Head of UN inquiry on Gaza conflict resigns amid new questions about conflict of interests


The head of the UN inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict announced that he was resigning from his post in the wake of more allegations of anti-Israel bias. Last August Professor William Schabas was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to head a group of three jurists investigating alleged war crimes committed during last summer’s Gaza war. Schabas’ resignation follows several accusations of bias and conflict-of-interest, and in particular, the discovery that he acted as a paid legal consultant for the PLO in 2012. Additionally, UN watchdog UN Watch and other prominent jurists and human rights activists had called for Schabas to recuse himself from his position due to previous statements illustrating bias against Israel. For example, in 2010 Schabas said the UN should go after the President of Israel, Shimon Peres at the time, for war crimes and in 2013, he stated he would like to see “Netanyahu within the dock of the International Criminal Court” and in an interview Former National Director of the ACLU Aryeh Neier stated that “any judge who had previously called for the indictment of the defendant would recuse himself.” Furthermore, in 2011, Schabas was a keynote speaker at a conference sponsored by the Tehran-based “Center for Human Rights and Cultural Diversity,” in spite of the center’s close ties to the fundamentalist regime of Iran.

Officials in both Israel and the Obama administration have accused the UN of a pattern of bias against Israel. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has condemned Israel more than any other country. Since 2006, out of 103 resolutions, 56 have criticized Israel. The EU refused to support the resolution creating the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict , stating that it was “unbalanced, inaccurate, and prejudges the outcome of the investigation by making legal statements,” while President Obama's representative to the UNHRC called the creation of the inquiry "yet another one-sided mechanism targeting Israel."  Today the State Department reiterated its opposition to the formation of the inquiry and Prime Minister Netanyahu urged the UN to dismiss the investigation altogether.


European Union diplomats have warned that the United States may be on the verge of making further concessions to Iran in return for an Iranian guarantee of regional stability, according to Israeli Army Radio. The EU officials reportedly said that they suspected that they have been kept out of the loop by Secretary of State John Kerry. According to the report, Iran would be able to keep 6,500 centrifuges if it promises to ensure order in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. Previous reports had indicated that P5+1 negotiators were aiming for a ceiling of 4,500 centrifuges (itself an upward revision of an initial 1,500). The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has reported that Iran has refused to address the agency’s requests to obtain information about suspected past nuclear weapons research. A senior U.S. official told the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington, D.C. think tank, that Iran’s feeding of uranium hexafluoride into an advanced centrifuge was inconsistent with the U.S. understanding of the deal. Iran has also proven to be a destabilizing force in the region. In an essay in The Daily Beast published Sunday, Michael Weiss and Michael Pregent wrote about Iran’s increasing influence in Iraq, which “has resulted in a wave of sectarian bloodletting and dispossession… usually at the hands of Iranian-backed Shia militia groups…” Iraq’s current Minister of the Interior belongs to the Badr Corps, an Iranian proxy.  Furthermore, Weiss and Pregent continue, “two-thirds of all American casualties in Iraq in July 2007 were incurred by Shiite militias.” Iranian troops and Iranian-backed Shiite militias, including Hezbollah, have fought to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. The Iranian-backed Houthis seized the Yemeni capital Sanaa in September and forced the resignation of the Yemeni president and the entire government last month. An Iranian general crowed about this “historic victory for the Iranian Islamic revolution.” Some analysts have suggested that Hezbollah and Iran are attempting to build a terror infrastructure in the Syrian Golan Heights, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah confirmed that the group and Iran were bolstering their presence in the Golan Heights.


Along with his Ivy League diplomas, a second-grade “master gardener” certificate hangs on the wall of Rehovot patent attorney Sandy Colb’s office. Now 66, the former Cleveland schoolboy went on to cultivate a unique farm-based philanthropy. Through his Tov V’Hameitiv Foundation, Colb partners with 70 Israeli social-service agencies to distribute 100 tons of fruits and vegetables every week, harvested from a total of 250 acres of fields he has leased, bought and borrowed. Along with seeds and fertilizer, Colb sows a significant sum of shekels into the project. The return on his investment is the satisfaction of nourishing Israel’s most vulnerable citizens while feeding his own love of the land. “It’s expensive, but this is my veggie habit,” he tells ISRAEL21c. Although Colb spends considerable time traveling for business and pleasure, and typically works 16-hour days, when he’s home in Rehovot he devotes two mornings a week to planting and picking with his 60 paid workers. Forty of those workers are older Ethiopian Israelis with few employment opportunities. Eight others have special needs. In coordination with Leket, Israel’s national food bank, Colb hopes to bring more people with mental, emotional and physical challenges to work in the fields. As one of Colb’s distribution partners, Leket also provides some 25,000 volunteers to pick crops every year. Many of the volunteers are tourists who devote a morning to the charitable project. Even in Israel, of course, each kind of vegetation has its season. Depending on the time of year, Colb’s workers are planting, tending and gathering citrus fruits, pecans, avocados, peaches, plums, apples, root vegetables, leeks, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and more — altogether about 40 varieties of healthful produce. (via Israel21c)


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