A mere two days after May’s deadly flotilla raid off the coast of Gaza, the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), in a special “emergency session,” passed a resolution by a 32 to 3 count that “condemn[ed] in the strongest terms the outrageous attack by the Israeli forces against the humanitarian flotilla of ships.” Despite already forming its consensus view of the flotilla raid, it nonetheless ordered a “fact-finding Mission,” which went ahead despite the support of Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for a wider and more legally consequential UN inquiry, which Israel later agreed to cooperate with.
In addition to agreeing to work with the general UN inquiry, Israel has conducted an internal military review which acquitted the IDF commandos of any professional misconduct, faulting them only for not anticipating the violence they were met with onboard the Mavi Marmara. Furthermore, Israel is also now engaged in a domestic civil review headed by retired Israeli Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel and observed by Northern Irish First Minister Lord David Trimble and former Canadian military judge Ken Watkin.
The results of the UNHRC flotilla investigation were published last week in an “Advance Unedited Version” of its official report and the verdict is as predictable as it is one-sided. As with the Goldstone Report, Israel is once again accused of war crimes. And once again, the UNHRC’s Mission sacrifices methodological rigor and dispassion for a politicized and prefabricated ruling.
It claims to have interviewed “more than 100 witnesses in Geneva, London, Istanbul and Amman” but in perhaps the most naked acknowledgement of its own distorted approach to fact-finding, the report states the following in its Methodology section:
In ascertaining the facts surrounding the Israeli interception of the Gaza-bound flotilla, the Mission gave particular weight to the direct evidence from interviews with eye witnesses and crew, as well as the forensic evidence and interviews with government officials. In light of seizure of cameras, CCTV footage and digital media storage devices and of the suppression of that material with the disclosure only of a selected and minute quantity of it, the Mission was obliged to treat with extreme caution the versions released by the Israeli authorities where those versions did not coincide with the evidence of eyewitnesses who appeared before us.
This act of dismissing from the outset the ample video footage of protesters attacking and beating up Israeli soldiers where its contents did not chime with the passengers’ versions of events tarnishes the entire mission from the start. Moreover, much of the seized footage referred to above actually corroborates the documentary video, audio and photographic footage recorded by the IDF.
The report thus begins by proceeding from a ridiculously tendentious premise. Interviews with “government officials” in Turkey and Jordan are to be taken at face value, but nothing of consequence from the Israeli government passes the mission’s smell test. That is, unless it expressly undercuts the Israeli version of events.
In attempting to justify its rejection of the validity of Israel’s domestic inquiry the report states in its introduction that “public confidence in any investigative process in circumstances such as the present is not enhanced when the subject of an investigation either investigates himself or plays a pivotal role in the process.” But this principle is hardly adhered to in a report whose conclusions were reached almost entirely on the basis of flotilla passenger testimony and passenger-produced documentary footage—did these individuals not play a “pivotal role” in the subject of the presently under investigation?