Hamas launched thousands of rockets at Israel last summer, and hid its weapons in schools, including United Nations-run facilities and other civilian sites.
Yet, in a July 2014 report issued by the U.N. Human Rights Council directly in the wake of the rocket attacks, the agency lambasted Israel, and rehashed every charge seemingly ever made against the Jewish state.
And it is about to do it again in a report due next month.
In last year’s resolution – which ran four single-spaced pages -- Hamas, incredibly, was never cited by name.
That 2014 resolution was the usual U.N. stew, referencing previous anti-Israel measures and new allegations about Israeli “human rights violations.” It came out of yet another special Human Rights Council session unfairly attacking Israel. This, too, would not be unusual for the U.N. since nearly one-third of all special sessions of the Human Rights Council are devoted to the situation in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories.”
The initial resolution was notable for its focus on Gaza, with little regard for the impact of the indiscriminate firing on Israelis. The resolution charges Israel with indiscriminate attacks and grave “human rights violations.” But there is no condemnation for all of the indiscriminate Hamas rocket barrages that ignited the conflict last summer or any note that Israelis have been the targets of indiscriminate Hamas rockets for well more than 10 years.
What about the human rights of Israeli citizens?
This willful and perverse omission of Hamas from the resolution was not only brazen, but also par for the course for the Human Rights Council, which, at a time of global turmoil, particularly in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, still devotes more time and attention to Israel than to human rights crises in such places as Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Sudan and Syria.
What about the human rights of Israeli citizens? And now we are on the eve of results from yet another U.N.-sponsored “fact-finding” effort about Israel.
Should we expect anything different from the report due next month? Not really.
The council conducted its investigation through an appointed commission and began reaching its conclusions under the leadership of William Schabas, an outspoken and unabashedly biased critic of Israel. Though Schabas stepped down from his position this month once it was revealed that he had been a paid consultant for the Palestine Liberation Organization, his anti-Israel writings were already well-documented public knowledge. Yet he was still chosen to lead this supposedly “independent” panel, despite a chorus of criticism when he was named to the post. His very presence on the committee from the get-go prejudiced the outcome of its findings.
The “evidence” this panel has collected against Israel ought to be discarded and the work of the committee discontinued. There was never even a veneer of neutrality in the decision to convene the investigation in the first place.
Schabas’ appointment to the panel, in fact, reveals the way the United Nations does business when it comes to Israel. He is not the first critic of Israel to lead a U.N. investigatory body. This panel is just more proof of continuing bias. Sadly, it will probably not be the last.
How did the panel come about? In what has become a standard pattern at the United Nations, the Human Rights Council declared that Israel was already guiltya priori of a variety of crimes. Then it formed a new committee and charged it with investigating those crimes. Basically, it reached its conclusion, and then sought evidence to support it.
While the Schabas departure has resulted in a new chair in place, and while the final results could possibly change, that is not likely. Since the commission was formed with a pre-conceived notion, and since Schabas shepherded the lion’s share of the commission’s work, and with expectations high about its harsh criticism of Israel, don’t bet on any surprises.
The oft-used cliché, “we’ve seen this movie before,” is highly applicable here.
Every time a U.N. committee writes a report about Israel or resolutions are adopted criticizing the Jewish state, it further marginalizes the United Nations as a reliable venue for conflict resolution, and proves once again that the world body cannot speak with credibility on these issues.
Soon, the United Nations Human Rights Council will once again turn its attention to the annual “Item 7” on its agenda. That is the basket of anti-Israel resolutions taken up each session that speaks to the heart of this credibility gap. The voting blocs at the U.N. always march in lockstep, blindly castigating Israel. If they were honestly interested in a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they would realize that condemning Israel year after year contributes only to un-meetable Palestinian expectations and justifiable frustration on the part of Israel.
In turn, Israel then sees an organization unfairly obsessed with Israel at the expense of addressing serious fires burning in the Middle East and elsewhere. You would think Israel’s critics would try carrots, but instead they keep applying bigger sticks.
Therein lies the problem with the forthcoming “Schabas report,” the expected support once again for Item 7, and by extension, a failed United Nations system.
