+972 speaks with Mary McGowan Davis and Doudou Diène, authors of the UNHRC report on potential war crimes in Gaza. The pair discuss possible consequences of the report, and why their investigation gave them hope.
By Dahlia Scheindlin and Natasha Roth
The main reaction in Israel to the findings of the United Nation’s commission of inquiry into last summer’s Gaza war was rejection. That response tops a process so fraught with politics, that it seemed unlikely the commission would be able to say anything meaningful at all.
Israel views the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the body that commissioned the report, as hopelessly politicized. Indeed, the charge that it is “obsessed” with Israel carries some weight when considering that resolutions about Israel-Palestine constitute almost half of the UNHRC’s country-specific resolutions.
The Human Rights Council does have other commissions of inquiry investigating North Korea, Syria, Eritrea and Sri Lanka. But with countries such as Congo, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia sitting in judgment of Israel’s human rights record, it is plausible that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is sometimes exploited to distract from egregious violations elsewhere. The latest UNHRC-commissioned post-mortem only compounded Israel’s lingering rage against the eponymous Goldstone report, anger so forceful that even its author later expressed qualifications.
Notwithstanding Israel’s knee-jerk defensiveness against any criticism, the UNHRC has in fact lost legitimacy in the eyes of many of the states whose behavior it wishes to change. That raises questions about how functional such a body can really be. In the current case, the Council faced tangible constraints: The original head of the commission of inquiry into Operation Protective Edge, William Schabas, recused himself during the process after relentless Israeli pressure and accusations of bias. He left on the technicality that he had not disclosed a past consulting job with the PLO.
What could the remaining authors, the American judge Mary McGowan Davis and Doudou Diène of Senegal do when starting with such a zero-sum, short-fuse keg of dynamite?
The answer is, quite a lot. Speaking by phone to +972 Magazine from Geneva, the authors of the report admitted that they felt the boot of the political delegitimization of the HRC; Israel not only refused to participate in the inquiry process, it did not even permit the commission members to physically enter Israel or the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s decision was a matter of political principle for Israel, says Diène.
“One could feel that...Read More