By Alex Kane
Media outlets are reporting that the results of a United Nations inquiry into last year’s raid on the first “Freedom Flotilla” is set to be released soon, though diplomatic wrangling between Turkey and Israel appear to have held up publication of the report for now.
The reports indicate that the inquiry has found that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is legal under international law, but that the Israelis used “excessive force” during their naval raid on the Mavi Marmara, which resulted in the deaths of nine people. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that many observers have cast doubt on the impartiality of the report given the panel’s make-up–a point boosted by the fact that the UN appears to be sanctioning an Israeli blockade that numerous UN-affiliated reports and individuals have concluded is an illegal act of collective punishment.
This inquiry was separate from a UN Human Rights Council report released in September 2010, which found that Israeli forces violated international law in attacking the flotilla and used “unnecessary, disproportionate, excessive and inappropriate” force. Israel, just as they did during the Goldstone mission, did not cooperate with that report. On the other hand, Israel did cooperate with the panel set up by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and it appears that cooperation has, at least partially, paid off.
Diplomats said Turkey and Israel were eager to find a compromise over the wording of the report by a United Nations committee that is led by former Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer of New Zealand and has Turkish and Israeli representatives. Diplomats said the committee’s findings — made following heated deliberations that lasted nearly a year — would be likely to leave both countries uncomfortable.
According to United Nations diplomats, the latest draft of the report asserts that Israel’s blockade of Gaza was legal, but that in some cases its commandos had used excessive force in seizing the ship. Turkey, the diplomats said, is taken to task for having made an insufficient effort to prevent the ship from sailing. In addition, the motives of the I.H.H., the charity that organized the flotilla, are called into question.
The report’s released has been delayed amid squabbling over its wording, although it could be made public as soon as Thursday.
For many, the panel was discredited from the start. This report–written shortly after the announcement of the establishment of the UN inquiry–from Inter Press Service explains why:
Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, told IPS: “How truly independent will this inquiry be?” That’s the key question, he said.
“My initial concern is that the panel membership appears to be tied in with politically powerful interests — not a good sign. Whether this will be a clarifying or whitewashing effort remains to be seen,” he added.
[Phyllis] Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies told IPS that the irony, of course, is that the international and UN-backed team reflects Israel’s continuing US-backed influence at the United Nations.
In particular, the appointment of former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe Velez “guaranteed” the “failure” of the report, as an analysis that appeared in the Electronic Intifada put it. Uribe himself is implicated in massive human rights abuses and is a known supporter of the State of Israel. An excerpt from the Electronic Intifada piece:
It is hard to believe that, in spite of Uribe’s appalling human rights record, he has been chosen to be part of a UN human rights commission. Going beyond Uribe himself, any representative of the Colombian state must be suspect when it comes to investigating human rights violations as official and “unofficial” state-sanctioned human rights abusers act with impunity; 98 percent of such cases remain unprosecuted (“Baseless Prosecutions of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia,” February 2009).
It also strains credibility to believe that Colombia, the biggest recipient of US military “aid” after Israel and Egypt, a country that has agreed to host seven new US military bases on its territory last year, can be impartial in relation to Israel. Both the Israeli and Colombian governments share an ideological approach to their opponents, based on a belief that respecting human rights is a non-issue when it comes to pursuing their military goals against rebel groups. Unsurprisingly, there is also large-scale military cooperation between the two rogue states.
In recent years, according to news reports, Israel has become Colombia’s number one weapon supplier, with arms worth tens of millions of dollars, “including Kfir aircraft, drones, weapons and intelligence systems” being used against opponents of the Colombian regime (“Report: Israelis fighting guerillas in Colombia,” Ynet, 10 August 2007). According to a senior Israeli defense official, “Israel’s methods of fighting terror have been duplicated in Colombia” (“Colombia’s FM: We share your resilience,” 30 April 2010)…
The admiration is mutual, and Uribe undertakes his role of impartial investigator weighed down with awards from various Zionist organizations. These include the American Jewish Committee’s “Light unto the Nations Award” and descending further into Orwellian doublespeak, the “Presidential Gold Medallion for Humanitarianism” from B’nai Brith.
While the Colombian government and Uribe are entitled to their choice of friends, this — to say the least — indicates that there will be no objectivity whatsoever with regard to Uribe’s role in the commission.
It appears that Israel only agreed to cooperate with this particular UN inquiry as there is very little chance this commission will take an independent stance and deliver an unbiased verdict on the brutal Israeli attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Indeed, Israel has declined to cooperate with the other UN commission into the attack appointed by the UN Human Rights Council. It can be reasonably argued that Colombian and Israeli cooperation in this matter is a further step towards jointly “doing more in terms of the fight against terrorism” (to paraphrase Bermudez’ remarks in Israel).