Retired Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British Forces in Afghanistan.
Having just returned from another tour of Sderot and discussions with Israeli soldiers at the staging area near Gaza, Col (ret.) Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, sat down for an interview with The Algemeiner.
Deborah Danan: Why do you think the international community expresses such vociferous objection to IDF actions in Gaza?
Col Richard Kemp: Well, the starting point for so much of the world’s media, opinion-makers, political leaders, NGOs, human rights groups, will always be that whatever Israel does is wrong. It’s seen as oppressor of Palestinians, illegal occupiers — even of Gaza despite the withdrawal nine years ago — then already your starting point is at a disadvantage. Then add that to the fact that the Israeli military operations against Hamas inevitably include civilian casualties. The reason for that is because Hamas use as a key element — possibly the key element of their strategy — human shields. They want to lure and force Israel to kill civilians. And so you see images of dead babies, dead boys on the beach, women screaming about their children, and no reality can overcome those images. It’s understandable in a way, because it is heart-wrenching, I’ve seen firsthand what shrapnel can do to a baby, and it’s horrifying, and the problem is that there’s no reference, no open-mindedness to the fact that the only reason that these children have been killed is because of Hamas’ aggression towards Israel.
DD: Do you have any recommendations as to what Israel could do to change these perceptions?
RK: Israel is doing to a large extent what it can; obviously it’s got to have efficient and slick media operations to counter the distortions that are so common in the international media. But of course Israel is at a disadvantage there too because while Israel might understand the need to come out with a rapid rebuttal or message of the truth of what’s happening in the conflict, it still has to be utterly faithful to facts and cannot afford to get it wrong, or to exaggerate. Hamas, on the other hand, can say whatever they want and it doesn’t get challenged and if it does get challenged it doesn’t matter for them because they’re not accountable to anyone.
To me, the most important effort that Israel can make is not with the masses, rather it’s with the decision makers, the world leaders, after all, it’s their attitude and their understanding that will shape the way the West sees Israel.
DD: What specific steps do the US and the UK take to avoid civilian casualties?
RK: They have restrictive rules of engagement in conflicts where there is a risk of civilians getting killed, for example in Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland. They take strenuous efforts to ensure the minimum loss of life of civilian populations, including surveillance to verify the presence or absence or civilians, using appropriate munitions — that is, not dropping massive bombs if there’s a risk …read more
Source: The Algemeiner