(February 14, 2022 / JNS) Immediately after “Operation Guardian of the Walls,” which began after Hamas in the Gaza Strip started firing barrages of rockets at Jerusalem and its civilian population last May, the U.N. Human Rights Commission, reacting to Israel’s retaliation against Hamas, set up a special permanent inquiry to investigate “all alleged violations and abuses of international human-rights law leading up and since 13 April 2021.”
The commission—titled “The United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel,” and which has been denounced for its open-ended and sole focus on Israel—is headed by South African Judge Navi Pillay who openly supports the BDS movement and has spoken out against Israel many times in the past.
According to the commission’s mandate, its investigation will focus not only on the military operation but also on “the roots of the conflict, including racial, religious and national discrimination.” This predetermined outcome reinforces the assertion that the commission has already decided Israel is guilty and will produce an extremely biased report to fit its anti-Israel and anti-Semitic narrative.
But a new initiative has been launched to fight this bias.
The Citizens’ Letter, a civil initiative, is being sent to the United Nations with the goal of making the voices heard of hundreds of thousands of Israelis who experienced firsthand the rocket terror that targeted civilian populations with the intent to maim, injure, terrorize and kill as many people as possible—a war crime and blatant violation of international law.
The letter, which was launched on Feb. 13 and has already garnered hundreds of signatures, was drafted in conjunction with lawyer Yifa Segal, an expert in international law.
“We are not concerned about the search for truth,” she told JNS. “We wish that was what the U.N. and its bodies were really about.”
Instead, she said that she is “concerned by politicization and pre-written conclusions, which is unfortunately what experience proves. An honest examination of international law would necessarily lead every objective inquirer to a clear and simple conclusion—a terrorist organization that deliberately targets civilians while using its own as human shields is the worst kind of criminal.”
Segal questioned the commission’s approach, noting that the political demands and background for the dispute “are clearly irrelevant questions unless one is searching for a political determination disguised as a legal one.”
Segal said the letter calls on the U.N. Commission of Inquiry and all world leaders “to recognize the war crimes that Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in Gaza have committed and continue to commit” against Israel’s citizens.
Any Israeli citizen over the age of 16 who was in Israel during “Operation Guardian of the Walls” can now sign the letter on the official website (www.TheCitizensLetter-English.com). The final letter will be submitted with the signatures to the U.N. Commission of Inquiry in order to prevent the commission from ignoring the voices of Israeli citizens.
‘Woke up late to the challenge’
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations called the move “discriminatory,” as the commission does not mention the actions of the Hamas terrorist organization, which intentionally shot more than 4,000 rockets at Israeli population centers in May 2021, and the commission has never opened an open-ended inquiry on any other nation in its history.
“We vehemently oppose this one-sided farce of a probe, which again demonstrates the clear anti-Israel bias in the U.N. body,” the Conference wrote in a press release.
The commission is vastly problematic for a number of reasons.
According to Avi Bell, a professor at the University of San Diego School of Law and at Bar-Ilan University’s Faculty of Law, the commission “differs from the many U.N. institutions and employees that fabricate and publish anti-Israel propaganda in two main respects. First, it is the biggest full-time anti-Israel body ever created by the United Nations. It is chartered forever and has a vast budget and 18 employees. Second, it is explicit about its witch-hunting aims: It says that it aims to have Israeli Jews tried and punished for phantom crimes that the commission intends to invent.”
Bell told JNS the commission is “a serious threat in the continuing lawfare against the Jewish state. It is customizing its propaganda to criminalize Israeli Jews in legal proceedings. It will produce ‘official documents’ that will substitute for evidence in ‘proving’ false charges against Israeli Jews.”
In January, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid warned that the commission could conclude that Israel is an “apartheid” regime as part of the U.N.’s ongoing efforts to discredit Israel in official international forums and documents. But it remains unclear if the foreign minister or the ministry took steps beyond that statement or whether it clarified it would not engage the biased commission.
Bell slammed the foreign ministry, saying it “woke up late to the challenge.”
He noted that the commission was approved by the Human Rights Council nearly a year ago. Its enormous budget was approved on Dec. 23 by the U.N. General Assembly with the support of 125 member nations, while the United States, Israel and six other nations voted against it, and 34, including some traditional allies of Israel, abstained from the vote.
“While the ministry failed to take any effective steps to derail the commission, a number of pro-Israel organizations have foolishly decided to organize formal submissions of information to the commission, thereby granting the commission legitimacy it does not deserve,” he lamented. “Shockingly, instead of discouraging such destructive submissions, the foreign ministry is inexplicably cooperating with those organizations.”
Bell also excoriated the commission’s members, all of whom he said had been “selected for their bias against the Jewish state and against Jews.”
Furthermore, Bell pointed out that “the commission’s procedures for producing their propaganda are carefully hidden from public view to ensure complete partiality. It is therefore obvious to all that the reports will contain specific false allegations against Israeli Jews tailored for criminal charges, alongside a smattering of pro-forma acknowledgements of Palestinian wrongdoing that are not specific enough to lead to criminal charges.”
Bell emphasized that the commission has already decided the outcome, and it would be “delusional” to believe that Israel can influence its members, the contents of their reports or their decisions.
“The commission has safely insulated itself and its reports from the influence of Israel and all other reasonable and responsible actors on the world stage,” he said. “The only viable strategy is to work to deprive the commission of allies and funds, beginning with terminating all cooperation with the commission.”
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