News / Middle East

Battle Brewing Over How to Investigate Gaza Conflict

FILE - Members of the Serbian delegation, First Counsellor Sasa Obradovic, left, William Schabas, center and Andreas Zimmermann, right, await the start of public hearings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague,  Netherlands, March 3, 201
FILE - Members of the Serbian delegation, First Counsellor Sasa Obradovic, left, William Schabas, center and Andreas Zimmermann, right, await the start of public hearings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands, March 3, 201
Reuters

Even before starting work as chairman of a U.N. human rights commission investigating the Gaza war, Canadian law professor William Schabas has been vilified as an apologist for Iran incapable of setting aside his perceived anti-Israel bias.

Full page adverts have been taken out against him in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, while the Facebook page of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a leader of the anti-Schabas campaign, has attracted more than 30,000 “likes.”

The make-up of Schabas' commission is still being finalized - George Clooney's fiancee, Amal Alamuddin, turned down the invitation so another one or possibly two members must be found - but already he is worried about whether the team will be allowed to get into the region to conduct its inquiry.

“There is going to be an issue for the commission getting access, getting into Gaza and going to Israel,” he told Reuters in an interview, speaking from his home in England, where he is a professor of international law at Middlesex University.

“Other fact-finding bodies of this nature have had difficulty in the past,” he said. “I can't rule it out.”

In the meantime, Schabas finds himself defending comments he has made criticizing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and explaining how he can set aside his personal feelings about the Middle East to carry out a balanced investigation.

“We all have views about Israel, Palestine and things that have gone on in the past and we all have to put those things to one side,” he said. “I'm determined to do that. The question is whether the person is capable of doing it. I think I'm capable of doing it and no one has any proof to the contrary.”

Heavy death toll

The month-long war against Hamas, with Israel carrying out airstrikes, artillery bombardments and ground operations in response to constant militant rocket fire and attacks via tunnels, left more than 2,000 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians, as well as 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians.

It was the deadliest war in Gaza since Israel unilaterally withdrew from the territory in 2005 and included several incidents in which Israel was accused by rights groups of excessive use of force, war crimes or crimes against humanity.

For its part, Hamas fired rockets indiscriminately at Israeli towns and cities, was accused of using civilians as human shields and of carrying out attacks from next to hospitals, from ambulances and inside densely populated areas.

In two cases, U.N.-run schools being used as shelters were hit by Israeli artillery, killing 25 people, and in another incident four boys playing on a beach were killed by shell fire.

Israel said the area around the schools had been used to  fire rockets - rockets were found at three empty U.N. schools - while describing the death of the boys as a “tragic outcome” in which Hamas fighters were the intended target.

Schabas would not be drawn on which events in the war would be most closely scrutinized, saying the commission had to be fully constituted first. But he made clear that the mandate was for a broad investigation, covering both sides.

Israel had already given “brief but nevertheless significant” explanations for some of its actions, he said. The aim would be to get more detail and clarity, from all parties.

“When we see young boys being killed on a beach, it may not be enough to say that we were acting in self-defense and we try to minimize civilian casualties,” he said. “We need more detail to understand.”

'Greatest threat'

From Rabbi Boteach's point of view, there is nothing Schabas can say that will make his investigation credible.

Having once described Netanyahu as “the greatest threat to Israel” and declared him his “favorite” to appear before the International Criminal Court, Schabas is, in the minds of most Israelis, unfit to serve as an independent investigator.

His part-sponsorship in 2011 of a human rights conference in Iran alongside an organization Boteach described as “fundamentalist and anti-Semitic” has enraged detractors.

“Someone like William Schabas, who has a proven record of bias, who has served as a fig-leaf and toadie for the Iranian regime, has no credibility to adjudicate any kind of human rights commission,” the U.S.-based rabbi said in an interview.

“If he had any decency he would recuse himself. He doesn't like Israel and he hates its prime minister.”

Netanyahu has not kept out of the fray either, saying that Schabas's inquiry has already been written.

“They have nothing to look for here. They should visit Damascus, Baghdad and Tripoli,” he said last week.

Part of the frustration for Israel is what it feels is an excessive focus on its every action, with past U.N. inquiries, most infamously the Goldstone Report into the 2008-9 Gaza war, focusing far more on Israel than any Hamas violations.

More than a year after his report was published, Judge Richard Goldstone separated himself from some of its findings, saying subsequent information provided by Israel had convinced him that some of the original conclusions were wrong.

Schabas said he hoped Israel, which refused to cooperate with Goldstone's inquiry, would not do the same this time.

“Goldstone essentially said 'if I had known then what I know now about certain issues, then the conclusion of my report would have been different,' ”  said Schabas.

“That is a very compelling argument to encourage Israel to cooperate with this commission. If they think its fruitless or futile to cooperate, it's a good argument to bear in mind.” 

You May Like

Photogallery US to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Expanded Ebola Effort

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Obama is to announce troop deployment, other details of US plans to fight Ebola outbreak More

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

Comment Sorting
Comment on this forum (4)
Comments
     
by: Igor from: Russia
August 18, 2014 10:50 PM
It high time for Israel to shake hands with Syrian government to make peace and co-operation rather than letting Syria fall to the hands of brutal Islamic State. Those islamic terrorists would be the biggest threat to the Jewish State. Israel should not follow the disastrous policy of Obama.


by: Talat from: Nottingham. UK
August 18, 2014 5:46 PM
when will the US media start reporting news,as at the moment its the month piece for the Zionist lobby . I feel sorry for the US public as if they want real news they would have to look outside the country


by: Jack Epstein from: Rockville MD USA
August 18, 2014 2:46 PM
The article repeats, uncritically, the assertion that the Gazan dead are mostly civilians. That is the Hamas party line. Israeli sources contend many, if not most, of the dead are combatants. In past conflicts, the Israeli estimate has proven more accurate. The author should either include both estimates, or qualify the estimate as "according to Gazan sources".


by: Dr. Miranda S. from: EU
August 18, 2014 2:03 PM
how to investigate the Gaza "conflict"..?? Taken at the aggregate we are witnessing the resurgence of Sunni Islam all across the ME. A despicable atrocity that threatens Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Israel, Saudi, Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey.
There is nothing to "investigate" because it is not over...!!! As we speak Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood has butchered more Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai... ISIL has slaughtered 700 Yazidis and Christians and abducted 1000s of female children to "wed" Islamic child sexual predators...

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid