AMSTERDAM The head of a U.N. inquiry into last summer’s conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza announced that he would resign after Israel accused him of bias due to consultancy work he did for the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
Canadian academic William Schabas was appointed last August by the head of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), a body generally considered to be anti-Israel, to lead a three-member group looking into alleged war crimes during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge against Hamas rocket attacks in Gaza.
The commission is looking into the behaviour of both Israel and of Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza and calls for the destruction of Israel, and of other Palestinian armed groups.
In a letter to the commission, Schabas said a legal opinion he wrote for the Palestine Liberation Organisation in 2012, for which he was paid $1,300, was not different from advice he had given to many other governments and organisations.
“My views on Israel and Palestine as well as on many other issues were well known and very public,” he wrote. “This work in defence of human rights appears to have made me a huge target for malicious attacks (…).”
Israel had long criticized Schabas’ appointment, citing his record as a strong critic of the Jewish state and its current political leadership.
The UN commission has concluded collecting evidence, and is scheduled to present its conclusions to the UNHRC on March 23. “This is the same body that only in 2014 passed more resolutions against Israel than against Iran, Syria and North Korea combined,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjmin Netanyahu said of the UNHRC. “Hamas, other terrorist organizations and the terror regimes around us are the ones who need to be investigated, and not Israel.”
Netanyahu said that Israel acted in accordance with international law during last summer’s conflict when it defended itself against rocket attacks from Gaza, while Hamas used civilians as human shields to fire on Israeli civilians.
“Israel will continue to defend itself against terror directed against it on all fronts,” he said.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman issued a statement saying that Schabas’ resignation will not change the conclusions of the report, which were biased against Israel from the very beginning by virtue of the fact that the report was initiated by the anti-Israel UNHRC.
However, he said, the resignation casts light on the people who made up the investigation commission, and their built-in biases.
Lieberman said the Schabas’ resignation was an achievement for Israeli diplomacy and proved that “even the greatest hypocrites in international forums could not ignore the fact that appointing Schabas to investigate Israel was like appointing Cain to investigate Abel.”
“The Schabas Commission was born in sin,” said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon at the time.
“Its mandate is highly distorted, and its head has decided to indict Israel even before the commission started its work. This is a sham, a mockery of justice, and reminiscent of the Inquisition trials.”