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

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs