The UN fact-finding team investigating the events in the Jenin refugee camp was due to arrive in Israel on Sunday after a short delay, following two days of consultations between Israeli representatives and the UN on changing the committee’s mandate.
Israel originally gave a green light to a fact-finding mission Friday April 19th, then requested a postponement, to seek changes in the team’s composition and mandate, after UN Secretary General Kofi Annan announced the members of the team on Monday April 22nd.
There are three issues on the table: the team’s remit, its professional members, and the witness and testimony procedures.
Terms of Reference
The official reason for the consultations was that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had altered the fact-finding mission’s terms of reference from strictly fact-finding to issues linked to other agendas, on which Israel had not been consulted for consent.
Generally, a Fact-Finding Committee is mandated to document events and evidence, and make a summary of these facts; it should be impartial in its acceptance of evidence, but relate only to the area on which it has been empowered. Such a team does not present conclusions, leaving these to other instances.
As these conditions were modified, with Anan calling on the panel ‘to be guided by UN resolutions in producing its conclusion, while the team’s evidence hearing terms were changed to a selective agenda, Israel became gravely concerned at the ramifications. First and foremost was that this might lead to a recommendation that Annan set up an International Commission of Inquiry – which would mean that depositions might subsequently be used in a War Crimes Trial against individual soldiers, or Israeli government figures. It also left the way open for a UN dispatch of international observers.
The UN agreed to delay the mission’s departure by 24 hours, after Israel said that the government needed to hold further discussions on the matter, and that this could not be done during the Sabbath. The cabinet met on Sunday to decide whether to cooperate with a UN fact-finding team investigating the battle in Jenin.
In Washington, Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Gordon Smith (R-Oregon) expressed their displeasure with the UN’s failure to hold the Palestinians accountable for what transpired in Jenin.
The team’s arrival was further postponed after the Israeli Cabinet discussed the full implications and legal counsel requirements for witnesses, and following US approval of Israel’s agreement on US-British supervised imprisonment for the assassins of Minister Rehavam Zeevi (z”l).
Israel is demanding that the committee deal solely with clarifying the facts, as was determined by the UN Security Council decision, rather than drawing conclusions or making recommendations, especially ones that could result in prosecutions.
Israel is also demanding that the mission look not only at the humanitarian issue, but also the terrorist groups who have used the camp as a base for suicide bombings and has demanded that the UN report present facts and no conclusions, especially ones that could result in prosecutions. “We want to resolve this,” said Aaron Jacob, Israel’s deputy UN ambassador. “The focus should not be only on the Israeli military operation, but also on why and how civilians in the refugee camp were allowed to become a center of terrorist activities.”
* Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said on Israel Radio Sunday morning that Israel must cooperate with the UN fact-finding committee in order to prove that the IDF did not carry out a massacre in the refugee camp, as the Palestinians have claimed.
“The Palestinians are claiming 3,000 civilians killed, while we know of seven. […] But Israel will determine who will testify on its behalf. That is a central issue.”
The members of the team consist of former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, chairman; Cornelio Sommaruga, a former president of the International Committee of the Red Cross; and Sadako Ogata, a former UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
“The composition of the committee was decided without our consultation or agreement,” said a government official last week. “We are a sovereign country and do not have to accept these kinds of dictates.”
* Israel, according to this official, is also unhappy that three of the four members of the committee are political officials, rather than military officers trained in analyzing battlefield events in a detached manner.
Subsequently, Israel requested that the team’s military adviser, retired US Maj.-Gen. William Nash, be made a full team member. Annan refused, and Nash remains an adviser.
UN spokesman Fred Eckhard confirmed that United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who met Thursday April 25th at the UN headquarters in New York with a legal delegation from Jerusalem, has added Peter Fitzgerald of Ireland as a police adviser, to the mission together with another military adviser following a request by Israel, and this was also stated by Anan on Friday.
Special Grounds for Objection
When UN Secretary General Kofi Annan announced the composition of his fact-finding team on Monday night, the inclusion of the former president of the International Red Cross, Cornelio Sommaruga was a major cause of distress in Jerusalem.
Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote an article two years ago on the controversy regarding the black-balling of the Magen David Adom symbol at the ICRC, where the Star of David is not a recognized symbol. At the AIPAC Conference in Los Angeles, Bernadine Healy, who was President of the American Red Cross in 1999, confirmed the story. Following her speech to her Federation that year, criticizing the ICRC’s continued and inexcusable exclusion of Israel’s emergency medical service symbol, the Red Star of David, Mr Sommaruga said (as quoted by Krauthammer),
“If we’re going to have the Shield of David, why would we not have to accept the swastika?”
On a not so Tangential Note?
To the foreign observer, there may be nothing wrong with sending a Panel of experts to Jenin, and objections might be centered on the fact that the present committee does not have any experts as full members.
However, Israel sees this within the context of Arafat’s campaign to internationalize the jurisdiction of the conflict, supported by the Europeans. That, it feels, would be an infringement of Israeli sovereignty; moreover, the Peacekeeping and Observer forces have exhibited indifference to incidents against Israelis (which their remits do not cover), and infringement of their own impartiality in collaboration with Hizbullah.
