In the bizarro world of the United Nations Human Rights Council, William Schabas is the quintessential candidate to lead an investigation into the
Israel-Hamas war. The University of Toronto- and University of Montreal-
educated academic has a history of bashing Israel (for a handy sampling of his more egregious statements, see page 50) that falls very much in line with the Human Rights Council’s obsession with vilifying the Jewish state. You don’t need to wait until March of next year, when the Schabas report is slated for release, to pronounce it a prejudiced farce. The document has effectively been written before the commission of inquiry even gets underway.
In this week’s The CJN, reporter Paul Lungen speaks to Prof. Schabas and asks the officer of the Order of Canada the hard questions on all of our minds: why did he agree to head the UNHRC commission? And does his history of controversial declarations regarding Israel render him unfit to lead this investigation?
Regretfully, Schabas’ answers are wholly lacking.
Asked why he accepted the UNHRC mandate, Schabas replies: “I’m a big supporter of the United Nations, and I feel the duty to do such a thing when one is asked unless there’s a very strong reason not to.” Except there are any number of good reasons why he should not have agreed to participate. The UNHRC’s preoccupation with Israel is patently discriminatory – not to mention that the council counts among its members known human rights violators and maintains a cynical silence when it comes to other nations accused of human rights crimes. If that’s not reason enough to reject the UNHRC, what is?
As for the specific mandate of the commission, Schabas has this to say: “The mandate does not condemn anybody. The mandate just asks the commission to inquire into violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, committed on the territory of the Palestinian occupied territory, and Gaza in particular, in relation to the Israeli military operation, which began in the middle of June 2014.” But if the mandate does not condemn one side unfairly, why set Israel’s operations in Gaza as the starting point for inquiry, and not the vile tactics of Hamas?
Asked about his perceived personal bias when it comes to Israel, Schabas answers with his own question: “Do you have to be a supporter of the current government of Israel to be a friend of Israel, or can you take another view about what the government of Israel should do?” Sure, it’s true there are many supporters of Israel – within and without the country – who do not agree with the present government. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But when you have been contracted to judge the current government of Israel, impartiality should be a requirement.
The fact that it’s not is really all you need to know about the UN Human Rights Council and William Schabas.
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CJN columnist Shira Herzog passed away over the weekend. Herzog was an insightful writer and a champion of Israel. Her voice will be sorely missed in these pages, and we wish her family comfort during this difficult time. — YONI