UNHRC probe of Israel incorrect approach to peace

Last Wednesday, May 27, the United Nations’ Human Rights Council launched a war crimes investigation into recent hostilities between Israel and Hamas. The probe is unprecedented by the UN body because it will be ongoing and may review decades of conflict between Israel and Arabs. The UN panel is charged with scrutinizing “all underlying root causes of recurrent tensions, instability and protraction of conflict, including systematic discrimination and repression based on national, ethnic or religious identity.”

The UN body’s most recent probe of Israel was proposed by Pakistan’s Ambassador Khalil Hashmi on behalf of the Organization of Islamic States. The New York Times reported that Hashmi said the investigation “was needed to hold Israel accountable for what he called decades of human rights violations in the Israel-occupied Palestinian territories.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu correctly denounced the investigation as “shameful.” He said the unlimited investigation of Israel’s conflict with Hamas and Palestinians “is yet another example of the UN Human Rights Council’s blatant anti-Israel obsession. Once again, an immoral automatic majority at the Council whitewashed a genocidal terrorist organization that deliberately targets Israeli civilians while turning Gaza’s civilians into human shields. This while depicting as the ‘guilty party’ a democracy acting legitimately to protect its citizens from thousands of indiscriminate rocket attacks. This travesty makes a mockery of international law and encourages terrorism worldwide.”

There are 47 members of the UN’s Human Rights Council. Member nations that supported the resolution included Pakistan, China, Russia and Venezuela.

Simply put, such an investigation is inherently flawed. The notion of sifting through decades of Israel’s complicated relations with Palestinians and Arabs may be appropriate for a university seminar. It is not amenable to a fair judicial process, particularly given that Israel has not consented to the UN commission’s jurisdiction.

Russia, China, Pakistan and Venezuela are rogue nations. One need only listen to a cable television news program or read a daily newspaper to learn of their ongoing abuses of human rights. The idea of such nations somehow legitimizing an inquiry into Israel’s efforts to defend its citizens is risible. Vladimir Putin, Russia’s autocrat, has imprisoned his chief critics and keeps a tight rein on Russia’s media. China’s record of abusing its own citizens is one of the few issues upon which Republicans and Democrats agree. Pakistan is a nation that is so riddled with lawlessness that it was the site of the unspeakable murder of Daniel Pearl. Venezuela’s operative leader Nicolas Maduro’s authority is so fractured that, at present, the United States does not have diplomatic relations with that country.

A statement released by the UN council on its website stated, “People in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank needed their leaders to make courageous steps toward peace.” Simply put, an investigation sponsored by Pakistan, a state that is dedicated to destruction of the State of Israel, will not lead to meaningful dialogue to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Though the Human Rights Council’s efforts are a bad idea, Tzipi Livni, Israel’s former vice prime minister and minister for foreign affairs, has called for revival of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. It is never a bad time to consider a practical approach to achieving peace.

Livni wrote, “The past two weeks were a wake-up call. The message is not only that the conflict is unsustainable but also that the very nature of the conflict is turning into a religious one. The religious element has seeped into Israel itself and turned into violence between Israeli citizens — Arabs and Jews — within Israeli cities.

“The cease-fire in Gaza provides a window of time we must use to change the long-term reality. An essential decision is to return to the vision of two states for two people, to strengthen the pragmatic forces and weaken the extremists and the terror,” she continued.

Livni’s call for renewal of the peace process is rooted in pragmatism. While emotions amongst Israel and Palestinians may be raw, any process must begin with a first step. The process can be achieved only through concrete steps. And speaking openly about the idea of renewing a peace process is a way to build momentum.

“We must cooperate and support everything that strengthens pragmatism and weakens extremism. This seems so obvious as to appear basic,” Livni wrote.

Unlike the UN’s Human Rights Council, Livni has suggested a meaningful approach to complex problems. Autocrats like Vladimir Putin have no moral authority upon which to build a fair inquiry into the history of conflict in the Middle East.

The UN Human Rights Council’s investigation into the “root causes” of ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas will only exacerbate tensions in the region. Livni’s proposal to renew the peace process, while perhaps controversial, offers hope for renewing a balanced peace process. That is a goal worth pursuing. Peace will not be achieved through a slanted investigation instigated by those who seek the destruction of the State of Israel.

A version of this editorial appeared in the June 3, 2021, issue of the Jewish Herald-Voice in Houston. Reprinted with permission.

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