By Omar Radwan
Following the Israeli raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which resulted in the murder of at least nine civilian activists (some are, apparently, still unaccounted for) carrying aid to Gaza, Israel has been faced with calls for an inquiry into the incident. The United Nations Security Council passed a very weak resolution which failed to condemn Israel for the raid but called for a “prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards”. On Tuesday, Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague and his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner gave their support to an inquiry with an international presence at a joint press conference and also called for an end to the siege of Gaza.
At first glance it may seem that Israel is under a lot of pressure following its murderous raid but in reality it is more than likely that it will get away with murder, yet again. While the raid on the flotilla has shown the world Israel’s complete disregard for international law and its willingness to kill innocent people, in the past the Jewish state has committed much worse crimes than this and international investigations have failed to hold Israel to account in any way. Perhaps the best example of this is the United Nations Fact Finding Mission into the Gaza Conflict, headed by Judge Richard Goldstone, which investigated Israel’s war on Gaza last year and found that Israel had committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity during the conflict. Despite the report’s impartiality, it was condemned by the United States and Israel and Judge Goldstone was subjected to a sustained character assassination campaign. The report has now been effectively buried, despite being approved by the UN Human Rights Council, and it is unlikely that any Israeli politician or soldier will be held accountable for the deaths of 1,400 Palestinians during the assault. This is not the only example.
In 2002, following Israel’s attack on the occupied West Bank town of Jenin, the United Nations established a fact-finding team to find out what had happened during the attack. Israel simply prohibited the team from entering the city and the truth of what had happened was never established. The official figures say that 52 Palestinians died but there were credible reports that a much larger massacre took place. When he visited the town immediately after the attack, UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen said that what had happened was “horrific beyond belief”. The United Nations has also appointed a Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk, but Israel has banned him from entering the West Bank and Gaza and his reports to the UN Human Rights Council have not resulted in any consequences of note for Israel.
This time around, it is equally unlikely that there will be an international inquiry into Israel’s attack on the flotilla. The resolution passed by the UN Security Council was watered down by the United States so much that it did not even condemn Israel, only the “violence” which happened during the seizure of the ships. The demand for an inquiry does not mention that it has to be an international one. William Hague has made it clear that the inquiry he has in mind is only an inquiry “with an international presence”, not an international inquiry. What is being talked about now is an Israeli inquiry committee made up of Israeli judges and diplomats, with two international observers, one American and the other European. The committee’s powers will be very limited. It will look into whether the Israeli military used proportionate or disproportionate force during the raid but it will not even have the power to speak to the soldiers involved. The United States deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Alejandro Wolff, has said that the United States has “every confidence that Israel can conduct a credible and impartial, transparent, prompt investigation internally”. Thus, the criminal will act as his own judge, with the blessing of the international community. It is virtually guaranteed that the committee’s report will be a whitewash and that there will be no sanctions against the officials who ordered the raid or the soldiers who carried it out. Israel will once more be allowed to get away with what it has done and this time it will not even have to worry about an international investigation of its actions.
However, there is one important factor in the equation that Israel may well have cause to regret: the impact caused by the fact that those killed by Israel’s commandos on the flotilla were Turks, not Palestinians. Israel has enjoyed good relations with Turkey in the past but they have cooled noticeably ever since the 2009 war on Gaza. They have now been damaged possibly beyond repair, and while the United States and the European Union may accept a token Israeli investigation into the raid, Turkey will not. It has said that it will not normalise relations with Israel unless it agrees to an international inquiry into the incident. While Turkey probably will not be able to pressurise the international community into holding Israel to account, Israel has now lost an important regional ally and will feel the effects of this soon. In addition, the Freedom Flotilla, while unsuccessful in its mission to deliver aid to Gaza, has succeeded in drawing the attention of the world to the siege of that territory and it is likely that Israel will now be forced by world opinion to re-evaluate and ease the siege.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.