The IDF and the Israel-Hamas war of 2009:
Colonel Richard Kempís statement to the UN Human Rights Council

Published: 22 October 2009
Briefing Number 245

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On 16 October 2009 the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), in its 12th Special Session, voted to endorse the Goldstone Report on Israel’s war against Hamas of January 2009.  Below is the text of a statement which was delivered to the Council at that session by Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan.   His testimony was organised via Geneva-based Non-Governmental Organisation UN Watch (, and it can be viewed on their website, or on YouTube.   Very large numbers have viewed it.  


Thank you Mr President

I am the former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan.  I served with NATO and the United Nations; commanded troops in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Macedonia; and participated in the Gulf War.  I spent considerable time in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, and worked on international terrorism for the UK Government’s Joint Intelligence Committee.

Mr President, based on my knowledge and experience, I can say this: during Operation Cast Lead, the Israel Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.

Israel did so while facing an enemy that deliberately positioned its military capability behind a human shield of the civilian population.  Hamas, like Hizbollah, are expert at driving the media agenda.  Both will always have people ready to give interviews condemning Israeli forces for war crimes.  They are adept at staging and distorting incidents.
“The IDF took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians notice….”

The IDF faces a challenge that we British do not have to face to the same extent.  It is the automatic, Pavlovian presumption by many in the international media and international human rights groups, that the IDF are in the wrong, that they are abusing human rights.

The truth is that the IDF took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians notice of targeted areas, dropping over 2 million leaflets, and making over 100,000 phone calls.  Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were aborted to prevent civilian casualties.  During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza.  To deliver aid virtually into your enemy’s hands is, to the military tactician, normally quite unthinkable.  But the IDF took those risks.

“Mistakes are not war crimes….”   

Despite all of this, of course innocent civilians were killed.  War is chaos and full of mistakes.  There have been mistakes by the British, American and other forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq, many of which can be put down to human error.  But mistakes are not war crimes.  More than anything. The civilian casualties were a consequence of Hamas’ way of fighting.  Hamas deliberately tried to sacrifice their own civilians.  Mr President, Israel had no choice apart from defending its people, to stop Hamas from attacking them with rockets. 

IDF measures were unique “in the history of warfare”

And I say again, the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.

Thank you, Mr President


Beyond Images resources: see ‘The Context of the Israel-Hamas war: 2009 report’ on the Beyond Images website, and the resources linked to from there.