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Media Week - Black Schabas; Harsh realities

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Black Schabas

On ABC Radio National "Breakfast" (Aug. 15) host Fran Kelly missed an opportunity to address Hamas' conduct whilst interviewing William Schabas, the UN Human Rights Council's controversial appointee to head an investigation into alleged war crimes during the Gaza war.

Schabas said his investigation would examine alleged violations of international and humanitarian law "committed on the territory, on the occupied Palestinian territory since the middle of June when the most recent conflict began."

In other words, the commission is including alleged war crimes committed in the West Bank too and suggesting the war commenced one month before it officially started on July 8, but this wasn't explained.

Kelly questioned the investigation's impartiality when Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay has claimed "Israel was deliberately defying international law" and should be held "accountable for possible war crimes."

Schabas said many people have strong opinions but must "put those aside and... look at things as impartially as possible," which prompted Kelly to question Schabas' own objectivity, noting he has previously called to "bring Benjamin Netanyahu before the international criminal court."

A seemingly tough question - but one which would have benefitted from the key point that Schabas said he demanded Netanyahu's prosecution because of supposed war crimes committed in the 2009 war. Yet Olmert was Israel's PM then, with Netanyahu in opposition.

Other questions that Schabas needed to be asked included: "Why aren't you calling for prosecuting Hamas' leaders? How can expert testimony be gathered when Gaza is under Hamas' brutal dictatorship? Will you investigate allegations that Hamas executed alleged collaborators?"

Harsh realities

On August 14, the Age, which regularly publishes former senior intelligence analyst Paul Monk in its newspaper, opted to run his op-ed on the Gaza war only online.

This has recently been the fate of several pro-Israel opinion pieces submitted to the Age.

Monk counselled against "partisan anger" towards Israel because of the death toll in Gaza without taking account of certain "harsh realities."

Monk argued, "there is no concession that Israel can make to [mollify] Hamas" and "there is no way to punish Hamas for its relentless provocations without inflicting at least some harm on Arab civilians."

He explained how the Allies' D-Day invasion in 1944 to liberate France caused "tens of thousands" of deaths but they "were not trying to kill French civilians, but to defeat the Nazi war machine. They were unable to accomplish the second without doing the first."

Other "harsh realities" that he said need acknowledging include the ongoing Palestinian Arab rejection dating back to the 1937 Peel Commission of a two-state formula, the pursuit of terror instead of peace after Israel's 2005 Gaza withdrawal, and the insistence that all descendants of the Palestinians who lost their homes during the 1948 war remain refugees even though the similar number of Jews expelled from Arab lands after Israel's establishment managed to create new lives for themselves.

- Allon Lee

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