Captain Kangaroo Covers His Behind

William Schabas, chairman of the UN Human Rights Commission investigation of Israel’s actions during last summer’s war against Hamas, has quit.  He has removed himself, in his own words, so as not to permit the findings of the commission, which are “in the writing stage”, to be “tainted” by a $1300 consulting fee he took from the PLO a few years ago.  The fee is something he himself failed to reveal, but it has now come to light and is the subject of an official UN inquiry.

Let’s examine this. The fee, while hardly trivial, is only the tip of the iceberg. It is merely the latest indication that Schabas harbors a long-standing bias against Israel.  Some of the other indications were cited in a 20-page complaint filed against him in September by UN Watch.  They range from his willfully blind statements tending to legitimize Hamas as a mere “political party” to his bizarre statements that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be prosecuted criminally for Israel’s actions in Gaza in 2008, when Netanyahu was not even Prime Minister, and that former President Shimon Peres, who held only a ceremonial office, should be “in the dock” alongside him. They also include the fact that Schabas has already publicly expressed the conclusion that Israel’s response to Hamas rockets was “disproportionate” and therefore a “war crime”. In his resignation, Schabas terms the citation of these statements, the ones that he himself made, as “malicious attacks” against him.

So by now citing the $1300 fee, Schabas is conceding only the appearance of impropriety, and ignoring the mountain of additional evidence of an actual anti-Israel prejudice bordering on the shrill.

What does this say about the UN authority that appointed someone like Schabas to lead the commission?  Did they choose him in spite of his well-known statements, or because of them.  What does this say about the commission that Schabas has already led through the investigative process, which is only a few weeks away from its report, and the other commissioners and staff members of the commission who have served under his leadership so far without hint of a complaint that his association mars their own reputations?

And what are we to make of Schabas statement about not wanting this fee to “taint the findings”?  How would this possibly taint any findings unless  . . . the findings were anti-Israel. Schabas obviously knows something, which is something we have known all along.  The entire process is illegitimate from the start. That Schabas thinks that he can cover his sorry behind by resigning now, and for the reasons he has stated, is a testament to how rotten a process it is.

About the Author
Bennett M. Epstein has B.A. and JD degrees and has practiced law as a prosecutor and defense attorney since 1969. He has also been an adjunct professor of criminal law.