National Public Radio aired what sounded like an interview with William Schabas “U.N. Appointee Examining Gaza War Criticized For Anti-Israel Remarks,” on “Morning Edition,” Aug. 25. 2014. Schabas is the anti-Israel Canadian professor chosen by the anti-Israel U.N. Human Rights Council to lead an investigation of possible Israeli and Hamas war crimes during Operation Protective Edge, July 8 through August 26. But the segment amounted to a soapbox for the U.N.’s investigator in the guise of an interview.
Interviewer David Greene noted “Schabas’ appointment has already come under question in part because of his public criticism of Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. … You said back in 2012 very famously now that, quote, ‘my favorite [of leaders to be prosecuted] would be Netanyahu in the dock of the International Criminal Court.’ After saying that, do you feel like you have the credibility here and can be impartial?”
Schabas’ remark cited by Greene was not criticism of Netanyahu—no specific action by the Israeli prime minister was mentioned. Rather, the comment expressed the self-described “international law specialist’s” unwarranted bias.
When Schabas spoke in 2012, North Korean leaders were continuing to run their country like one giant gulag, having killed hundreds of thousands if not millions of people in the process. In trying to suppress a rebellion, dictator Bashar al-Assad’s forces had murdered tens of thousands of Syrians. Iran’s ruling clerics maintained a theocratic police state over their countrymen while leading the world in state-sponsored terrorism. Cuba’s Castro brothers continued a 50-years-plus tyranny cemented by the imprisonment and deaths of thousands of freedom-minded dissidents.
But the leader Schabas most wanted to see tried was the elected head of the Middle East’s only democracy. Credibility, impartiality? Greene let Schabas bob and weave.
The latter said “my position is that you put your views beside; you park them at the door.” Schabas implicitly admitted to an obsessive bias against Israel’s prime minister, but as his own judge and jury said he could set them aside while investigating war crimes charges against the country. Schabas claimed that his critics did not just want an impartial investigator, they desired “a commissioner whose views are closer to their own.”
NPR Doesn’t Expose U.N. Human Rights Council
Actually, Israel didn’t want the U.N. Human Rights Council having anything to do with an “investigation” of Operation Protective Edge against Hamas (the Islamic Resistance Movement), Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups that had bombarded and tunneled into the Jewish state from the Gaza Strip. That was because Israel is the only one of the United Nations’ 192 member states subjected to ceaseless attempts at delegitimization by the world body and its subsidiary agencies. This has been going on since the 1970s, originally at the behest of the Soviet Union and its Arab clients, more recently on behalf of the 22 member countries of the Arab League and 57 of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the U.N.’s international diplomatic bureaucracy in thrall to the “Palestinian narrative.”
A democracy that ensures equal rights for women, religious, ethnic and other minorities, unlike many members of the U.N. Human Rights Council and the world body itself, Israel is the only member state subjected to a “permanent investigation” by the council and targeted with more than three dozen hostile resolutions, according to U.N. Watch. Israel’s reasons for not applauding another U.N. kangaroo court “investigation”—especially after its Goldstone commission, whose anti-Israel accusations after Operation Cast Lead in Gaza (December 2008 – January 2009) later were rejected by its own chairman—are well-founded, though not at all well-reported by NPR.
Greene failed to press Schabas on the fact the council that appointed him includes such human rights exemplars as Algeria, China, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. For them to judge Israel’s retaliation against Hamas terrorism continues the U.N.’s history of “knee-jerk” condemnation of Israeli self-defense, Amb. Eviatar Manor told the council on July 23.
NPR’s interviewer did play a clip of Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor saying the council’s selection of Schabas “to lead this Gaza inquiry … makes about as much sense as choosing Count Dracula to run the blood bank.” But Greene didn’t follow up when Schabas discounted Prosor’s comparison:
“Count Dracula, that’s very clever. I hadn’t heard that before. You know, the ambassador of Israel, he doesn’t want this commission. He won’t be happy with anybody, and I’m obviously a lighting rod. And a few of my previous statements have contributed to that. But he wouldn’t be happy with anybody because he’s opposed to the commission … [H]e’s opposed to all the human rights mechanisms within the United Nations. …
“If there are other governments around the world and more credible that come and say, I’m not the right person—I’m going to be a little more attentive to them than I am to the Israeli permanent representative.”
