Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Calling a Spade a Spade

Crazy week ---> little posting ---> quick writing ---> poorly nuanced arguments. Feel free to ask for clarification in the comments section.

One point I do want to make quickly is that there is a fine line between holding Israel accountable, and hanging it out to dry. Certainly many people believe Israel was essentially the subject of a witch hunt in the Goldstone Report on Gaza. This idea is arguable for two reasons. Firstly, Goldstone and his team completed as comprehensive a review as they possibly could have. Secondly, the report is available for anyone to read and comment's subject to peer review and the general public gets to react.

The Goldstone report may be partial, but it is not an entirely unfair condemnation of Israeli tactics in operation Cast Lead that violated the law. But continuing to debate this in the U.N. is taking things too far.

The UNHCR resolution to condemn Israel serves no productive purpose whatsoever. It is a purely political tactic designed to energize constituencies in anti-Israel countries, not to advance the cause of human rights. Even if one were to say that Judge Goldstone was unfair, it is difficult to demonstrate that his intentions were blatantly nefarious. However, the proposed resolution and debate on Israel will serve no purpose of human rights. The end result will be to isolate Israel with even less benefit than the Goldstone report. Of course the Goldstone report itself was mandated in political circumstances, but the intent of the committee was accountability, even if in practice their analysis was not even-handed. Playing to politics was a necessary precondition for the report's funding and publication, and overall the findings in it are pretty reasonable.

Conversely, the UNHCR debate wastes the money of U.N. member states on the political viability of leaders who base their popularity on sectarianism and propaganda. It has not even a fringe benefit of accountability, and will end up harming the citizens of the Middle East far more than it will help them.

Accountability works both ways, and it is high time for the UNHRC to demonstrate that it is as impartial a body as would be required for the Goldstone report to retain the less-than-solid integrity on which is is based.

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