Israel critic William Schabas steps down as head of U.N. Gaza probe

The United Nations flag. Credit: U.N.

( William Schabas, the Canadian academic heading a United Nations Human Rights Council investigation of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza last summer, said Monday that he would step down following the revelation that he did consulting work for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

Schabas was already known for his past criticism of Israel, including a call for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former president Shimon Peres to be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court for human rights violations. Given Schabas’s history, the Israeli government has not participated in the U.N. probe, which is examining Israel’s actions but not those of the Hamas terrorist group during the 50-day war.

In 2012, Schabas was paid $1,300 for a legal opinion he wrote for the PLO. In a letter obtained by Reuters that announced his resignation from the U.N. investigation, Schabas wrote that the work he did for the PLO was not different from advice he gave other governments and organizations, but that he was stepping down so that the issue would not overshadow the U.N. probe. 

“My views on Israel and Palestine as well as on many other issues were well known and very public,” Schabas wrote. “This work in defense of human rights appears to have made me a huge target for malicious attacks.”

The report compiled by Schabas’s committee is due to be published in March. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that after Schabas’s resignation, the report “needs to be shelved.”

“It is Hamas, the other terrorist organizations and the terrorist regimes around us that need to be investigated, not Israel, which this past summer acted in accordance with international law as it defended itself against the Hamas war criminals who used residents of Gaza as human shields to fire at Israeli citizens,” Netanyahu said.

Posted on February 3, 2015 .