On August 11, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights appointed the members to the latest Human Rights Council “investigation” of Israel. Predictably, one of the appointees, law professor William Schabas, is well-known for his association with many anti-Israel NGO initiatives.
Given the history of special animus towards Israel by the Human Rights Council, a body dominated by dictators and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, it is no surprise that it would appoint such a partisan figure to render judgment on Israel’s operations against Hamas rocket fire and terror tunnels. But there is another agenda at play in the Schabas appointment beyond yet more absurd condemnations of the Jewish state by Iran, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea.
One of the key components in the political war against Israel is “lawfare” or the exploitation of legal frameworks to achieve objectives that cannot be accomplished militarily. The goal is to delegitimize (and ultimately end) Israel’s existence as a Jewish state and to punish the country for its anti-terror operations.
The lawfare strategy was developed at the NGO Forum of the 2001 UN Durban Conference, which branded Israel a “racist, apartheid state” guilty of “genocide” and “war crimes” and called for “the establishment of a war crimes tribunal” and other measures.
Lawfare involves making accusations of “war crimes” and other international legal violations in the hopes that these allegations can then be turned into some form of legal “judgment” which can be used to imprison Israeli officials and implement BDS. Almost always, these violations are based upon invented or distorted concepts in international law. Another key component is to erase Palestinian terror attacks on Israeli civilians and to immorally support suicide bombings, missiles, shootings and other atrocities as “resistance.”
Shortly after the Durban Conference, NGOs operationalized their strategy by issuing “war crimes” reports that are then used to push for UN investigations, serve as the basis for universal jurisdiction lawsuits, underpin governmental lobbying campaigns for BDS, and promote cases at the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.
And so enters William Schabas. Schabas has been an outspoken lawfare advocate for many years. In a September 2009 interview discussing the Goldstone Report and the effort to have Israeli indicted at the ICC, for instance, Schabas tellingly admits: “When we look at all the crimes committed in Gaza during the conflict... they are probably not, on a Richter scale of atrocity, at the top.
And there are many places in the world where worse crimes have been committed.
Sri Lanka, for example, in March or April of 2009 was much more serious in terms of the atrocities and loss of life that was committed... I think the reason why many people in the world are so upset...
is not because of the bombardment of facilities in Gaza... but because of our unhappiness about the general political situation there... And so, we mix our dissatisfaction with the situation of the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank.”
In other words, the lawfare strategy is not about adjudicating actual crimes allegedly committed on the battlefield, but rather exploiting legal frameworks to affect political goals unrelated to the specific crimes at issue.
Similarly, Schabas penned the forward to a 2012 book, Is There a Court for Gaza.
In the piece, he calls the ICJ and the ICC tools to “nourish” Palestinian “advocacy strategies.” He also opines that the “core of the Goldstone Report dealt with the planned destruction of the entire infrastructure of a community, aimed at punishing Palestinians in Gaza for their support of Hamas” and that “it was a strategy that had already been used [by Israel] in Lebanon in 2006.”
Notably, one of the book’s co-authors worked for the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, the primary organization behind universal jurisdiction lawsuits harassing Israelis, and represented the NGO at a closed meeting at the ICC to lobby for prosecution of Israel.
Schabas was also part of the farcical, neo-Marxist “Russell Tribunal,” a kangaroo court organized by the extreme BDS movement to put Israel and its allies “on trial.” During his presentation, he proclaimed that Netanyahu would be his favorite candidate for the ICC dock. He also suggested that “genocide” could be applied to the Palestinian situation and repeated that Israel’s operations against Palestinian rocket attacks and terrorism was simply to teach Palestinians “lesson” for supporting Hamas.
Given this record, it is no surprise Schabas was selected by 65 fringe BDS and lawfare NGOs including Al Haq, Badil, ICAHD, EAFORD, and many Islamic organizations, as the most “capable candidate” to replace Richard Falk as the HRC’s resident Israel-basher.
Now, under the pretext of a UN-sponsored “war crimes” investigation, Schabas has a highly visible platform to advance his political agenda. He gets to draft a report that will without a doubt conclude that Israel is guilty. He will get to work closely with NGO partners like HRW, Amnesty, PCHR, Al Haq, and other lawfare groups in a non-transparent, unaccountable process. He will be able to recommend that the ICC and ICJ take up his cause, that more universal jurisdiction cases be brought, and that European countries should immediately enact BDS policies.
Schabas is therefore the perfect choice for the HRC mission. He has expressed no hesitation in exploiting international mechanisms to achieve political goals. He has already declared Israel guilty of “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity.”
He has no problem participating in the most fringe anti-Israel initiatives. He erases the context of Palestinian terrorism.
Such characteristics define the very essence of the HRC and its NGO lawfare partners.
Is there any wonder then that Israel refuses to be part of this circus?
The author is the Legal Advisor of NGO Monitor and the author of ‘NGO ‘Lawfare’: Exploitation of Courts in the Arab-Israeli Conflict.’