Tuesday

13th Apr 2021

Europe unwilling to condemn Israel for war crimes at UN

While the United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday endorsed a scorching report that accuses both Israel and Hamas of war crimes during the Jewish state's bombardment of the Gaza Strip at the turn of the year, European countries on the council opposed the resolution or abstained from the vote after heavy diplomatic pressure from Tel Aviv.

A total of 25 states on the council backed a report produced by a UN fact-finding team led by South African judge Richard Goldstone, the chief prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda.

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  • An EU-funding building in the occupied Palestinian territories burns after Israeli bombardment (Photo: Oxfam)

The US and five European countries opposed the resolution while eleven mainly European and African states abstained.

Britain and France meanwhile declined to vote, not wanting to be seen to be attacking Israel while at the same time not wishing to be seen as ignoring the suffering Palestinians underwent during ‘Operation Cast Lead'.

In the last few days, Israel, which accuses the document of being biased, has engaged in a furious round of diplomacy attempting to win over the European states that sit on the council to opposed the resolution.

It is understood that UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown talked to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for some time this morning.

Defence minister Ehud Barack spoke to the foreign ministers of France, Britain, Spain and Norway ahead of the vote and brought up the issue with Czech Prime Minister Jan Fisher when he was in Prague.

"The democratic nations of the world must understand that adopting the report will cripple their ability to deal with terror organizations, and terror in general," he told the ministers, according to Israeli daily Haaretz.

The resolution had urged an endorsement of the report, which recommends prosecution by the International Criminal Court in the Hague, should Hamas and Israel fail to conduct their own investigations into the events surrounding Israel's Operation Cast Lead.

On Thursday after meeting with Spanish leader Jose Luis Zapatero, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "Responsible nations have to vote against this decision that supports terror and harms peace."

The 575-page document now moves on to the UN General Assembly and the Security Council, where it is likely that the US will veto any resolution that seeks to refer Israel to the International Criminal Court.

Mr Goldstone himself said he had been disappointed with the form of the resolution, which only looked at Israel's alleged wrongdoings and none of those that Hamas is accused of perpetrating.

The report says that Israel used using disproportionate force, deliberately targeted civilians and destroyed civilian infrastructure, while Hamas was found to have deliberately targeted civilians as well through its rocket attacks.

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