Tag Archives: Ban Ki-Moon

UN report on ‘Freedom Flotilla I’ was questioned from the start

Media outlets are reporting that the results of a United Nations inquiry into last year’s raid on the first “Freedom Flotilla” is set to be released soon, though diplomatic wrangling between Turkey and Israel appear to have held up publication of the report for now.

The reports indicate that the inquiry has found that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is legal under international law, but that the Israelis used “excessive force” during their naval raid on the Mavi Marmara, which resulted in the deaths of nine people.  It’s important to keep in mind, though, that many observers have cast doubt on the impartiality of the report given the panel’s make-up–a point boosted by the fact that the UN appears to be sanctioning an Israeli blockade that numerous UN-affiliated reports and individuals have concluded is an illegal act of collective punishment. 

This inquiry was separate from a UN Human Rights Council report released in September 2010, which found that Israeli forces violated international law in attacking the flotilla and used “unnecessary, disproportionate, excessive and inappropriate” force.  Israel, just as they did during the Goldstone mission, did not cooperate with that report.  On the other hand, Israel did cooperate with the panel set up by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and it appears that cooperation has, at least partially, paid off.

The New York Times reports:

Diplomats said Turkey and Israel were eager to find a compromise over the wording of the report by a United Nations committee that is led by former Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer of New Zealand and has Turkish and Israeli representatives. Diplomats said the committee’s findings — made following heated deliberations that lasted nearly a year — would be likely to leave both countries uncomfortable.

According to United Nations diplomats, the latest draft of the report asserts that Israel’s blockade of Gaza was legal, but that in some cases its commandos had used excessive force in seizing the ship. Turkey, the diplomats said, is taken to task for having made an insufficient effort to prevent the ship from sailing. In addition, the motives of the I.H.H., the charity that organized the flotilla, are called into question.

The report’s released has been delayed amid squabbling over its wording, although it could be made public as soon as Thursday.

For many, the panel was discredited from the start.  This report–written shortly after the announcement of the establishment of the UN inquiry–from Inter Press Service explains why:

Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, told IPS: “How truly independent will this inquiry be?” That’s the key question, he said.

“My initial concern is that the panel membership appears to be tied in with politically powerful interests — not a good sign. Whether this will be a clarifying or whitewashing effort remains to be seen,” he added.

[Phyllis] Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies told IPS that the irony, of course, is that the international and UN-backed team reflects Israel’s continuing US-backed influence at the United Nations.

In particular, the appointment of former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe Velez “guaranteed” the “failure” of the report, according to an analysis that appeared in the Electronic Intifada.  Uribe himself is implicated in massive human rights abuses and is a known supporter of the State of Israel.  An excerpt from the Electronic Intifada piece:

It is hard to believe that, in spite of Uribe’s appalling human rights record, he has been chosen to be part of a UN human rights commission. Going beyond Uribe himself, any representative of the Colombian state must be suspect when it comes to investigating human rights violations as official and “unofficial” state-sanctioned human rights abusers act with impunity; 98 percent of such cases remain unprosecuted (“Baseless Prosecutions of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia,” February 2009).

It also strains credibility to believe that Colombia, the biggest recipient of US military “aid” after Israel and Egypt, a country that has agreed to host seven new US military bases on its territory last year, can be impartial in relation to Israel. Both the Israeli and Colombian governments share an ideological approach to their opponents, based on a belief that respecting human rights is a non-issue when it comes to pursuing their military goals against rebel groups. Unsurprisingly, there is also large-scale military cooperation between the two rogue states.

In recent years, according to news reports, Israel has become Colombia’s number one weapon supplier, with arms worth tens of millions of dollars, “including Kfir aircraft, drones, weapons and intelligence systems” being used against opponents of the Colombian regime (“Report: Israelis fighting guerillas in Colombia,” Ynet, 10 August 2007). According to a senior Israeli defense official, “Israel’s methods of fighting terror have been duplicated in Colombia” (“Colombia’s FM: We share your resilience,” 30 April 2010)…

The admiration is mutual, and Uribe undertakes his role of impartial investigator weighed down with awards from various Zionist organizations. These include the American Jewish Committee’s “Light unto the Nations Award” and descending further into Orwellian doublespeak, the “Presidential Gold Medallion for Humanitarianism” from B’nai Brith.

While the Colombian government and Uribe are entitled to their choice of friends, this — to say the least — indicates that there will be no objectivity whatsoever with regard to Uribe’s role in the commission.

It appears that Israel only agreed to cooperate with this particular UN inquiry as there is very little chance this commission will take an independent stance and deliver an unbiased verdict on the brutal Israeli attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Indeed, Israel has declined to cooperate with the other UN commission into the attack appointed by the UN Human Rights Council. It can be reasonably argued that Colombian and Israeli cooperation in this matter is a further step towards jointly “doing more in terms of the fight against terrorism” (to paraphrase Bermudez’ remarks in Israel).

UN report debunks Israel’s Naksa propaganda

Immediately after the Israeli military reportedly killed dozens of unarmed demonstrators in the occupied-Golan Heights on June 15, Israel’s propaganda machine went into high gear.  Newly-released details from a United Nations report authored by the Secretary General clearly show that the Israeli spin on the Naksa protests was just that:  spin.

The principle claim was that the Israel Defense Forces only shot at the bottom half of protesters’ bodies, and therefore did not kill them.  Instead, as a New York Times report put it, the Israeli military said that “10 protesters were killed after they threw makeshift firebombs and started a fire that set off land mines near the border town of Quneitra, on the Syrian side of the lines.”

