While scores have been killed just this month in Iran and China and human rights activists are murdered in Russia, a U.N. conference that commenced this morning has once again put the Geneva spotlight on Israel. As if the hearings of the Goldstone Gaza inquiry earlier this month were not already enough, not to mention last week’s video re-play of the Gaza hearings at the Palais des Nations, the annual International Conference on the Question of Palestine kicked off with a packed room. Delegates from all regions and countries large and small were present in their official capacity, sitting behind their country placards, including from Italy, Switzerland, the European Commission, Belgium, Mexico, Argentina, Guatemala, Bosnia, Serbia, Belarus, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Burundi, Monaco, and Cambodia to name just a few.
The permanent representative of Senegal to the U.N. H.E. Paul Badji chaired the session in his capacity as President of the host U.N. “Committee for the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP).” The committee’s other executive members (vice chairs and rapporteurs) include the permanent representatives to the U.N. from Afghanistan, Malta, and Palestine.
In the opening panel, representatives of the offices of Secretary General Bank Ki-moon and General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann read statements on their behalf. Both welcomed the session, though Mr. d’Escoto’s statement was entirely anti-Israel, invoking the “responsibility to protect” Palestinian civilians (a double-standard on his part considering he recently rejected the doctrine in all other contexts as “redecorated colonialism”), while Mr. Ban attempted a semblance of balance by calling for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a cessation of hostilities on both sides. Additionally, Ban’s speech conveyed his intent to follow-up on the report commissioned by his office, alleging that Israel destroyed U.N. properties during the Gaza invasion, possibly with a demand for reparations. Mr. Ban also stated his support for the U.N. inquiry into the Gaza war headed by international prosecutor Justice Richard Goldstone, called for Israel to heed the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice against Isarel’s “wall” (security barrier), and addressed the plight of Israeli captive Gilad Shalit.
The Senegalese chairman Mr. Badji delivered a one-sided diatribe portraying Israel as the primary obstacle to peace and citing unsubstantiated reports of soldier “testimonies” saying they were ordered to kill civilians in Gaza while army Rabbis preached that no mercy should be shown to the “enemy” in Israel’s “holy war.”
Not surprisingly, the Palestinian permanent representative to the U.N. in Geneva H.E. Ibrahim Khraishi added to the anti-Israel stream, condemning Israel for a laundry list of violations, including “settler terrorism.” He also noted the Palestinian demand for a “right of return.”
There was only one unobjectionable statement. The president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean H.E. Rudy Salles spoke generically about the need to strive for peace. He said he welcomed Israel’s participation in the assembly and was heartened by the fact that the Israeli and Palestinian delegates spoke to each other during its sessions, including informally during coffee breaks. He called for honoring the memory of people who gave their lives to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including Anwar Sadat and Yitzhak Rabin.
Update: Later this afternoon, after UNRWA discussed its tight-funding, an elaborate reception and buffet was held for those attending the conference.
There was also an outrageous question from the Arab Human Rights Commission, suggesting that Hamas rocket terror against Israeli civilians might be legitimate. The representative asked if Palestinians have a “right to resistence,” while referencing “home-made rockets.” U.N. investigator Mr. John Dugard, who had previously accused Israel of war crimes and crimes against humanity, did acnowledge that even non-state actors have to abide by international humanitarian law and avoid targetting civilians (though he seemed to suggest that it would be legitimate to target Israeli soliders in any context).