The head of a United Nations panel investigating potential war crimes in the Gaza strip has publicly said he like to see Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prosecuted, prompting international criticism.
William Schabas, a Canadian law professor who specializes in human rights, is currently a teaching at Middlesex University in England, and waved off the criticism.
“The suggestion that I’m anti-Israel is absurd,” Schabas told the Globe and Mail last week. “Like everybody inside and outside Israel, I disagree with people. Is everyone in Israel who has an opinion about Netanyahu anti-Israel?”
The United States is critical of the U.N. Human Rights Commission for assembling the Commission on Inquiry, while the Canadian government renounced the choice of its own citizen to be on the panel. Israel has also criticized the creation of the comission.
Rabbi Shumley Boteach, author, TV and radio host, called it a troubling appointment and said he talked to the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. about it.
“I discussed this with Samantha Powers, who I consider a friend, and she didn’t express an opinion,” Boteach told TheBlaze Monday.
A State Department spokesperson told TheBlaze the United States strongly opposes the panel, but said, “I am not going to comment on the individuals appointed to the commission.”
“We do not believe that such a mechanism contributes to the shared goal and priority of reaching a sustainable and durable ceasefire agreement that ceases hostilities and that all sides can respect,” the State Department spokesperson said Monday. “Moreover, this mechanism risks damaging the reputation of the Human Rights Council and its ability to objectively and constructively address human rights in the region.”
The panel is supposed to probe all potential violations of international human rights laws in the Gaza Strip based on the military operation that has happened since mid-June. The commission is supposed to have finding by March 2015.
“We will watch closely to see if the commission takes a constructive, unbiased, and balanced approach to the investigation,” the spokesperson continued. “However we have serious concerns given the one-sided nature of the resolution that created the COI and the history of the HRC’s stance on Israel.”
Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird last week was not happy with the selection of his fellow countryman.
“U.N. Human Rights Council continues to be a sham for advancing human rights; today’s (announcement) for members of its Gaza inquiry reveals its agenda,” Baird tweeted last week after the appointment of Schabas. In another tweet shortly after, the foreign minister added, “It’s an utter shame, and will do nothing to promote peace and dignity in Gaza for the Palestinian people.”
When delivering remarks at about Western leaders he wanted to see that should be placed before the International Criminal Court, Schabas had said, “My favorite would be Netanyahu in the dock.”
Asked in a separate interview last week with Channel 2 in Israel, “Do you consider Hamas a terrorist organization?” Schabas replied, “It would be inappropriate for me to answer a question like that,” Schabas said, adding that it was important to “study this question in as neutral and objective a manner as possible.” He added, “There’s a very real possibility now of the International Criminal Court being involved or being engaged in this.”
Boteach’s organization This World: The Values Network, bought a full page ad over the weekend in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the New York Times and New York Observer condemning the appointment of Schabas to run the inquiry.
“This is such an awful appointment – not just for Israel, but for anyone who cares about human rights,” Boteach told TheBlaze. “Mr. Schabas has been a crony and a shill for former Iranian president Ahmadinejad who used to stone women and hang gays. He should be ashamed and embarrassed. If he wants to do something for human rights, he should apologize to Iranian citizens.
In a 2009 blog post Schabas wrote, the threat of Iran is exaggerated by Israel.
“Israel and its friends, who have manipulated the truth about the nature of the work of the United Nations by gross exaggeration of the role and intervention of certain fanatics,” he said, and added, “provocative politicians like Mohamed [sic] Ahmadinejad, who in desperation make absurd statements that probably deserve to be ignored rather than exaggerated.”
Boteach said the U.N. should be investigating the use of human shields by Hamas, terror tactics by the Sunni militant group the Islamic State,
“The U.N. has a long history of profound anti-Israel bias,” Boteach said.
But he added, it’s not just about the Israel.
“The Palestinian people deserve better than Hamas,” Boteach said. “The Palestinians are my brothers and sisters. God created all of us. Israel is one tiny civilized society trying to defend itself.”
Follow Fred Lucas (@FredVLucas3) on Twitter