“Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment; thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor favor the person of the mighty; but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor.” (Leviticus 19:15)
The recently announced make-up of the United Nation’s panel probing the recent events in Gaza has Israel fuming. Most notably, the panel’s chairman, Canadian Prof. William Schabas, has a long history of anti-Israel bias, leading Israel’s Foreign Ministry to call into question the honesty of such a panel.
“Already at the time that the decision to establish the committee was adopted, on July 23, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister announced that the Human Rights Council long ago became the Terrorists Rights Council and a ‘kangaroo court,’ and that the findings of its ‘investigations’ are predetermined,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“If further proof is needed, the appointment of the chairman of the committee, whose opinions and positions against Israel are well known, proves beyond any doubt that Israel cannot expect justice from such a body, whose report has already been written and all that is left to decide is who will sign off on it.”
The composition of the three-member panel was announced somewhat prematurely on Monday, as one individual named to the probe, British-Lebanese rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin, immediately issued a statement declining the appointment.
It should be noted she declined due to prior commitments, however, as she added, “I wish my colleagues who will serve on the commission courage and strength in their endeavors,” she wrote. “I am horrified by the situation in the occupied Gaza Strip, particularly the civilian casualties that have been caused, and strongly believe that there should be an independent investigation and accountability for crimes that have been committed.”
Schabas is a professor of International Law at London’s Middlesex University. He has called for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former President Shimon Peres to stand trial before the International Criminal Court for war crimes. He also supported the 2010 Goldstone Report, though he later acknowledged there were far worse atrocities committed elsewhere in the world.
The Goldstone Report investigated the previous ground engagement in Gaza, Operation Cast Lead, and accused both Israel and the Palestinians of war crimes, but placed the greater moral burden on Israel. The report went so far as to accuse Israel of deliberately targeting civilians. Goldstone later retracted that accusation, saying, “While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.”
Israel rejected the Goldstone Report from the outset, refusing to cooperate with the fact-finding mission. It claimed the report was prejudiced and full of factual errors.
The decision to investigate the current conflict came after a marathon seven-hour emergency meeting of the UN Human Rights Council on July 23, and the final report is meant to be presented in March 2015. The third member of the team is Doudou Dienne of Senegal, former UN watchdog on racism and post-conflict Ivory Coast.
Schabas rejected the accusations of anti-Israel bias leveled against him. He told CBC News, “the suggestion that I’m anti-Israel is absurd. Like everybody inside and outside Israel, I disagree with people. Is everyone in Israel who has an opinion about Netanyahu anti-Israel?” he said.
It would seem Israel is not alone in suspecting the panel’s prejudices against it. Hamas spokesman in Gaza Sami Abu Zuhri said, “Hamas welcomes the decision to form an investigation committee into the war crimes committed by the occupation [Israel] against Gaza and it urges that it begin work as soon as possible.”