Excerpts from the opening statement of Avrom Krengel, chairman of the SAZF, delivered in a meeting Monday between the federation and Judge Richard Goldstone.
Sixty-five years after the liberation of Auschwitz and 62 years since Israel’s independence, Jews throughout the world live lives of unprecedented freedom, dignity and security, attributable to the existence of the State of Israel; but it is only its citizens that make the ultimate sacrifice to ensure its continued existence.
In my capacity as chairman of the SAZF, I address you today to express our deep disappointment and dissatisfaction with your involvement, as a South African Jew, in leading the UN fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict.
The UN Human Rights Council is notorious for its bias against Israel. Since its creation in 2006, the UNHRC has devoted 27 of its 33 censures to resolutions criticizing Israel but not one against Sri Lanka after it killed an estimated 20,000 civilians, or against Sudan for the Darfur atrocities.
The enabling resolution of the UNHRC, upon which your mission was established, stated that the designated purpose of your mission was “to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying power, Israel, against the Palestinian people throughout the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, due to the current aggression.”
Your mission of enquiry into the Gaza conflict, where approximately 1,000 civilians were killed, is unprecedented. Never before has the UNHRC, nor any other organ of the United Nations, conducted an investigation of human rights violations into conflicts which do not involve massacres, genocide or crimes against humanity.
Certain aspects of the contents of the report are highly prejudicial to Israel, while being extremely favorable toward Hamas. The report never misses an opportunity to mention that Israel refused to cooperate with the mission. The underlying message is clear: Israel is to blame for any harsh findings.
THE APPROACH to Hamas, however, is entirely different. You state that during your visits to the Gaza Strip, the mission met with senior members of the Gaza authorities who cooperated fully . Clearly you wish the reader to believe that Hamas cooperated fully, and therefore no adverse findings against it can be made.
Later on in your report, however, a different picture emerges. You state that the Gaza authorities said they had nothing to do with the Al-Kassam brigades or other armed groups, and also had “no information on the activities of the Palestinian armed groups, or about the storage of weapons in mosques and buildings.”
The report also noted that those interviewed in Gaza appeared reluctant to speak about the presence or conduct of hostilities by the Palestinian armed groups.
In other words, based on the mission’s own version, absolutely no one in Gaza cooperated in describing the way Hamas and others conducted their armed operations. You state that if the Gaza authorities failed to prevent Palestinian armed groups from endangering the civilian population, they would bear responsibility for the damage done.
What you omitted, as you have done whenever describing Israeli atrocities, was that the refusal of the Gaza authorities to cooperate with the mission forces it to conclude that Hamas did
bear responsibility for the damage done to Gazan civilians.
Your report provided a complete context for the reasons for the conflict in Gaza. Over 100 pages detail every actual and alleged human-rights violation Israel has committed in what you term “the occupied Palestinian territories” since 1967, designed no doubt to allow readers to understand why Hamas and the “other Palestinian armed groups” resorted to rocket fire into southern Israel and the capture of Gilad Schalit.
In respect of Israel, however, no such contextualization of its actions is provided. Nowhere do you feel it is of value “for contextual purposes” to mention that Hamas’s founding charter calls for the destruction of the State of Israel, or that the reason for Israel’s and Egypt’s blockade of Gaza, and the US and EU sanctions imposed on Hamas is a direct result of Hamas’s refusal to abandon its primary aim of destroying Israel. You fail to mention that Hamas is an implacable enemy of any two-state solution, that at the height of the Oslo Peace Accords, Hamas waged a merciless terror campaign against Israel, resulting in 150 Israeli civilian deaths, and killed over 500 Israeli civilians in suicide bombings between 2000 and 2009.
You also fail to disclose that Hamas is armed, supported and supplied by Iran, a country whose president has frequently stated a desire to destroy the State of Israel, and which is suspected of developing nuclear weapons perhaps for this very purpose.
IT NOW appears that the world has two sets of international law; one to be applied to Israel, the other to everyone else. Only Israeli soldiers, generals and politicians will face the prospect of war-crimes trials at The Hague, while those of Russia, United States, NATO and Sri Lanka – collectively responsible for the death of over 320,000 civilians during the past 15 years of armed conflicts – will continue to act with impunity and immunity.
This situation is not international justice but simply a travesty of justice, a reintroduction of discriminatory laws and practices against the Jewish people.
As a fellow Jew, we admonish you for spending 14 days in the Gaza
Strip, listening to the testimony of hundreds of Gazan residents while
failing to reach out to Gilad Schalit who has languished for four years
in a hellhole.
We think it would have been only appropriate to demand the
unconditional release of Schalit or failing that, at least to visit him
and hear his story of suffering and isolation.
As a member of the Jewish community, we ask you to understand our pain
and anger at what you have done, and to work with us in ensuring that
Israel is not treated differently than any other nation.
The writer is chairman of the South African Zionist Federation.