B’nai B’rith is highly critical of the report issued by the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) “independent, international commission of inquiry” into Israel’s defensive operations against Hamas in Gaza during the summer of 2014. The report inherently lacks credibility and should not be taken as a serious evaluation of the necessary counterterrorism actions of the Israel Defense Forces.
Though objectionable, many of the report’s findings hardly seem surprising. Because of the council’s singular and obsessive focus on Israel, anything produced by it on related matters must be viewed with a high level of skepticism. When the probe was announced last year, any casual observer of the Human Rights Council could have predicted that Israel would be unjustly condemned for the conflict that Hamas initiated and sustained. Those predictions were confirmed today with the release of the report.
The inquiry places undeserved blame on Israel, notwithstanding Hamas’ role as the provocateur that launched indiscriminate rocket attacks putting most of Israel’s population within the range of fire, Palestinian terrorist organizations’ use of U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools to store rockets and the dozens of tunnels dug into Israeli territory for the sole purpose of carrying out terror attacks against Israeli civilian communities near the border. Since the council resolution that established the commission of inquiry found Israel guilty in advance and could not bring itself to use the words “Hamas” or “Islamic Jihad” even once, it could not reasonably be expected that the commission would meaningfully investigate and report on the hostilities.
“This Human Rights Council report implies a patently false equivalence between Hamas and Israel,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “It’s a ridiculous claim, as Israel surpasses virtually all other countries in the precautions, restraint and self-scrutiny it demonstrates in counterterrorism operations.”
Israel released its own report on the subject on June 14, “The 2014 Gaza Conflict: Factual and Legal Aspects,” which highlights official Hamas documents uncovered in the fighting demonstrating that the Islamist group’s strategy “was to deliberately draw the hostilities into the urban terrain, and to use built-up areas and the presence of the civilian population for tactical advantage and political gain.” Additionally, Hamas took advantage of civilian areas including U.N. facilities, schools, hospitals, mosques and residential buildings and converted them into “rocket-launch sites, weapons storage facilities, command-and-control centres, and covers for tunnel entrances,” the Israeli report spells out.
The council’s appointment of William Schabas as the head of the commission of inquiry was a blatant sign of what direction it would take. Schabas is well-known for his anti-Israel views, and it came to light in January that Schabas was previously paid to provide legal advice to the Palestine Liberation Organization. As a result of that disclosure, Schabas excused himself from the probe; however, he commented during his departure that most of its research was already completed.
“The Human Rights Council’s lack of self-awareness is again on display with the release of this report. After years of attacking Israel while claiming impartiality, the council stacked the deck from the start by appointing Schabas as the head of the inquiry. The discovery of his ties to the PLO should have been a huge embarrassment to the council and effectively eliminated any shred of credibility it had on this subject. Yet, here we are, with a laundry list of biased allegations against the only true democracy in the Middle East instead of a singular indictment of Hamas, an organization which is endangering the lives of civilians on both sides of the border,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said.