Issue 80: UN Fact-Finding Missions to the Palestinian Territories

Despite running several days behind schedule, the UN Commission on Human Rights convened a special session on 5 April to continue discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Commission passed a resolution, requesting High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson to head a fact-finding mission to the region.

Analysis: Over the past 18 months, the Commission on Human Rights has sent several fact-finding missions to Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. The resulting reports contained some facts and much opinion. Many pertinent, yet inconvenient, truths were omitted. The selection of facts and opinion portray Israeli actions in an unfavorable light. There is little reason to hope that the upcoming mission will distinguish itself from its predecessors.

In November 2000, Mary Robinson led a fact-finding mission, with the cooperation of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. When she met with Israeli representatives, she discussed her concern about security restrictions (only for those under 45) on access to Muslim holy sites. She did not mention to her Palestinian interlocutors the desecration of Jewish holy sites, such as Joseph’s Tomb. There was a discernable pattern of “listen to the Palestinians and ask the Israelis.” She did not ask hard questions of the Palestinians, based on Israeli concerns.

In March 2001, a three-member Commission of Inquiry, led by current Special Rapporteur John Dugard, produced a disgraceful report. Palestinian violence was minimized, ignored or distorted. Attacks on Israelis were committed, in their judgment, “by largely unorganized gunmen,” who were “struggling to realize their right of self-determination.” The Commission of Inquiry chose not to mention Hamas or Islamic Jihad, despite their public claims of responsibility for acts of terror, their known organizational capability, and their desired goals of Israel’s destruction.

In March 2002, John Dugard issued another report, this time in his capacity as the Commission Special Rapporteur for the occupied Arab Territories. Instead of reporting on violations of human rights, Dugard advanced a political thesis: “It is the occupation of the Palestinian Territory that gives rise to the savage acts of violence, highlighted by the suicide bombings.” Again, the envoy of the Commission ignored Hamas and other rejectionist, terrorist groups, because those stubborn facts would disprove his theory.

In a speech to the Special Session last week, Mary Robinson endorsed Palestinian propaganda that accusations of using Palestinian ambulances to convey explosives were baseless Israeli lies. In doing so, she chose to place greater trust in the Palestinian statement than in that of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which witnessed the unloading of an explosive “suicide belt” from an ambulance and its controlled detonation.

If the latest fact-finding mission proceeds, we shall hope for the best. And prepare for the worst.

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