Accounting for Gaza 2014: Balance and Bias

This article first appeared in the Massachusetts Peace Action newsletter, Fall 2015, published on August 20, 2015.

David Zackon

In June the US administration reacted with calculated scorn to the report of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) established by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to investigate last summer’s attack on Gaza by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

“We’re not going to have a readout of this.… We’re not going to take it apart and do a point-by-point rebuttal,” the State Department‘s John Kirby announced. Israel’s “best friend” did not even attempt a refutation because of “our concerns about the mechanism of using the [COI] on this…; we challenge the very mechanism which created it.”

Kirby cited “the bias against Israel that is imparted in that mechanism,” and Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor claimed that “the Human Rights Council serves as the soldiers of the Palestinians and Hamas…. The UN has been taken hostage by terrorist organizations.”

Whenever the US wants to avoid confronting the serial crimes of the IDF, it posits “Bias.” Last December, members of Congress (even including progressives Barbara Lee, Keith Ellison and Jim McGovern) sent Ban Ki-moon a complaint linking anti-Semitic violence in Europe to “biases present within the United Nations.”

To dismiss a lengthy, carefully-produced report commissioned at the behest of governments around the world and led by Justice Mary McGowan-Davis, an American jurist of unchallenged credentials; to deem its contents – the substantial evidence and findings – irrelevant because of the “mechanism”: that is overt bias.

The complete isolation of the US position was inescapable when the 47-member UNHCR voted 41-1 (with 5 abstentions) to endorse McGowan-Davis’s recommendations. Compare that with the 2009 vote accepting Judge Goldstone’s report on Israel’s “violations of international human rights and humanitarian law” in “Operation Cast Lead,” an earlier assault on Gaza, when 5 European allies joined the US in dissent. In 2015, only the US voted no. Britain, France, Netherlands – who had opposed Goldstone – have now joined the majority.

The COI was blunt in decrying the “impunity” with which the IDF violates international humanitarian and human rights law. In an Israeli press interview following the release of her report, McGowan-Davis declared that “it is not OK to drop a one-ton bomb in the middle of a neighborhood.” Does that statement reflect “bias” or simple humanity?

US officials, especially those who take international humanitarian law seriously, surely understand that there are neither bias nor shaky “facts” or logic in the McGowan-Davis report. But in May, the State Department approved $1.9 billion in arms to replenish the stock Israel expended in Gaza last summer.