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Israeli Backlash Follows UN Appointment of Gaza War Crimes Commission

Israeli officials slam 'kangaroo court' looking into possible violations of international law during assault on Gaza

"Destroyed house in Gaza" (Photo:  Oxfam International)

The United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday announced the appointment of experts to carry out an independent commission charged with investigating possible war crimes during the month-long assault on Gaza that has killed nearly 2,000 Palestinians and 67 Israelis.

On July 23 the Council adopted a resolution to launch the inquiry into possible violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws during the assault. The United States issued the sole vote against setting up the inquiry.

The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office was quick to criticize the resolution, saying in July that the inquiry would be carried out by "a kangaroo court" and whose "predictable result will be the libeling of Israel."

The announcement Monday prompted backlash from Israeli officials who said that Canadian law professor William Schabas, who will head the three-member panel, holds an anti-Israel bias.

“The report has already been written and the only question is who signs it,” the Jerusalem Post reports the Israeli Foreign Ministry as saying.

Foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told Agence France-Presse Tuesday, "For this commission the important thing is not human rights but the rights of terrorist organizations like Hamas."

Schabas shot back, telling public radio, "I've frequently lectured in Israel, at universities in Israel, I'm a member of the editorial board of the Israel law review, I wouldn't do those things if I was anti-Israel."

"As far as I'm concerned [the conclusions of the report] are not written at all, that's the whole point of an investigation," he continued. In an interview with the Canadian Press, Schabas added, "Like everybody inside and outside Israel, I disagree with people. Is everyone in Israel who has an opinion about Netanyahu anti-Israel?"

Joining Schabas on the Commission is Senegalese lawyer Doudou Diène, a former UN Special Rapporteur on racism. Though the Council indicated Monday that the third member of the Commission would be British-Lebanese lawyer Amal Alamuddin, she issued a statement Monday that though she "strongly believe[s] that there should be an independent investigation and accountability for crimes that have been committed,” previous commitments prevent her from taking on this role.

In addition to the thousands of Palestinian casualties, most of whom were civilians, over 10,000 housing units were also destroyed, creating what the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) described as a "man-made homelessness crisis." Efforts to rebuild while Gaza remains under an Israel-imposed blockade are near impossible, the agency states.

"The last seven years have shown that reconstruction under blockade is unsustainable. Rebuilding Gaza will be next to impossible if the blockade is not lifted. The blockade must end," UNRWA stated.

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