It turns out that there was indeed a fire that killed demonstrators, according to the UN.  But according to published accounts of Ban Ki-Moon’s report on the demonstrations, it was Israeli weaponry that caused the fire which ultimately killed protesters.

From Ha’aretz:

A UN report on the Naksa day events said the IDF used tear gas, smoke grenades and live fire to prevent the demonstrators from crossing the ceasefire line.

It stated: “Several anti-tank mines exploded due to a brush fire apparently started by tear gas or smoke grenade canisters near UNDOF facilities at Charlie Gate, resulting in casualties among protesters.”

The brush fire was put out by Syrian and Israeli fire squads, and UNDOF, the report read.

Meanwhile, the Zionist blogosphere is all over this story by Michael Weiss of the Telegraph that purports to show Syrian state documents proving that “Assad orchestrated Nakba Day raids” on the Golan Heights.  Weiss, who works for a pro-Israel advocacy group, claimed that the document was authentic and originated from the “‘Office of the Mayor’ in Al-Qunaitera province.”  But blogger Richard Silverstein throws cold water on Weiss’ report, writing that it was Israeli intelligence–which has a history of pushing false stories in the media–who leaked the memo to him.

‘The Palestine Cables’: Obama administration killed off independent U.N. investigation into Israeli war crimes in Gaza

This post, part of the “Palestine Cables” feature I write, originally appeared in Mondoweiss:

It was a shocking event in a twenty-two day assault filled with them:  the Israeli military shelled a United Nations compound in Gaza City January 15, where humanitarian aid like fuel and water pumping stations were stationed as well as hundreds of Palestinians displaced by the Israeli bombardment.  John Ging, the Gaza Director of Operations of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) described the scene on Democracy Now!

This morning, there were three rounds of white phosphorus which landed in our compound in Gaza. That set ablaze the main warehouse and the big workshop we have there for vehicles. At the time, there were 700, also, people displaced from the fighting. There were full fuel tankers there. The Israeli army have been given all the coordinates of all our facilities, including this one. They also knew that there were fuel tankers laden with fuel in the compound, and they would have known that there were hundreds of people who had taken refuge.

It was one of a number of incidents during “Operation Cast Lead” where the Israeli military attacked United Nations facilities.  But the possibility of an further inquiry that would investigate violations of international law during these attacks was killed following intense U.S. lobbying, according to newly published State Department cables released by WikiLeaks and reported on by Foreign Policy‘s Colum Lynch.  The efforts by the Obama administration to scuttle any investigation is similar to their efforts on the Goldstone report, and shows in detail how the U.S. uses its muscle in international forums to protect Israel.

A report was published in May 2009 on nine incidents where U.N. facilities were attacked by Israel.  The full report was never published, although a summary of the U.N. report stated that the “Government of Israel is responsible for the deaths and injuries that occurred within the United Nations premises” in seven of the nine incidents investigated.

A number of recommendations were made for further follow-up, which included seeking compensation from Israel and seeking public statements from Israel that allegations of Palestinian fighters firing from within UNRWA facilities were unfounded.  The most controversial recommendation included in the report was the call for an “impartial inquiry” into violations of international humanitarian law.  But the possibility of that inquiry was quashed in the cover letter to the summary of the report, written by Ki-Moon.  “As for the Board’s recommendations numbers 10 and 11 [which called for further inquiries], which relate to matters that did not largely fall within the Board of Inquiry’s Terms of Reference, I do not plan any further Inquiry,” Ki-Moon wrote.

And despite Moon’s insistence at a press conference that the work of the board of inquiry was “completely independent,” State Department cables tell a much different story of U.S. pressure on Moon to kill off the possibility of an independent investigation.

Lynch reports:

The most controversial part of the probe involved recommendations by Martin that the U.N. conduct a far-reaching investigation into violations of international humanitarian law by Israeli forces, Hamas, and other Palestinian militants. On May 4, 2009, the day before Martin’s findings were presented to the media, Rice caught wind of the recommendations and phoned Ban to complain that the inquiry had gone beyond the scope of its mandate by recommending a sweeping investigation.

“Given that those recommendations were outside the scope of the Board’s terms of reference, she asked that those two recommendations not be included in the summary of the report that would be transmitted to the membership,” according to an account contained in the May 4 cable. Ban initially resisted. “The Secretary-General said he was constrained in what he could do since the Board of Inquiry is independent; it was their report and recommendations and he could not alter them, he said,” according to the cable.

But Rice persisted, insisting in a subsequent call that Ban should at least “make clear in his cover letter when he transmits the summary to the Security Council that those recommendations exceeded the scope of the terms of reference and no further action is needed.” Ban offered no initial promise. She subsequently drove the point home again, underlining the “importance of having a strong cover letter that made clear that no further action was needed and would close out this issue.”

Ban began to relent, assuring Rice that “his staff was working with an Israeli delegation on the text of the cover letter.”

After completing the cover letter, Ban phoned back Rice to report that he believed “they had arrived at a satisfactory cover letter. Rice thanked the Secretary-General for his exceptional efforts on such a sensitive issue.”

At the following day’s news conference, Ban flat-out rejected Martin’s recommendation for an investigation. While underscoring the board’s independent nature, he made it clear that “it is not my intention to establish any further inquiry.” Although he acknowledged publicly that he had consulted with Israel on the findings, he did not say it had been involved in the preparation of the cover letter killing off the call for an investigation. Instead, he only made a request to the Israelis to pay the U.N. more than $11 million in financial compensation for the damage done to U.N. facilities.