Latin America’s immediate condemnation of the Israeli raid on a pro-Palestinian flotilla last week is understandable, but the region’s support for an investigation by the United Nations Human Rights Council is outrageous. The U.N. group is dominated by some of the world’s worst dictatorships and most viscerally anti-Israeli regimes.
First of all, there is little question that Israel’s raid on the six-ship flotilla that was trying to break the Israeli blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza territory was a supreme act of stupidity.
The Israeli government knew very well that, far from a well-meaning convoy of peaceniks carrying humanitarian aid, the so-called Freedom Flotilla had been sponsored by the IHH Islamic Charity, a group the Israeli government itself has long classified as a terrorist front.
It was crystal clear that the flotilla’s activists wanted to provoke an international incident that would expose Israel as a ruthless aggressor, and draw world attention on the Gaza blockade.
And while Israel repeatedly warned the flotilla to stop, and offered to deliver its cargo by land to Gaza after making sure it carried no weapons for Hamas — which according to Israel’s count has fired more than 10,000 rockets and mortars at Israel’s civilian population over the past five years — the end result of the incident was exactly what the flotilla leaders wanted. There was violence — nine dead — and an outburst of international outrage against Israel.
Many newspaper headlines in Israel, which by far enjoys the greatest freedom of the press in the Middle East, called the Israeli raid a mistake. “Stupid, stupid, stupid,” read a column headline in the center-right daily Jerusalem Post.
Israel’s government responded that, under international law, it had the right to inspect the vessels, and that its soldiers acted in self-defense when militants aboard the Mavi Marmara attacked them.
Palestinian leaders countered that when you have Israeli troops intercepting ships carrying unarmed civilians and all of the dead are on one side, it’s pretty clear who used excessive force.
Israel and the flotilla members are now accusing one another of having started the melee that led to the bloodshed.
Meantime, the 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council has adopted a resolution by a 32-vote majority that included China, Libya and Saudi Arabia ordering a Council investigation into the Israeli raid.
All Latin American Council members — Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua and Uruguay — voted in support of the resolution. Only three countries voted against it — the United States, Italy and the Netherlands — while nine countries abstained, most of them European nations, and three were absent.
One doesn’t have to be a genius to guess the outcome of the Council’s “investigation.” According to the Freedom House advocacy group’s map of freedom in the world, 60 percent of the Council’s members are dictatorships, or only “partly free.”
The U.N. Council’s record is pitiful. One of its first actions after it was revamped in 2006 was to end its monitoring of Cuba’s human rights abuses.
The Council has also failed to investigate human rights abuses in China, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Zimbabwe, some of the world’s worst human rights offenders.
Of the 40 resolutions issued by the Council over the past four years, 33 have been condemnations of Israel, according to U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based group critical of the U.N. body’s obsession with Israel.
Last year, the U.N. Council didn’t say a word about Iran’s massacre of more than 70 peaceful protesters, nor when China killed nearly 200 Uigurs during ethnic riots. Also, the Council ignored North Korea’s recent sinking of a South Korean ship that killed 46 sailors, and it never passed a resolution condemning Cuba for the 1994 sinking of the “13 de Marzo” ship that killed 41 Cubans — including 10 children — who were trying to flee the island.
My opinion: While I agree with Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas — which the United States and European countries have officially classified as a terrorist group — and its various civilian front organizations, I can’t dismiss demands that there be an international investigation into the high seas incident.
But putting such an investigation in the hands of the U.N. Human Rights Council is a travesty.
— Andres Oppenheimer is a Latin America correspondent for the Miami Herald. firstname.lastname@example.org