Kushmaro: “By the way, do you consider Hamas a terror organization?”
And then Schabas sighed and said, “It would be inappropriate for me to answer a question like that, uh, given what I said earlier, about having to start basically with a blank sheet and start to study this question in as neutral and objective a manner as possible. It would be inappropriate for me,” he repeated, “given my position.”
There should be no difficulty on the part of the professor with regard to the legal status of Hamas. The entity is legally designated as a terrorist organization not only by Israel, but also by three of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — the United States, the United Kingdom and France.
In addition, the entire European Union has officially designated Hamas to be a terrorist organization, as well as Jordan, Egypt, Australia, Japan and Canada – Schabas’s country of origin. The group is not, however, listed as a terrorist organization by Iran, Russia, Turkey, China, South Africa and many Arab nations. Russia and China are the other two permanent members of the UN Security Council. Kushmaro continued, “Professor Schabas, I’ll ask you again, why Israel should cooperate with your delegation.”
“I think it’s very important for Israel to cooperate. The allegations – here he raised his voice – uh, the specific allegations have a great deal to do with the use of force, the targeting and the proportionality of the targeting, the identification of military objectives. Israel has already spoken to this.
“It’s in the public domain, Israel has made statements saying first of all, we’re acting in self-defense about the Hamas rockets and when we use force in Gaza Israel’s position is that it is proportionate and that it is not targeting civilians. These are matters of public record.
“Now, it’s one thing to say that as a broad statement. It’s another thing to look at individual cases and see whether that’s actually accurate. It’s in Israel’s interest to be there in that discussion and to give its version of the events. If it doesn’t then that leaves a, uh, an unfortunate one-sided picture of it.”
Kushmaro asked Schabas why the United Nations imposes double standards on Israel. For example, the US carries out attacks in Iraq, Russia periodically attacks Chechnya and the NATO forces that were in Libya. Thousands of innocent civilians were killed each time. No one raised eyebrows in the United Nations, let alone demanded any investigations. Yet now Israel faces the second formal investigation into its defensive military actions against Gaza terrorist attacks aimed at its civilians in the past six years alone.
Politely, Kushmaro asked, “Isn’t it a double standard, professor?”
Another deep sigh. “You know, there are lots of double standards in the United Nations and lots of double standards at the international level. And as I explained, the fact that there haven’t been inquiries into some atrocities and some areas of violent conflict in the world is explained by the political balances and the relative strength of the powers, and that’s a very unfortunate situation. But it’s a fact of life. And different crises and different countries fare differently depending on where they are.
“Many people think there’s a double standard in the United Nations Security Council because Israel gets off rather light in the United Nations Security Council,” Schabas commented.
“The fact that there’s no inquiry into Russia or into the United States is obviously explained by the fact that those countries dominate not only the Security Council but also have a huge amount of political influence in bodies like the Human Rights Council. We unfortunately live with that as a reality in the world situation,” the UN investigator concluded.