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Israel, Jewish groups seek to discredit a new UN report on the Gaza War

WASHINGTON — Israel’s government and its supporters are promoting a one-sentence strategy to counter a 574-page UN report on last winter’s Israel-Hamas war in Gaza: Consider the source.

“The same UN that allows the president of a country to announce on a podium its aspiration to destroy the State of Israel has no right to teach us about morality,” Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said, referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“This is a report born of bias,” Abraham Foxman, the national director of the ADL, said in describing the report released Tuesday, Sept. 15, by the UN Human Rights Council. “What do you do with an initiative born of bigotry?”

The report, written by a fact-finding mission headed by Richard Goldstone, a respected war crimes judge from South Africa who is Jewish, urges Israel to set up independent investigations into what it calls Israel’s war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Calling for the probes to be set up within three months, the report also recommends that international bodies launch prosecutions if Israel does not do so within six months.

It makes similar recommendations about Hamas.

The timing of the report is not propitious for Israel, as it sparks a public relations problem ahead of a planned summit to reconvene Israeli-Palestinian talks and open talks with Iran aimed at getting the Islamic Republic to shut down its suspected nuclear weapons program.

A battery of Israeli officials are touring Washington and the US in an attempt to convey the impression that Israel is more open to negotiations than the Palestinians and that the principal threat in the region is Iran.

The report gives Palestinians and Arab nations an opportunity to complicate that effort.

Jewish groups said the strategy now should be to get the US to dismiss the report as hopelessly biased.

Statements Tuesday by Israel’s Foreign Ministry, as well as by Jewish groups that maintain UN bureaus such as the American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith International, adopted that strategy.

“Israel does not require any external reminder to probe its just actions, especially from a radical body which is comprised from ‘moral’ nations the likes of Malaysia, Syria, Pakistan and Somalia,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry said.

“Let us not forget that this commission was a creation of the Human Rights Council, arguably the UN’s most flawed body,” David Harris, AJC’s executive director, said in a statement.

“The Council has consistently demonized Israel, while giving a free pass to some of the world’s worst tyrants, from Sudan to Iran.”

Daniel Mariaschin, B’nai B’rith’s executive vice president, told JTA that the report was a case of “There you go again.” He said his group would intensify outreach to member nations to mitigate the report’s damage.

LEFT-leaning Israeli and pro-Israel groups said such an approach misses the broader point: Israel must account for its actions beyond the internal Israeli army reviews under way.

“The obstacle to peace is the festering anger” in Gaza, said Mitchell Plitnick, a spokesman for B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group.

Concerns about the report’s bias date back to the Human Rights Council’s mandate last February when it created the fact-finding mission and asked it to probe “grave” Israeli “violations of human rights” during the war, launched by Israel on Dec. 27 after Hamas-sponsored rocket fire from Gaza over many years.

Israel and Jewish groups slammed the council for pre-emptive conclusions and for not accounting for the intensification of rocket fire under the rule of Hamas.

Goldstone obtained the council’s permission to broaden his mandate and consider Hamas war crimes.

The report released Tuesday considers the years of rocket attacks on Israel that preceded the war and concludes that Hamas committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Nonetheless, Israel refused to deal with Goldstone or the council, despite Goldstone’s Jewish credentials and longstanding ties to Israel — he’s a trustee of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, among other things.

Foxman suggested that the UN was using Goldstone’s credibility to disguise an inherently biased report.

None of the charges in the report’s executive summary are new; the summary appears to compile and replicate many of the charges that were made by some international and Israeli human rights groups.

Among other allegations, the report accuses Israel of having created an “emergency situation” in Gaza through its blockade prior, during and after the war; describes as excessive Israel’s use of white phosphorous, a chemical irritant used as an obscurant during the war; dismisses as unfounded Israel’s claims that all of the approximately 240 policemen slain during the war were combatants; and chronicles about a dozen allegations of Israel shooting unarmed Palestinians without provocation.

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