Now that the 2014 Gaza War is settling into a series of broken ceasefires, increasingly political inflexibility, tit-for-tat retaliations by both sides and a settling-in for a long-haul war of attrition, the attention of those who would see the ultimate de-legitimisation of the Jewish State has turned to pursuing Israel in the international courts of law.
This group of so-called liberals and ideologues of the left maintain that, in Gaza 2014, Israel may be proven to be guilty of war crimes not excluding the crime of genocide.
Cloaking a malevolent and destructive anti-semitic narrative with the mantle of “international law” are international lawyers like William Schabas.
Schabas belongs to that small but vociferous group who espouse what Jonathan Kay calls “…the casual anti-Israel bias that permeates the left-wing NGO and academic circles in which [Schabas] circulates.” William Schabas is not a raving anti-Israel advocate on the order of the arguably delusional Richard Falk, or the attention-seeking Jew-hatred of a George Galloway.
Schabas’ Israel animus is altogether much more refined, nuanced, balanced. The son of a prominent Canadian Jewish musician, Schabas offers as his street creds that he has eaten at Jewish delis [sic], has been to a synagogue several times with his father, that he actively opposes an economic boycott of the Jewish state and that he sits on the board of The Israel Law Review.
Be that as it may, Hillel Neuer, an international lawyer and executive director of UN Watch, accredited to the United Nations as a non-governmental organization mandated to monitor the world’s body’s adherence to the UN Charter, has called for Schabas to recuse himself under international law “…because his repeated calls to indict Israeli leaders obviously gives rise to actual bias or the appearance thereof.”
Neuer calls for Schabas to be legally disqualified because of recorded prior statements expressing his wish to see Prime Minister Netanyahu and former President Shimon Peres indicted before the International Criminal Court. As Neuer sees it, Schabas cannot “…spend several years calling for the prosecution of someone, and then suddenly act as his judge. It’s absurd — and a violation of the minimal rules of due process applicable to UN fact-finding missions.”
In addition, Schabas will find it difficult to prove absence of bias in light of his 2009 interview after Operation Cast Lead where he stated that he believed “…that pretending the prosecution of Sudan [at the International Criminal Court (ICC)] is not political is a mistake, too. Of course it is political. Why are we going after the president of Sudan for Darfur and not the president of Israel for Gaza? Because of politics.”
Further, in a 2009 blog post about the UN’s infamous Durban II conference on racism, Schabas urged the world not only to “ignore” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statements, but to stop “exaggerating” them. According to Schabas, those who “deserve the blame” are “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.”
In 2010, in a panel discussing “lawfare” at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Schabas told a packed audience hall, “Frankly, if I had to think of an individual who would be the greatest threat for the survival of Israel, I’d probably choose Netanyahu.”
In 2011, Schabas went to Iran to co-sponsor conferences with the Tehran-based “Center for Human Rights and Cultural Diversity,” despite its intimate ties with the fundamentalist regime, and avowed propaganda agenda. The center’s director, Kamran Hashemi, a former political officer with Iran’s foreign ministry, wrote his Ph.D under Schabas at the Irish Center for Human Rights.
Schabas continues to be incapable of framing himself as an unbiased arbiter with his 2013 recorded statement that he believed that it would be eminently possible to prosecute Israel over its actions in Gaza, even if that involved, in Schabas’ video speech, “twisting things and maneuvering” in the international legal arena.
At the 2013 Russell Tribunal hearings, Schabas made the extraordinary statement, in talking about culpability for Cast Lead 2008-09 and about potential ICC defendants, by saying, “My favorite would be Netanyahu in the dock of the International Criminal Court.” Of course, the reader is aware that it was Ehud Olmert who was Prime Minister at the time, while Netanyahu was in opposition.
Asked about the possibility of prosecuting Israel for “ecocide,” Schabas expressed optimism on gradually enlarging the scope of legal accusations against Israel.
In light of the above, one wonders what other ‘impartial’ legal accusations Schabas would like to indict Israel for in the ICC.
Schabas believed that by appearing ‘reasonable’, he could evade scrutiny about his anti-Israel bias. Unfortunately, he has left a clear trail of his intentions and preferences.
The very resolution creating the inquiry which Schabas is slated to head and which is sponsored by the Arab and Islamic states was “born in bias,” in that it condemns Israel 18 times without mentioning Hamas even once.
Schabas will not like that the EU refused to support the resolution, saying it was “unbalanced, inaccurate, and… fails to condemn explicitly the indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israeli civilian areas as well as to recognize Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself.” Even US President Barack Obama’s representative to the UNHRC described the inquiry as “yet another one-sided mechanism targeting Israel.”
In his latest [as of this writing] doozy, Schabas refused to say if his commission of inquiry would examine crimes by Hamas. His excuse was that he would need to check with “the other commissioners”. (Actually, there’s only one other commissioner, Doudou Diene; the third one, Clooney fiancee Amal Alamuddin, pulled out on the same day the UN announced her appointment.)
Further, Schabas refuses to call Hamas a terrorist group, even though it is legally defined as such by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, Jordan, Egypt, Australia, Japan and Israel.
When, in 2004, Schabas was invited to lecture at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, Jerry Fowler, the founding director of the museum’s Committee on Conscience, introduced him as “the world expert on the law of genocide and international law.”
“He wrote the book on it,” said Fowler in his introduction. “He has thought very deeply about the historical underpinnings of genocide in international law.”
Fowler may well be right. However, that is no guarantee that William Schabas does not have a pre-determined agenda.
From the brief overview outlined above, Israel should not accept his candidacy even if he asserts that he intends to “…park his prejudices at the door…”
Israel should not co-operate with William Schabas or his commission of inquiry.