New York – The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has written to the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, criticizing the Secretary-General for his statements criticizing Israel for Lebanese civilian deaths, rather than Hezbollah, which has deliberately committed the war crime of operating in civilian areas and thereby endangering civilian life during hostilities. Following Sundays the incident at Qana, Annan, addressing the Security Council, blamed Israel in fighting Hezbollah of causing death and suffering on a wholly unacceptable scale and said that we must condemn this action in the strongest possible terms, and I appeal to you to do likewise. Annan also engaged in moral equivalence of Israel and Hezbollah, saying that there was strong prima facie evidence that both Israel and Hezbollah had committed grave breaches of international humanitarian law (United Nations Security Council, July 30).
It has since emerged that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are not even certain that the deaths at Qana arose from IDF military action. In terms of fatalities at Qana, fewer than half the numbers of bodies originally claimed as killed by Hezbollah have been actually retrieved. Additionally, there is no apparent explanation for the absence of blood at the site as well as the absence of wounded from the building collapse and the Israel Air Force (IAF) film shows that the building was struck by bombs more than eight hours before its reported collapse (Michael Widlanski, Independent Media Review & Analysis, August 1).
In the letter, ZOA National President Morton A. Klein, Chairman of the Board of Directors Dr. Michael Goldblatt, Chairman of National Executive Committee Dr. Alan Mazurek and Treasurer Henry Schwartz said, For the second time in less than a week, you have seen fit to condemn Israel for its counter-terrorist military operations in southern Lebanon before any evidence had been taken in the matter to determine precisely what had occurred. In that instance, you also chose to distort international law by ignoring the war crime committed by Hezbollah under Protocol I (1977) to the Geneva Convention, Article 51(7), by deliberately embedding military forces, arms caches and missile batteries among civilians. Hezbollah missile launchers have been situated in residential apartments and directly next door to apartment blocks. Yet, instead of condemning Hezbollahs war crime, which resulted in the loss of civilian life at Qana and elsewhere, you instead blamed Israel for the consequences of Hezbollahs actions.
You have also stated that Israel has probably committed grave breaches of international humanitarian law, once again, without waiting to gather evidence of such serious allegations. It is well-known that no army on earth has gone to such extraordinary lengths to avoid civilian casualties. Israel has fought on the ground in Bint Jbeil rather than strike it from air, it has dropped leaflet warning civilians of imminent operations in their vicinity; it has opened humanitarian corridors, even though these assist the escape of Hezbollah terrorists; and it has committed itself to a 48-hour cessation of most air strikes, despite the obvious advantage this confers on Hezbollah.
This is not only Israels war — Islamist terrorism threatens much of the globe, especially democratic nations, and this is therefore a campaign in a wider, legitimate and vital struggle. In short, this is a war in which Israel deserves the sympathy and support of the United Nations, not biased prejudgment and condemnation that gives aid and comfort to terrorists which can only embolden them.
Israel has been the victim of an unprovoked assault, despite conforming fully with all past UN requirements made of it in respect of Lebanon and despite the evident failure of the UN and international community to ensure that peaceful relations between Israel and Lebanon followed upon Israels withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000. If a terrorist force operating from across the Canadian or Mexican borders commenced firing missiles into Detroit or Houston, no one even imagines that America would not hesitate to deploy all necessary force to destroy the terrorists and prevent a repetition of the original aggression. In the case of Israel, despite lip-service paid to the right of Israel to self-defense, its legitimate military campaign is being distorted and maligned by the United Nations chief executive officer. Your biased and loaded criticism of Israel is another page of dishonor in the history of the United Nations conduct towards the state of Israel and its legitimate fight to secure its existence and protect its citizens.