Daniel S. Mariaschin is the Executive Vice President at B'nai B'rith International, and has spent nearly all of his professional life working on behalf of Jewish organizations. As the organization’s top executive officer, he directs and supervises B’nai B’rith programs, activities and staff in the more than 50 countries where B’nai B’rith is organized. He also serves as director of B'nai B'rith's Center for Human Rights and Public Policy (CHRPP). In that capacity, he presents B’nai B’rith’s perspective to a variety of audiences, including Congress and the media, and coordinates the center’s programs and policies on issues of concern to the Jewish community. To view some of his additional content, Click Here.
Adriana Camisar, is an attorney by training who holds a graduate degree in international law and diplomacy from The Fletcher School (Tufts University). She has been B'nai B'rith International Assistant Director for Latin American Affairs since late 2008, and Special Advisor on Latin American Affairs since 2013, when she relocated to Argentina, her native country. Prior to joining B'nai B'rith International, she worked as a research assistant to visiting Professor Luis Moreno Ocampo (former Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court), at Harvard University; interned at the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs; worked at a children's rights organization in San Diego, CA; and worked briefly as a research assistant to the Secretary for Legal Affairs at the Organization of American States (OAS). To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
Janel Doughten is the associate director of the B’nai B’rith International Center for Senior Services, focusing on the subsidized senior housing program. She has been with B’nai B’rith for 23 years, and looks forward to leading the 15th Resident Leadership Retreat later this year. To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
On Monday, William Schabas quit his position as head of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s (HRC) “Commission of Inquiry” into Israel’s defensive operations against Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza.
Schabas resigned after it was revealed that he had done paid consultative work for the PLO (the Palestine Liberation Organization), which created a conflict of interest. His resignation, however, will not save the report of the commission from its predetermined destiny of illegitimacy.
From the beginning, Schabas stood for everything that was wrong in the process, a process that began in July with the HRC’s emergency session on Gaza (the seventh such session called to focus solely on Israel). That session produced a biased resolution that created the commission.
And yet, when an Israeli television station interviewed Schabas after his appointment on whether he would also be investigating Hamas violations (as the prior major U.N. investigation of Israel—the Goldstone commission—had at least feigned to do, albeit in a rather terse and dissatisfactory manner), he was noncommittal. And when asked if he thought Hamas was a terrorist organization, he replied that it would be “inappropriate” for him to answer because the question had to be studied in “as neutral and objective manner as possible.”
He was judicious and cautious when it came to Hamas, but he was quite outspoken in his opinions on Israel, and those who picked him likely knew it.
In his resignation letter, Schabas states that when the U.N. asked him to lead the investigation, he was not asked about previous statements on the conflict, and that, indeed, his views were very public and well-known.
The HRC also neglected to ask him about any prior activities or ties that would create a clear conflict of interest. It was not the first error that the U.N. made in rushing to put together a panel that could best delegitimize Israel’s counter-terrorism operations.
In a rather obvious play for publicity, Amal Alamuddin (then fiancée, now wife of George Clooney) was originally announced as commission member, only to have her quickly decline the invitation. The announcement of a celebrity panelist did bring the desired attention, though.
Just last month, Tina Fey made a joke at the Golden Globes that included Alamuddin’s invitation to join this panel as one of her many accomplishments in the field of human rights law (meanwhile, the joke’s target—George Clooney, merely an actor—was getting the Globes’ lifetime achievement award).
The U.N. has already announced that it will move forward as planned with the report. One of the other panelists, Mary McGowan Davis, will take over as chair, but Schabas’s fingerprints will be all over the report.
Schabas has resigned the month before the final product is due. All of the “evidence” has already been gathered. In a press release on Tuesday, the HRC claimed that by resigning, Schabas has preserved “the integrity of the process.”
In truth, his resignation lays bare for all the bias in that process. The HRC has set up a kangaroo court to try Israel, and impartiality is not an asset.
Oren Drori is the Program Officer for United Nations Affairs at B’nai B’rith International where he supports advocacy and programming efforts that advance B’nai B’rith’s goals at the U.N., which include: defending Israel, combating anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and promoting global human rights and humanitarian concerns. He received a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota in 2004 and an M.A. in International Relations from the University of Chicago in 2006. To view some of his additional content, Click Here.
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