UN’s Sch­abas: an open mind?

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT - Ge­of­frey Al­der­man

WHILE OUR at­ten­tion has been fo­cused on re­newed con­flict in the Mid­dle East, a melo­drama of truly far­ci­cal pro­por­tions has been played out at the Palace of Na­tions, Geneva. That the­atre (for what else can it be called?) is home to the UN Hu­man Rights Coun­cil, whose 47 mem­bers, all elected by the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly, cur­rently in­clude nom­i­nees from Al­ge­ria, China, Cuba, Pak­istan, Saudi Ara­bia, Venezuela and Iran. The gov­ern­ments of th­ese coun­tries are renowned for their sys­tem­atic per­se­cu­tion of dis­si­dents and mi­nori­ties, their shame­less resort to vi­o­lence and tor­ture to crush dis­sent, and their in­tu­itive de­nial of re­li­gious liberty.

Mul­ti­ple abuses of hu­man rights on such a scale would in nor­mal cir­cum­stances fur­nish the UNHRC with am­ple ma­te­rial for on­go­ing in­quiries. But few have ever been forth­com­ing, and none has re­sulted in the slight­est im­prove­ment in hu­man rights in any of the Coun­cil’s mem­ber states. The Coun­cil is an or­gan­ised hypocrisy. From its es­tab­lish­ment, eight years ago, its ob­ses­sive fo­cus has been on Is­rael, for the sim­ple rea­son that this is the eas­i­est method by which the states afore­men­tioned, and their many al­lies in the Coun­cil cham­ber, can move the fo­cus well away from their own bor­ders.

Last month a spe­cial ses­sion of the Coun­cil was con­vened to con­sider the Gaza con­flict anew. A res­o­lu­tion, com­pris­ing 1,871 vitri­olic words, was solemnly adopted con­demn­ing Is­rael in the harsh­est pos­si­ble terms, with but two pass­ing ref­er­ences to the mur­der of Is­raeli civil­ians — and I should add that whereas this ven­omous res­o­lu­tion nat­u­rally named Is­rael re­peat­edly as a guilty party, there was not one ex­plicit ref­er­ence to the guilt of Gaza’s Ha­mas gov­ern­ment, and not one ac­knowl­edg­ment of the fact that ev­ery one of the rock­ets launched from Gaza into Is­rael con­sti­tuted a war crime.

In­stead, the res­o­lu­tion an­nounced that what was termed “an in­de­pen­dent, in­ter­na­tional com­mis­sion of in­quiry” was to be “ur­gently” despatched “to in­ves­ti­gate all vi­o­la­tions of in­ter­na­tional humanitarian law and in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights law in the Oc­cu­pied Pales­tinian Ter­ri­tory, in­clud­ing East Jerusalem, par­tic­u­larly in the oc­cu­pied Gaza Strip.”

The chair­man of the com­mis­sion is Wil­liam Sch­abas, a Cana­dian-ed­u­cated and much-pub­lished hu­man rights lawyer who cur­rently holds a string of pro­fes­so­rial ap­point­ments, in­clud­ing the pro­fes­sor­ship of in­ter­na­tional law at Mid­dle­sex Univer­sity

Sch­abas has made no se­cret of his views on Is­rael

here in Jewish north Lon­don.

I can­not be­lieve that the ap­point­ment of Sch­abas was in­ad­ver­tent, or that it was dic­tated solely by his cre­den­tials as an au­thor­ity on geno­cide and the death penalty. His Jewish pa­ter­nal grand­par­ents em­i­grated from Gali­cia to the USA at the be­gin­ning of the 20th cen­tury. He is said to be proud of his Jewish an­ces­try, which I sus­pect played a sig­nif­i­cant part in him be­ing asked to chair the UNHRC in­quiry, since it suits those coun­tries that pushed for this in­ves­ti­ga­tion to have a Jew at its head — as was, of course, the case with the ap­point­ment of Richard Gold­stone to head the much-lam­pooned Gaza in­quiry of 2009, which was also the UNHRC’s brain­child.

More im­por­tant, how­ever, is the fact that Sch­abas has made no se­cret of his views on Is­rael and Gaza. Some years ago, in an in­ter­view with the on­line jour­nal in­tel­lec­tum he asked: “Why are we go­ing af­ter the pres­i­dent of Su­dan for Dar­fur and not the pres­i­dent of Is­rael [Shi­mon Peres] for Gaza?” In 2010, in the Jour­nal of In­ter­na­tional Law, Sch­abas opined that Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu was “the sin­gle in­di­vid­ual most likely to threaten the sur­vival of Is­rael.” At a meet­ing hosted last year in New York by the Rus­sell Tri­bunal on Pales­tine, Sch­abas de­clared: “My favourite would be Ne­tanyahu within the dock of the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court.”

Pro­fes­sor Sch­abas is fully en­ti­tled to ex­press such views. But their ex­pres­sion seems to me to dis­qual­ify him from any role as a cred­i­ble mem­ber of any UN-spon­sored in­quiry into the Gaza con­flict. If he truly val­ues his aca­demic cre­den­tials, he must surely step aside.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.