By DAN IZENBERG
Swedish-born Ambassador Hans Corell, who served for 10 years as the UN Undersecretary for Legal Affairs and Legal Counsel to the UN, personifies one of the major problems Israel faces in trying to improve its image in the West.
Corell is a secular liberal who regards himself above all as a member of the international community and who genuinely believes that the world must be governed by the rule of law if it wishes to cope with the problems it will face in the future.
He also regards himself as someone who started off with an enormous amount of sympathy for Israel but now questions many of its policies and actions.
In today's circumstances, some, if not many, Israelis and Diaspora Jews might call Corell an anti-Semite, worse still, a bleeding-heart anti-Semite, for his criticism of Israel, especially when his comments are coupled with protestations of friendship for the country.
It is highly unlikely that such allegations would be true, though no one can know what lies in the heart of any man. What seems more likely is that Corell represents a new type of European, one who has gone beyond the limits of nationalism and is trying to find a new world order based on the rule of law that all nations must abide by.
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He is a man of a certain vision who wants to implement it as much as possible as quickly as possible, even though the world continues to be a rough place. If not an anti-Semite, many Israelis might call him dangerously naÃ¯ve.
Corell was in Israel earlier this week to participate in a colloquium on the subject of Israel and human rights, sponsored by Mishkenot Sha'ananim and The Inernational Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life at Brandeis University. In an exclusive interview, he told The Jerusalem Post that he fully endorsed the report submitted by the UN commission headed by Richard Goldstone and was insistent that its recommendation, regarding the investigation of suspected war crimes on both the Israeli and Palestinian side, be implemented.
Although he chose his words very carefully, not to mention diplomatically, he made it clear that the findings of the report should be investigated by the International Criminal Court.
Corell preceded his comments on Israel's actions during Operation Cast Lead with a personal "confession."
"I was brought up in Sweden in the late 1940s and early 1950s with the idea that Israel should be supported 100 percent because of history and because of what happened in Europe, and we should be ashamed of what happened in Europe," he said.
But he also hinted that the Israel which elicited his sympathy may no longer exist. "When I see that Israel, in the modern day, is behaving in a different manner, I am greatly disturbed," he said. "And then, when I saw what happened through the news, I was concerned that maybe Israel had transgressed the borderline of proportionality. So, my suggestion already then was why not ask an international prosecutor to look at the situation in the Middle East. The Security Council had done that in the Sudan. And here you have a situation in the Middle East which is very, very sensitiveâ€¦ if something goes wrong, it could have devastating effects on international peace and security."
What he was implying was that the Security Council should refer the Goldstone Report findings to the International Criminal Court. Later in the interview, he said so outright. "Well, I said to myself, if the ICC can be asked to address the situation in the Sudan, then why not also in the Middle East," he told the Post.
Many Israelis believe that Goldstone was just paying lip service to the need for even-handedness when he included a short chapter on the terrorists in Gaza who have fired more than 8,000 rockets at the civilian population in southern Israel.
For his part, Corell also condemns Hamas. "When I look at Gaza," he said, "my first observation is the acts of Hamas and I'm very concerned that some of my Israeli friends don't seem to hear what I say about that because this is a clear act of terrorism. You are shooting rockets from one territory to another for the purpose of killing or maiming or threatening the civilian population. That is simply not done. It is a clear criminal act."
Corell said there was no doubt in his mind that the Goldstone Report was fair and objective. "One may have different views about the report, certainly, but its intentions were honorable. And if you look at the way in which Goldstone has acted in his own country in defending the constitution and being forced to live abroad for his own safety, could you imagine that he would willfully, or for some other intent, express himself in any other way?"
Corell did not directly respond when asked whether he believed, as the Goldstone Report charged, that Israel had deliberately waged war against the Gaza civilian population. But he made it clear that some Israeli military actions raised that question. "If phosphorous was used in umbrella bombing, I would be very concerned," he said, and added, "When I read about certain civilian installations that have been destroyed, this is something that, were I the prosecutor, I would look at."
Corell added that in his view, no permanent member of the Security Council should cast a veto on a proposal brought before it unless it concerned that country's "most innermost interests."
If his advice were taken, which it will not be, the Security Council might resolve to bring the IDF and Hamas actions to the ICC.
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