Thursday, September 24, 2009

UNHRC Roundup

David Harris has some interesting details about how twisted the UN Human Rights Council really is - and he posted it at the Huffington Post, no less. (I don't regularly read the Huffpo: Jeffrey Goldberg made me do it).

As regular readers know, I'm not certain if a reasonable person shouldn't simply accept that the reigning narrative about international law and the waging of war is so hopelessly irrelevant to the real world as to be written off in its entirety, or if its fundaments are good enough that it needs to be salvaged from the pacifists who bear its name in vain. The official Israeli postion is that it needs - and can - be salvaged. Paul H. Robinson, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, apparently tends to the position that as it stands, the whole corpus needs to be rejected, or at least very seriously revamped, which is roughly the same.

There has been a lot of chatter about the significance - or lack thereof - of Richard Goldstone's Jewishness, his connections with Israel, the fact that his daughter once lived here (she seems not to anymore). I know very little about the man and have nothing informed to say about all that. I have, however, carefully re-read the letter signed by a groupf of folks back in January, among them Prof. Christine Chinkin of the London School of Economics, castigating Israel for its action in Gaza. The fact that Ms. Chinkin was chosen as one of four members of the Goldstone Commission has already been cited by many as an indication of the agenda of the commission before it even began working. Here, have a look yourself. The way I read it, the authors are refusing Israel the right to determine if and when it may defend itself:
ISRAEL has sought to justify its military attacks on Gaza by stating that it amounts to an act of “self-defence” as recognised by Article 51, United Nations Charter. We categorically reject this contention.
The rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas deplorable as they are, do not, in terms of scale and effect amount to an armed attack entitling Israel to rely on self-defence. Under international law self-defence is an act of last resort and is subject to the customary rules of proportionality and necessity.

Moreover, the title (given perhaps by an editor at the Times, not by the authors of the letter) is even more crass: it informs us that it is not Israel's intention to defend itself at all, but rather... well, I'm not quite certain what they think Israel's intention is. Nor is there any indication whatsoever how all these people know what Israel thinks or intends, given that most of them don't know Hebrew, haven't particiapted in the national discussion prior to the operation, and none of them have access to the documents of the decision makers which will only hit the archives in 30 year or later.

Goldstone saw this, and made his decision to sit on the commission with Ms. Chinkin. What was going on in his mind, I cannot say. But I don't think it's all that important, either. This decision of his over-rides anything else one might have to say about him in this context.


Anonymous said...

I don't know if it applies to Goldstone but the uber-confidence of rational people believing that they can reign in nuts is a pretty ubiquitous thing

I understand and sympathise with that it is extremely hard to acknowledge to oneself that one obviously one's inferior by any measure still holds almost unbeatable trump cards but without having acknowledged that to oneself i.e. for example deciding to enter the commission determined to disregard all rules of polite behaviour in the effort to expose the criminal lunatics in there is not possible

yesterday a lot of delegations walked out as A'jad ranted - none had the courage to open up himself to criticism by creating a ruckus, a noise that would shut him down and probably end in a serious fight on the floor of the "august" assembly
I think it was E.M. Forster who said that one only then becomes a full human being if one dares to be ridiculed by one's inferiors ...
and creating a ruckus on the floor of the UN as well as making a media spectacle about the Goldstone-commission would open one up to the same ridicule society so effortless and inconsequentially heaps on the wanna-be killers

Alex said...

And our rebuttal of Goldstone here:

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking for some time now that it makes NO sense for the UN to have a human rights body, because the human rights body inevitably gets stacked with many of the worst abusers, who have the most motivation to participate in order to prevent actions against their abusive governments.

An organization's human rights body can only be credible if its members are committed to human rights, and the only way to ensure that the members are committed to human rights is to have criteria for membership that absolutely exclude unelected governments, governments that do not allow freedom of speech and a free press, governments that sponsor terrorism, governments that have been under investigation by the human rights body during the previous 10 years, governments that prevent minority religions from having basic rights, governments that forbid the teaching of minority languages, etc.

If the UN is unwilling to create such criteria for the UNHRC, then the UNHRC will NEVER be credible and is an utter waste of time and money. It should be disbanded immediately.

It should be replaced by a human rights organization created by the democratic nations of the world, which DOES enforce the constraints described above. Such a body would not be perfect and might well have serious flaws. In fact, such a body might in some cases look into the actions of democratic countries, and the actions of democratic countries might temporarily make them ineligible to participate as members of the body. That's life. But such a body would be FAR, FAR more useful and FAR, FAR less warped than the UNHRC.

The UNHRC's problem is fundamental and structural; unless there are serious criteria that prevent the worst abusers from sitting on that council, it should be abolished forever.

What do you think of this idea, Yaakov?