Netanyahu calls UNHRC flotilla report 'biased, distorted'

Turkish FM Davutoglu praises findings as "fair"; Lieberman instructs Israeli embassies to begin 'hasbara' campaign delegitimizing report.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, ASSOCIATED PRESS
September 23, 2010 17:46
4 minute read.
SPEECH THERAPY. Pundits could not cast Netanyahu a

Netanyahu Headshot 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

The Prime Minister's Office Thursday night attacked a UN report which condemned Israeli actions on the Gaza flotilla last May as "biased" and "distorted."

The office also criticized the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva which issued the report Wednesday, based on the work of a panel of three experts by stating that it has "obsessively" pursued Israel.

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Earlier Thursday, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon harshly criticized the report, calling the findings "a big lie," Israel Radio reported on Thursday.

Ayalon reportedly made the comments while in New York for the yearly meeting of the UN General Assembly.

Ayalon stated that Israel did not cooperate with the UNHRC probe into the flotilla because the conclusions of the investigation were predetermined and that the report establishes the UNHRC as an irrelevant body.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday instructed Israeli embassies around the world to begin a widespread campaign to disprove the UNHRC report.



Also on Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu praised the UNHRC's findings, saying that the conclusions had met Turkey's expectations and were fair.

On Wednesday, three UN-appointed human rights experts announced their findings, stating that Israeli forces violated international law when they raided the flotilla and killed nine activists earlier this year.

The UN Human Rights Council's fact-finding mission concluded that the naval blockade of Gaza was unlawful because of the humanitarian crisis there, and described the military raid on the flotilla as brutal and disproportionate.

After the report was released on Wednesday evening, MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) lauded the findings of the panel.

Zoabi was keen to praise the "professionalism and fairness in [the Human Rights Council's fact finding mission's] efforts to reveal the truth." She also called on Israel to move forward with the findings of the panel and to indict the Israeli citizens responsible for the Mavi Marmara boarding operation.

"We must not settle for declarations of condemnation but we must work to put the criminals to justice, those who ordered and those who carried out the orders," Zoabi said.

She added, "All attempts of character assassination will not make Israel appear innocent."

Zoabi was one of the flotilla participants aboard the Mavi Marmara when it was boarded by IDF naval commandos. The 56-page document lists a series of alleged crimes committed by Israeli forces during and after the raid, including willful killing and torture, and claims there is "clear evidence to support prosecutions."

"A series of violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, were committed by the Israeli forces during the interception of the flotilla and during the detention of passengers in Israel prior to deportation," the experts found.

Examining the circumstances of the raid, the panel concluded that a humanitarian crisis existed in Gaza on the day of the incident and "for this reason alone the blockade is unlawful and cannot be sustained in law."

"The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel toward the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence. It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality," the report said.

Foreign Ministry blasts report as biased

The Foreign Ministry responded late Wednesday by saying the Human Rights Council had a "biased, politicized and extremist approach."

"The Human Rights Council blamed Israel prior to the investigation and it is no surprise that they condemn after," said Andy David, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, referring to the 47-member body's resolution in early June condemning the raid.

Israel refused to cooperate with the panel, preferring instead to work with a separate UN group under New Zealand's former Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and Colombia's former President Alvaro Uribe that is also examining the incident but has yet to publish its findings.

"Israel is a democratic and law abiding country that carefully observes international law and, when need be, knows how to investigate itself," the Foreign Ministry statement said. "That is how Israel has always acted, and that is the way in which investigations were conducted following Operation Cast Lead, launched to protect the inhabitants of southern Israel from rockets and terror attacks carried out by Hamas from Gaza."

Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman said the report emphasized that Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories violates human rights "not only against Palestinian people but against innocent people who came to show their sympathy."

"Now it's required to be a mechanism in order to translate this report into action and to bring the occupation commanders to trial for the crimes they committed," Barhoum said.

The Human Rights Council's report was compiled by former UN war crimes prosecutor Desmond de Silva, Trinidadian judge Karl T. Hudson-Phillips and Malaysian women's rights advocate Mary Shanthi Dairiam. It is scheduled to be presented to the council on Monday.


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