Here at the United Nations Human Rights Council, we pride ourselves on getting the job done in double-quick time. But today we have surpassed even our own tight deadlines and I can reveal that the first draft of our report into human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory has been completed. I know it is difficult to conceive how the inquiry could be established, investigations carried out, and then a draft report written in a little over a week. So, let me walk you through the steps we took to ensure that we not only did a thorough job but that we did not waste any time in doing so.
First, we made sure that the resolution setting up the inquiry dealt only with the essential issues and did not get cluttered up with irrelevancies. So you will see that it goes straight to the heart of the matter and tells you that the inquiry is into ‘military assaults on the large-scale civilian protests’ that occurred. In other words, the Palestinians were conducting civilian protests and Israel launched a military assault on them. In one stroke this avoids red herrings like who started the riots, whether the civilians engaged in any violence, whether they were trying to break through the border fence, Israel’s self-defence, and where did all those Molotov cocktails and bolt cutters come from?
Just in case anyone did not get the message, our resolution then went on to set out the conclusions of the inquiry; not what the conclusions might be after the evidence was heard, but what they are now, before the evidence. The conclusion we reached was unanswerable: we ‘condemn the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians.’ Open and shut case. You can imagine how much time this saved. We were able to say in a few words that the inquiry was over as soon as we set it up, Israel was guilty, its actions were disproportionate and indiscriminate and the other side were just having peaceful demonstrations which they do every Friday. Now, some people might think it hard to reach a conclusion that the Israeli force was disproportionate and indiscriminate without looking at some evidence. But we have had a lot of experience in reaching conclusions about Israel; why, virtually all our cases here are about Israel and we reach the same conclusion every time!
That leads me to mention the really major reform we instituted, that this inquiry was not going to get too involved with the facts. We have found through our experience that you can get bogged down in facts, especially in clear-cut cases of aggression like this one and the facts can often cloud your judgment. Above all, they just add to the enormous time that inquiries take. Just look at our project on Kashmir; we started that one in 1947 and it is still going! Our office staff are handing the brief down from father to son! So we decided straight away that our inquiry on Palestine would not become another Kashmir and get bogged down in years of evidence where people keep saying contradictory things, which is pointless anyway, when you have already reached your conclusions.
In particular, we left out any reference to Hamas or its involvement in this fracas. You can also get bogged down in these inquiries by looking for evidence on what bodies like Hamas were up to in drumming up the crowds and whether they were urging people to break through the border peacefully or handing out the bolt cutters for DIY jobs at home and mixing Molotov cocktails. It is true that we thought about putting Hamas in, but then we left it out so that we could go straight to condemning Israel, which is what we did.
Now I know some of you will be saying that I have left out the most important thing, which is how are we going to guarantee that the inquiry will be independent? After all, the resolution says it is to be an ‘independent, international commission of inquiry.’ Well, it is certainly international, because the resolution was sponsored by some of the leading nations on human rights, like Pakistan, Cuba, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, China, Qatar, and Senegal. But what about ‘independent’? Well, we have found over the years that you have to choose an independent investigator very carefully because, a week after they are appointed, some of them are more independent than others. The safeguard in this case is that our boss here at the HRC is the diplomat formerly known as Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the heir to the King of Iraq and therefore should know what he is talking about. He set the tone when we passed the resolution by declaring that what this case was about was that civilian demonstrators who were ‘completely unarmed’ had been shot by Israel, whose response was ‘unlawful’ and ‘wholly disproportionate’. So with such clarity and perspicacity, you have clear independence and without even waiting for the evidence. And there was consistency in the impartiality because his offsider, Michael Lynk, said at the meeting that for the Palestinians to ‘damage the fence, or even cross the fence’ was OK, as was throwing stones, ‘or even Molotov cocktails’. It was a great help to have those issues cleared up so early. So there you have it, independence and impartiality.
Finally, I know that our inquiry will not solve the Palestinians’ problem. But, just think of the consequences of solving it. Who would we hate? What would we talk about or investigate? Forced marriages in Pakistan? Slavery in the Arab world? Poison gas production in Syria? Exterminating all the homosexuals in Iran? Genital mutilation in Mali ? Get real.
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