his recent column in The Guardian, Sabel attempts to defend conduct of the IDF during the ‘Cast Lead’ operation, which effectively lowered rocket fire at Israel’s south:

It is also absolutely right that the damage done to UN facilities should be fully investigated, along with all other serious accusations of misconduct in war.

But the report the UN has produced does little to bring understanding or justice to the conflict in Gaza. The UN secretary general appears to have realised this and has tried to distance himself from it.

The report‘s underlying premise is that UN property enjoys absolute immunity. Of course, that is right, but the report should surely have explored why a military force needed to take action against an enemy in a built-up area at all. The undisputed fact – that Hamas was deliberately operating from such areas to launch attacks on Israeli civilian targets – is simply ignored.

The Israeli army took unprecedented steps to avoid civilian casualties. The report grudgingly admits that, in one case, the Israeli air force dropped over 300,000 leaflets in one day, warning civilians of impeding attack. The report goes on at length about Israel’s use of smoke shells, hinting that there is something nefarious about their use. Yet it ignores the fact that every army in the world uses phosphorous smoke shells.

The ICRC has confirmed that there was no evidence that these shells had been used in an illegal way. They are, of course, dangerous to handle when burning but absolutely legal.

Israel has been honest and open enough to acknowledge through its own inquiries that that there were regrettable mistakes and areas where procedures and training need to be improved, and it has committed to working with the UN to improve coordination. But having cooperated fully with the inquiry in good faith and shared military intelligence to an unprecedented level, it believes the information it provided was completely ignored. Israel’s routine cooperation with the UN protected more than 1,800 facilities during the Gaza operation and allowed movement of 500 vehicles and numerous convoys. It was not only a moral imperative for Israel not to harm UN facilities, but in its interests for the international legitimacy of its military campaign not to be undermined. But Israel has been rewarded for its attempts to work with the UN by receiving almost all of the blame.

Obviously, most Guardian’s commenters could not look objectively at the issue (none of the readers who took anti-Israel state, also declared that UN omitted information in their report). Just few examples:

stevehill: For you to make the wholly unsubstantiated [unsubstantiated? – JMB] and libellous assertion that UNWRA members were collaborating with Hamas is beneath contempt.

Ban Ki-Moon is indulging in some realpolitik, sadly. He knows the UN has to at least try to work with Israel going forward.

But he nevertheless emerges with far more credibility than you do as a result of this scurrilous, disingenuous and utterly contemptible article.

orwellwasright: [Regarding Sabel noting that IDF dropped leaflets to warn citizens – JMB] Does a rapist get lenient treatment if he texts his victim warning her he’s going to rape her? Do you have no idea how absurd you sound, Robbie? [They could obviously move to another neighborhood, by taking the nearest road. While Gaza is surrounded, you could move easily within it even during the operation – JMB]

Papalagi: [Regarding Israel taking steps to avoid casualties – JMB] Another lie. The aim of the massacre of Gaza was simply to kill Gazans and nothing more.

That went on and on. Criticism is great, but how come none of those people stopped and said: Israel committed horrible atrocities in Gaza, but UN is biased as well?

  1. Right.

    What you – just as arrogantly, I shall say – forget to mention, is that Israel attacked very specific parts of Gaza – not all of Gaza. Thus, civilians actually did have where to go. Israeli military also identified locations where civilians could be safe, during the phone calls, messages and fliers.

    (By the by, you don’t seem to criticize Egypt for neglecting its Palestinians peers).

    What you also forget to mention – just as arrogantly, that is – is that Gaza certainly was and is under pressure; however, in 2006 Israel decided to make an effort, leave Gaza – you can call this “most of Gaza”, in order to see if Palestinians take control of themselves and start building an actual society (with Israel providing water, gasoline, power and many other utilities, it shouldn’t have been a problem). And yet, after Israel’s pullout the number of rockets from Gaza into Israel’s territory actually increased. Is this the way you answer to outstretched hand of peace?

    While you certainly could say that Israel could have done more – it actually could – it is also true that on many occasions Gazans declared they want no peace with Israel; instead, few idiots – like Ismail Haniyeh – chose to fight a far superior army, which his men never could defeat – a fight that he knew would get his own people killed.

  2. tehrankid77 says:


    *The aim of the massacre of Gaza was simply to kill Gazans and nothing more*

    Spot on Papa… Yesterday the arrogant Israeli Nety said at the UN that they have sent 1000s of texts to warn the Gazans of the bombings and ask them to leave… what he conveniently and stupiditly ignored to mentioned was that these people had nowhere to go… all roads & routes were fooking blocked… are Israeli’s really that naïve to believe these arrogant and aggressive leaders?

    He also very arrogantly said that Israel left Gaza years ago without mentioning that Gaza has been under SEIGE since their wretched departure… who are they kidding these arrogant war criminals?

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