NPR Doesn’t Expose Schabas
Leave aside that his airy dismissal of Israeli criticism acknowledged Schabas’ own hostile “previous statements.” NPR’s listeners deserved more substance regarding Prosor’s objections, which the ambassador outlined in an August 12 letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The note read in part:
“The selection of William Schabas to chair the Gaza commission of inquiry is an utter farce. The only inquiry taking place should be an inquiry into how a vehemently anti-Israel chair was selected to lead a UN commission investigating Israel.
”Mr. Schabas’ agenda is clear. He has repeatedly called for the prosecution of Prime Minister Netanyahu and former President Shimon Peres …. In light of his hate-fuelled rants, one doesn’t need to be a fortune teller to predict the outcome of any inquiry led by Mr. Schabas. Furthermore, the exploitation of the UNHRC by some of the world’s worst human rights abusers is a grave misfortune for the millions of oppressed people around the world.” This includes the residents of the Gaza Strip oppressed by Hamas’ Islamic fundamentalist rule.
Readers of major U.S. newspapers, including the August 18 Washington Post print edition —which might have included some NPR staffers—probably saw a full page advertisement with the headline “Meet William Schabas. Friend of Ahmadinejad, anti-Israel, and the new head of UN Gaza Commission.” Placed by best-selling author and rabbi, Shmuley Boteach and his “This World: The Values Network,” it called Schabas “a steadfast friend of Iran and its genocidal former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad” and noted that Schabas has sponsored conferences in Tehran “with organizations tied to the fundamentalist, anti-Semitic regime…”
Among other things, the ad said Schabas has defended Ahmadinejad as merely “a provocative politician” and urged people to stop “exaggerating” his annihilationist statements against Israel. It noted that Canada’s Foreign Minister, John Baird, opposed Schabas’ appointment and called the Human Rights Council’s inquiry a “sham.”
But instead of probing Schabas background further, NPR treated him as a legitimate investigator with this next question:
“Can you just tell me what you feel makes this investigation so important?”
Sounding reasonable, organizing a kangaroo court
Schabas gets in essentially the last words, answering “the world has watched a tragic, tragic loss of life, frightening events, terrible destruction. And there are very conflicting narratives about what’s going on. … Thin
gs like this shouldn’t happen: 2,000 people lose their lives in a conflict mainly in an occupied territory. This sort of thing shouldn’t happen without some proper explanation and without a proper assessment of the facts. It would be a travesty for the U.N. to just pass over it.”
Talk about chutzpah. But NPR either didn’t recognize Schabas’ self-serving spin or accepted it.
Nearly 100 times as many people—the vast majority non-combatants, unlike in the Gaza Strip—have been murdered in Syria in the past three years. The vast majority of those non-combatant dead—unlike in the Gaza Strip—were intentionally targeted. And, Gaza has not been an “occupied territory” since Israel’s complete withdrawal in 2005, at least not according to Hamas, if not the United Nations (“Hamas Says Gaza ‘not occupied’; U.N. disagrees,” Jerusalem Post, Jan. 4, 2012).
What is a travesty, as Israel’s diplomats have stressed, are the U.N. Human Rights Council and its jury-rigging selection of Schabas, out of the world’s multitude of international law professors, to probe propagandistic descriptions of Israeli self-defense as war crimes. That is especially so when every one of Hamas’ more than 4,000 mortar and rocket attacks against Israel was, by definition, a war crime. NPR did not ask Schabas whether those attacks, which forced up to six million Israelis to anticipate the next alarm siren and the next dash to a shelter, were “frightening events” that “shouldn’t happen”?
NPR’s Schabas interview, lacking context, failing to challenge the interviewee with obvious follow-up questions, amounted to nearly eight minutes of “Israelis say nasty things about you. Tell our listeners why they’re wrong.”
It’s worth reminding members of Congress and NPR executives that the network and its member stations receive tax dollars under public broadcasting’s Telecommunications Act. The act requires “strict adherence to objectivity and balance in all programs or series of programs of a controversial nature.” Someday a) NPR will begin to comply with the statute, b) Congress will require it to do so, or c) the law will be declared a dead letter and NPR not a journalistic enterprise but a privileged recipient of federal funds.