UN must visit Shifa Hospital

Firsthand accounts by official witnesses make it more difficult to deny facts on the ground.

By Jerome M. Marcus | | Topics: Hamas, Gaza
High-ranking US officers inspect the aftermath of Nazi crimes during World War II. Credit: Courtesy of Harold Royall/United States Holocaust Memorial Museum via Wikimedia Commons.
High-ranking US officers inspect the aftermath of Nazi crimes during World War II. Credit: Courtesy of Harold Royall/United States Holocaust Memorial Museum via Wikimedia Commons.

Israel stands on the brink of controlling Shifa Hospital and other medical centers in the Gaza Strip. In categorical violation of the law of war, Hamas has used these buildings as command centers, ammunition dumps, safe havens for its fighters and entrances to its tunnel system.

When Israel takes control of these buildings, it must immediately demand that UN Secretary-General António Guterres come and inspect them.

Why is this necessary?

First, the secretary-general, continuing a long UN tradition, has blamed Israel for deaths and destruction in Gaza, and has said that “UN premises, hospitals, schools and clinics must never be targeted” by Israel’s military.

This demand is itself a clear contradiction of international law. Article 19 of the Fourth Geneva convention provides that “the protection to which civilian hospitals are entitled” is lost when such facilities “are used to commit, outside their humanitarian duties, acts harmful to the enemy.” Hamas has for years done exactly this. The same is true of the schools, clinics and mosques throughout Gaza that are used as launching sites for rockets and missiles, as weapons and ammunition storehouses, and as entrances to Hamas’s web of tunnels, built with resources provided to Gaza for civilian and humanitarian purposes.

Second, while Holocaust denial after World War II did not erupt on a wide scale while the grounds of the camps were still wet with Jewish blood, in this war, the denial is already being shouted from rooftops. Basem Naim, for example, the so-called Head of International Relations for Hamas, told Sky News: “We [Hamas] didn’t kill any civilians” on Oct. 7, calling it “Israeli propaganda.”

Hamas has denied abuse of Gaza hospitals and other civilian facilities in the Strip. There is every reason to expect that Palestinian defenders of Hamas and enemies of Israel will continue these lies in an effort to delegitimize Israel’s campaign to destroy Hamas. A public record of Hamas’s abuse of these facilities is thus essential.

As the Second World War was ending, Gens. Dwight D. Eisenhower, George S. Patton and Omar Bradley toured Ohrdruf, one of the just-liberated Nazi concentration camps. Following the visit, Eisenhower ordered all American units in the area and not engaged in frontline battle to be sent to see the camp. He cabled Gen. George C. Marshall, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, DC, requesting that members of Congress and journalists be sent to liberated camps to witness and document the horrific scenes US troops were uncovering.

Eisenhower understood that it was important for the world to understand what the Germans had done both because the guilty had to be called to account and because it would explain the need for the actions of Allied Forces fighting the German army. The result was a library of film footage and accounts by impartial official witnesses that has made it difficult, though not impossible, for people to deny that Germany committed the Holocaust’s atrocities.

Hamas’s systematic abuse of humanitarian and civilian situses is of a piece with its larger strategy of taking the entire population of Gaza as hostages and human shields. Documenting these practices not only defends Israel; it defends the Arab population that has itself been abused and whose deaths have themselves been used as weapons in Hamas’s effort to destroy Israel. One of Hamas’s leaders has forthrightly proclaimed that the terror organization intends to repeat the slaughter of Oct. 7 over and over again until Israel is no more.

The abuse of the civilian population of Gaza is an essential part of Hamas’s scheme. If Israel is ever to be able to live side by side in peace with its Arab neighbors, Islamist abuse of Arab civilians must end. Revealing the truth—and forcing the world to see this truth—is the only way this can happen.

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