The UN Record on Incidents and Evidence
- Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer accused the Palestinians of committing a massacre in attacks on an Israeli nightclub in Tel Aviv and in other places.
“In the last month, 137 (Israeli) people were slaughtered and almost 700 were wounded. Is anyone investigating that?” he asked.
- The U.N. has consistently allied itself with terror organizations, like the PLO and Hizbullah, witholding material evidence from the world, which would help capture known terrorists.
- The most recent example of the U.N.’s flagrantly biased policy against Israel is the concealment and vehement denial of the videotape taken by the U.N. Peacekeeping Forces in Lebanon of Hizbullah’s abduction of 3 Israeli soldiers in October 2000.
For 11 months the U.N. lied to the world and denied existence of any evidence related to the abduction.
Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is on a mission to enlist support for Israel in the US, says, “The UN has proven its bias by its failure to examine an endless number of terror attacks against Israel,” and that the UN had withheld information and misled Israel about the abduction of three soldiers by Hizbullah.
- Moreover, when the lie was exposed, and the world pressured the UN to reveal their evidence to Israel, they refused to do so. Eventually, the U.N. insisted they would only show an edited videotape with the faces of the terrorists blurred.
When asked the reason behind this, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan stated it was due to the U.N.’s standing as a neutral organization.
- There have also been allegations that the UN Peacekeeping Forces in Lebanon were paid huge sums of money by Hizbullah for the use of U.N. uniforms and jeeps in the abduction.
Points to Ponder
1. There have been many examples from around the world of persecution of / atrocities against civilian populations, yet the UN has maintained silence on all these issues.
Why does this happen?
What large-scale events do you think the UN should be investigating right now?
What should other countries be saying and doing about these violations?
The examples below include Muslim countries, forms of dictatorships and transition-stage governments, with one exception. Why are they not condemned?
a. Basques separatists (ETA) – bombing Spanish civilians.
b. N. Africa – Islamic Fundamentalists – slaughter of 100,000 Berbers.
c. Communist China – violations of human rights of Tibetan refugees, destruction of their culture, and illegal occupation of their land.
d. China – slaughtered 1.8 million Tibetans.
e. Chechnya – Russian slaughtering of Chechen guerillas.
f. Zimbabwe – President and government continue to abuse and torture white farmers.
g. Sudan – continued attacks launched against the Christian Sudanese by the Muslim Sudanese, the latter slaying 200,000 of the former.
h. UN – in the draft declaration for their well publicized “Elimination of all Forms of Racism Conference” in Durban last year, there is no mention of gross human rights violations by Islamic countries towards their citizens, in general, and those of other religions, in particular (while alleging Israel was an “apartheid state”).
i. USA – accidental killing of civilians during bombing over Afghanistan.
2. Arab media accounts of the battle in the Jenin refugee camp were translated by MEMRI and give interviews with gunmen and open accounts of terrorist-laid booby traps. http://www.memri.org/news.html#1019657885 and Jonathan Cook published a similar interview for Al Ahram (Egypt).
Hold the internal Palestinian versions against what the western media are reporting and evaluate the differences.
What grounds are there from this for a Fact-Finding Committee?
How do you rate the Committee’s chances of and competence in receiving and analyzing factual evidence impartially?
Draw conclusions and recommendations.
3. Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposed the acceptance of the UN committee, telling Israel Radio last week that it, “will produce results that will damage Israel. It is completely illegitimate.”
To which two separate issues is he referring?
Is it helpful to place these issues side by side?
Do you agree with either, or both, of these statements & and why/not?
4. The UN condemns and singles out the State of Israel disproportionately; it is the only democracy in a region of Arab dictatorships, but accused of engaging in “discrimination” and “racism”.
What is your theory?
How has this been taken up elsewhere?
What pro-active and reactive measures do you recommend?
The UN from the Inside – The Mathematical Approach
Tiny Israel has but one vote at the United Nations Assembly.
The United States of America, despite being the largest financial contributor (30%) and despite its large population (270 million), also have only one single vote.
Muslim countries enjoy over 40 votes.
Arab countries with a population of about 300-400 million have over 20 votes.
India, with a population of 1 billion, has only one vote.
India receives much less financial aid from the U.N. than 2 million Palestinians who receive $2 billion per annum.
Does this largesse have something to do with the majority of the voters being from Arab and Muslim countries at the U.N.?
Or is it possibly linked to the anti-Hindu sentiment prevalent in Muslim countries?
Human Rights Commission
This year, America was kicked off the UN Commission for Human Rights, despite being one of the most outspoken countries for advocating Human Rights for all people. It was replaced by Sierra Leone and the Sudan, who both have an “impeccable” record of abuses of human rights, including slavery and child soldiers. Why?
For more ideas, see www.jajz-ed.org.il/actual/zr/3.html#overview.
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs website www.mfa.gov.il/
Bernadine Healy’s speech to AIPAC 2002: transcript slated to appear on the website at www.aipac.org/policy2002transcripts.html
Unbalanced Mission to Jenin
Editorial, The Washington Post, Friday, April 26, 2002; Page A28 www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A51318-2002Apr25.html
UN fact-finders ignoring obvious
Chicago Sun-Times, Editorial, April 25, 2002