Schabas: There is a distortion in the attention given against Israel in the UNHRC

Former UNHRC committee chair William Schabas admits that Israel has disproportionately received more human rights condemnations than all other nations combined.

William Schabas  (photo credit: screenshot)
William Schabas
(photo credit: screenshot)
William Schabas, the former head of the UN Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry into the 2014 Gaza war, has admitted that “there is a distortion in the amount of attention given against Israel, and the number of resolutions directed against Israel.”
The remarks, made in an interview with the BBC, were broadcast on Tuesday, but was not widely reported on inter - nationally until Thursday.
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The admission came in response to a question asking why Israel has received more human rights condemnations than all other countries combined – including Syria and North Korea – to which he acknowledged that the UN body was “distorted” against Israel.
Schabas then tried to back-track on the admission, saying that the large number of resolutions may be a result of Israel getting a “soft ride” in Security Council hearings. Schabas added that there are lots of double-standards at the UN.
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His statement regarding the “distorted” attention paid to Israel did not go as far as Richard Goldstone’s disassociation from the eponymous UN Goldstone Report concerning the 2008-9 Gaza war, but was an unusual condemnation of the UN group that gave birth to the Commission of Inquiry into the 2014 Gaza war.
Addressing the UNHRC report on that war published in June, Schabas rejected a question saying that the report could not be credible given that the commission was neither allowed to enter Israel nor Gaza and had no access to Israeli officials.
He claimed that former Israeli government lawyers had contacted the commission and that this allowed Israel to present “its side” of the story.
During the interview, Schabas admitted that the commission’s analysis was “not concerned” with contrasting Hamas’ general approach of firing at civilians with the IDF’s practice of minimizing civilian damage and casual - ties, saying those were political issues and that all that mattered was whether war crimes were committed when civilians were killed.
At one point in the interview, Schabas slammed the IDF’s Hannibal Protocol, claiming that the directive allows causing “damage at all costs” and that it is “an exception to the principle of proportionality.”
However, Israel has repeatedly said that the directive, which does involve aggressive use of firepower and was used on August 1, 2014, to try to stop Hamas from kidnapping Lt. Hadar Goldin, does not allow firing at all costs and is still limited by the law of proportionality.
Although most of Schabas’s statements were made in support of the UNHRC’s decision to suggest Israel may have committed war crimes during the 2014 conflict, he did criticize Hamas’s actions, stating “I’ve always said that rocket attacks against Israel would lead to persecution in the criminal court.”
Schabas stepped down from his post in February as head of a UN Human Rights Council inquiry into the 2014 war, after it was revealed that he had accepted more than $1,000 for writing a legal opinion for the PLO in 2012, which cast doubt on his impartiality to head the commission.
Schabas had also come under fire for comments made in 2012 against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When asked which Western leader should be placed before the International Criminal Court he replied, “My favorite would be Netanyahu in the dock.”
In the BBC interview, he was still unapologetic for having joined the commission and for having not mentioned his work for the PLO to the UNHRC.
Addressing the doubts cast over his impartiality and the comments against Netanyahu, Schabas responded, “I’ve spent my career not just attacking Netanyahu, but also several others. That’s what I do. That’s my career.”
Last month’s UNHRC report pointed the finger at both Israelis and Palestinians, saying both groups may have committed war crimes during the 2014 Gaza conflict.
Israel refused to cooperate with the UNHRC probe from the outset. The government compared the investigation to a kangaroo court whose war-crimes conclusions were determined in advance given its mandate.
The government barred investigators from entering Israel or the Palestinians territories, forcing the UNHRC investigatory team to rely on documents, audiovisual evidence and witness interviews conducted either in Jordan or Geneva to piece together its findings.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.