As the dust settles in the current round of fighting between Israel and Hamas following the latest cease-fire, Israel prepares for a new battle on the legal and diplomatic front. It has now become a unique custom that all of Israel’s wars and operations be subject to international investigation and review by the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC). It was no surprise that on July 23rd, 2014 the HRC passed a resolution sponsored by some of the worst human rights violators, to form an inquiry into Israel’s conduct in its latest war with Hamas.
An excerpt for the resolution is as follows;
“the Council strongly condemns the failure of Israel, the occupying Power, to end its prolonged occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem; and condemns in the strongest terms the widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms arising from the Israeli military operations carried out in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 13 June 2014 that may amount to international crimes…”
Unsurprisingly, given the history of the HRC, there was no mention of Hamas in the resolution. As such, the inquiry is to focus solely on Israel’s actions without review of any of Hamas’s actions. To truly understand the absurdity of the HRC today, we must delve a little deeper into the inner workings of the council. To begin, it is essential to understand the motives of the council by taking a closer look at which nations currently hold positions in the Human Rights body. Countries such Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, China, Congo, Sierra Leone, Russia, United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, all of whom are not exactly renowned for their exemplary record of human rights. However, suddenly they have become human rights activist when it comes to condemning Israel. Another prime example of the absurdity of the Human Rights Council is their obsession with Israel as compared to any other country. Of the 22 special sessions called to focus on a specific country, 7 sessions (32%) were targeted at the Middle’s East only true democratic country, Israel. To put into context, there are more special sessions directed at Israel than Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Syria combined. The absolute obsession and focus on Israel should lead to only one question -its legitimacy.
To ensure the Council’s goal of condemning Israel for human rights violations the council decided to appoint Canadian Law professor William Schabas as the head of the current inquiry. Opposition to Schabas’s appointment arose immediately when it was discovered that Schabas has made many past comments criticizing Israeli leadership. The most prominent example of his criticism directed at current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was at a conference last year in New York where he stated; “My favorite would be Netanyahu within the dock of the International Criminal Court.” Professor Schabas argued that the comment was taken out of context as it was the result of a discussion as to why the International Criminal Court focuses predominantly on African leaders. Schabas proceeded to discredit those who said he would be biased against Israel by emphasizing his connections to Israel and how he used to be on the board of the Israeli law review. However, when interviewed on August 12th, 2014, Schabas was asked about his comments regarding Benjamin Netanyahu and he answered as follows;
“I was, of course, echoing what was in the Goldstone Report, which is that the International Criminal Court should deal with the conclusions of the Goldstone Report, concluding the possibility that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed during Operation Cast Lead, but as you know the International Criminal Court never did address those matters.”
His comments only emphasized his obvious prejudice as head of the inquiry as Benjamin Netanyahu was not the Prime Minister at the time of Operation Cast Lead but was instead the leader of the opposition. In fact, Netanyahu’s name was not even mentioned in the conclusions of the Goldstone report. Schabas has shown that he has a problem with the current Israeli Prime Minister and despite assurances that he can be impartial; it is obvious that he is unable to.
Despite the absurdity of the Human Rights Commission and its agenda driven by the worst Human Rights abusers in the world, there will be an inquiry and a condemnation of the State Israel. There will be no condemnation of Hamas in the face of its double war crimes of firing rockets indiscriminately at Israeli civilians whilst using Palestinian women and children as human shields. The Human Rights Council never fails to disappoint the world and demonstrates time and time again that they are not a voice for those who are actual victims of human rights abusers. The reality is that the worst of the human right violators are sitting back with a smile of satisfaction as world attention is once again diverted away from them and focusing once again on Israel.