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Schabas Urged 'Twisting Things' to Get Israel in the Dock

'With a bit of luck and by twisting things and maneuvering we can get them before the courts,' said UN investigator in 2013.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 8/13/2014, 5:06 PM

Speaking in a 2013 panel, Prof. William Schabas, who has been tapped to head the United Nations' investigation into Operation Protective Edge, clearly revealed his great eagerness to bring about the prosecution of Israel over its actions in Gaza, even if that involved “twisting things and maneuvering” in the international legal arena.

He said that it is his “profound belief, that international law can be used to demonstrate and underscore the violations committed by the state of Israel, and moreover can be used to hold accountable individuals who have perpetrated international crimes against the people of Palestine.”

Asked about various possible tools for prosecuting Israel, he said: “I would have been inclined to talk about crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression, all of which I think can be shown have been perpetrated at various times during the history of the state of Israel. These are all crimes that have become increasingly robust in their definition in recent decades and for which we now have international institutions capable of prosecuting the crimes.”

Schabas urged prosecution of Israel in the International Criminal Court and said that a the court made “a policy error” in failing to take up the issue.

Asked about the possibility of prosecuting Israel for “ecocide” as well, Schabas expressed optimism on gradually enlarging the scope of legal accusations against Israel. “Years ago there were no courts at all,” he noted (at minute 25:15 in the video embedded above). “When [the term] 'genocide' was invented there was no court at all. There was no court for crimes against humanity, but we have them now. And with a bit of luck and by twisting things and maneuvering we can get them before the courts.”

Schabas did not deny Wednesday, in an interview with Israel's Channel 2, that the international community has a double standard regarding Israel's conduct of war.

Channel 2's anchor, Danny Kushmaro, asked Schabas if there is not a double standard involved when that thousands of innocent civilians were killed in Chechnya by the Russians, and by NATO forces in Libya, yet there was “not one international investigation,” whereas Israel acted in self defense in Gaza and two investigations have been launched in the course of six years.

“There are a lot of double standards in the international level,” answered Schabas. “This is explained by the relative strength of the powers,” he added, and noted that some claim there is a double standard in Israel's favor in the UN Security Council, where anti-Israel resolutions are vetoed.