United Nations or United Nuisance?
15 August 2014
By Emily Gian
On 23 July, the United Nations Human Rights Council decided to launch an independent inquiry into what it called “purported violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”. I am assuming that it is also referring to Gaza, which has not been “occupied” by Israel since 2005.
To the contrary, if there is an “occupation” in Gaza then the occupier since Hamas’ bloody coup in 2007 is the terrorist group which rules with an iron first, initiated these hostilities and is responsible for the bloodshed but I digress.
The language used by the UNHRC alone is an indication that the inquiry was a set up against Israel. Only one country, the US, voted against the resolution which condemned in the strongest terms the “widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms” arising from Israeli military operations. Virtually as an afterthought, it also “condemned all violence against civilians wherever it occurred, including the killing of two Israeli civilians as a result of rocket fire”.
Strange however, that Hamas which fired 3,500 missiles at Israel and launched cross border incursions into its territory was only a last thought.
What is interesting, as with all UN inquiries into Israel’s conflicts with Hamas, aside from the obvious one-sidedness of it all, is the way in which only one side actually seems to be accountable in the eyes of the United Nations.
However, if Hamas continues to be in a unity government with Fatah as a part of the Palestinian Authority, it should equally be accountable for its actions. As the Palestinian representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi said, “the missiles that are now being launched against Israel, each and every missile constitutes a crime against humanity, whether it hits or misses, because it is directed at civilian targets”. He also noted that Israel warns civilians to evacuate homes but “as for the missiles launched from our side, we never warn anyone about where these missiles are about to fall or about the operations we carry out.”
You will not hear such words from Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner of the Council. She is too busy, criticising Israel for everything under the sun and the United States for assisting in funding the Iron Dome while “no such protection has been provided to the Gazans against the shelling”.
Pillay has wasted no time referring to the casualties noting that as in 2009 and 2012 “children, women, the elderly and persons with disabilities” suffered the most. The figures which the UNHRC relies upon have always been open to dispute and the numbers from earlier conflicts, in particularly from Cast Lead, were revised by Hamas to show that more terrorists were actually killed (between 600-700) than was originally stated (49). But since when is the UNHRC interested in the truth?
If one must talk numbers there is a growing body of information from this current conflict suggesting that many of those killed were men of fighting age, that is, between the ages of 20-29. While they represent only 9% of the total population, they represent at least 34% of the death toll – a telling figure. Colonel Richard Kemp, a British Army commander who served for 30 years, notes that in NATO led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq the average was 3:1 ratio of civilian to combatant deaths, significantly higher than in Gaza.
And while the loss of any civilian life is painful, there must be some context in any examination of what took place. The UNHRC simply continues to perpetuate the lies of Hamas (their numbers are based on the Gaza Health Ministry – run by Hamas), and when asked about the issue of male casualties, they said they “would not want to speculate about why there had been so many adult male casualties”.
With so much controversy, obfuscation and downright hostility directed towards it, you might forgive Israel for being a little bit sceptical when it comes to UN investigations. Cast your mind back to the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead in 2009, when the UN sent Judge Richard Goldstone on a fact-finding mission. His findings, released in September 2009, suggested that the Israelis and the Palestinians might have committed acts amounting to war crimes. At around the same time, he acknowledged in an interview in the Jewish Forward that “we had to do the best we could with the material we had. If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven”. These comments were widely ignored at the time.
Jump forward to April 2011 and Judge Goldstone penned an opinion piece in the Washington Post entitled “Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and war crimes”, where he opened by saying, “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document”.
One point that he made is that he hoped, however unrealistic it seemed, that Hamas would investigate itself or that it would curtail its attacks but that was all wishful thinking. “Sadly, that has not been the case. Hundreds more rockets and mortar rounds have been directed at civilian targets in southern Israel. That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in no way minimizes the criminality. The U.N. Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms. In the end, asking Hamas to investigate may have been a mistaken enterprise.”
What is the difference between Hamas of 2009 and Hamas of 2014?
Nothing at all other than that it used the time to increase its stockpile of weapons to fire at Israel and it used hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to create terror tunnels for murderous purposes.
This time the inquiry is headed by William Schabas, a Canadian law expert. Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor put it perfectly when he declared, “Forming an investigatory committee headed by Schabas is like inviting ISIS to organize religious tolerance week at the UN.”
Schabas was interviewed a few nights ago on Israel’s Channel 2 and showed that on the matter of ethics, he is certainly no expert because he is so biased and so conflicted that he has no business being involved with such an inquiry. Asked why he had called PM Netanyahu his “favourite” leader to indict in the International Criminal Court, he tried to explain that he was merely echoing the Goldstone Report. Perhaps Schabas was not aware that Prime Minister Netanyahu was not only NOT the Prime Minister during Operation Cast Lead, but he was not even mentioned a single time in the text of the report (except in an unrelated footnote). When asked if he considers Hamas a terrorist organisation, he said that it would be inappropriate for him to say given his position.
Really? Even the very country that he comes from, Canada, considers Hamas a terrorist organisation. So to do the United States, the EU, the UK, Jordan, Egypt and Australia, to name a few.
So while he says it is inappropriate for him to speculate whether Hamas is a terrorist organisation because he would like to start the investigation with a blank sheet and be neutral and objective he already wants to indict Netanyahu.
Stranger still is his belief that Israel actually gets off lightly at the United Nations and that there are double standards in the UN, which he attributes to the “imbalance of power” which means that “there have not been inquiries into some atrocities”.
If the United Nations really wants to prove that there are no double standards at the UN, then apart from removing a judge who is so obviously biased from its panel, it also needs to show full transparency in its role in the current conflict.
The fact that the UN found rockets hidden in three of its own facilities needs to be investigated. The fact that Hamas fired rockets from such close proximity of UN facilities needs to be investigated. The fact that three Israeli soldiers were killed when they entered a booby-trapped UN medical clinic needs to be investigated.
And that is but the tip of the iceberg.
The United Nations needs to turn things around and show the world that it is not the embarrassing sham of an organisation it has become by ignoring so many human rights violators like Syria where 200,000 have died in two years and in Iraq where ISIS, a fellow jihadi organisation to Hamas is committing genocide today.
The ball is in its court but I am by no means convinced that it is up for the challenge.