Article published by the Gatestone Institute, 8 June 2022. © Richard Kemp
The United Nations Human Rights Council’s Permanent Commission of Inquiry into Israel, due to make its initial report on June 13, has a mendacious mandate worthy of Vladimir Putin himself. Putin went to war to turn into reality his much repeated insistence that Ukraine is an illegitimate state that has no right to exist and is inseparable from the rest of Russia. Similarly, the UN mandate allows it to question the very existence of the State of Israel. Unlike all other UN inquiries, this one has no historic time limit and enables the commission to range right back to the foundation of the state. The commissioners won’t be bold enough to explicitly declare that Israel has no right to exist, but you can be certain that will be the subtext running throughout their report.
An important part of Putin’s vendetta against Ukraine is propaganda and disinformation, and that is the role the UNHRC has also allotted itself in the campaign against Israel. The actual fighting is done by Hamas and their henchmen, backed and supplied by Putin’s ally Iran. But even before the notorious 2009 Goldstone Report, the UNHRC justified and encouraged Hamas violence, and that has played a crucial role in efforts to vilify and isolate Israel as well as incite greater bloodshed in the Middle East and attacks against Jews around the world.
Like Putin in Ukraine this year and in 2014, Hamas has initiated a series of unprovoked violent attacks against Israel. The latest major wave, in which it launched over 4,000 missiles against Israel’s civilian population in May 2021, was the premise for the UNHRC’s current inquiry, although of course Israel’s self-defence rather than Hamas’s aggression is the focus of their ire. The scale of the Gaza conflict and the relative strengths of the two sides is completely different, but just like Putin in Ukraine, Hamas’s war against Israel aims to conquer the territory of a sovereign democratic state that it believes should not exist.
The Hamas Covenant explicitly claims that every inch of Israel’s land belongs to Muslims. This is echoed in the Palestinian National Charter, the founding document of the PLO which controls Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority. The slogan ‘from the river to the sea’, familiar from anti-Israel protests and university campuses around the world, means that the Jewish people have no right to nationhood anywhere from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
Both Hamas and Putin’s Russia, like most dictatorships, habitually plead self-defence as their justification for aggression. Putin pretends that NATO is a threat to Russia, yet he understands it is a defensive alliance that has no hostile intent; Hamas claims Israeli aggression while knowing that Israel would not and has never used force except in defence of its sovereign land and people. Just as Putin describes Ukraine as an anti-Russia project, exploited by America to undermine his country, Hamas claims Israel is an anti-Muslim colonialist enterprise of the US.
Both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have close relations with Russia and both refuse to condemn the war in Ukraine. Many countries, including the US and UK, designate Hamas a terrorist entity but, like the UN, Moscow does not. Hence, amidst heightened Russia-Israel tensions due to Tel Aviv’s condemnation of Putin’s war, a Hamas delegation held talks at the foreign ministry in Moscow last month with Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov. These were intended to strengthen Hamas relations with Russia at just the time when most are distancing themselves from Putin’s regime. That should come as no surprise to anyone, as Hamas and Russia share totalitarian values; both are kleptocracies, both ruthlessly repress internal opposition and both readily resort to violence — be it political assassination, terrorism or all-out war.
In a statement at the conclusion of the meetings on 5th May, Hamas’s international relations chief, Moussa Abu Marzouk, appeared to welcome the war in Ukraine, saying:
New equations are being imposed today in the global system, and there is an opportunity to change the status quo in the global system for the benefit of the oppressed in the world.
Commenting on the Russia-Hamas talks, Walid al-Mudallal, a professor of political science at the Islamic University of Gaza, said that while Moscow would be unlikely to supply weapons and finance directly to Hamas, ‘such support can be done in indirect ways, through Iran and Hizballah, which have forged an alliance with Moscow in the face of the United States in many international issues’. We know Iran is already the source of many Russian weapons and technology used by Hamas to attack Israelis.
Putin’s pretext for war was to protect the ethnically Russian population in Ukraine, while Hamas claimed their attack in 2021 was to protect Muslims and their holy sites in Jerusalem. Just like Putin, Hamas’s ‘protection’ was merely a sham, with the threat from Israel to Muslims and holy sites nothing other than fiction.
Both aggressors are equally fond of raising the spectre of Nazism to traduce their enemies. Among Putin’s goals is ‘denazifying’ Ukraine. Hamas and its followers equate Israel to the Nazi regime and that equivalence is explicitly enshrined in its covenant. To underline the point and taunt their opponents, Hamas terrorists and their supporters often brandish swastika flags in the faces of Israeli soldiers and civilians.
The chair of the UN commission, Navi Pillay, has indirectly played into the Israel-Nazi theme, supporting and justifying the viciously anti-Israel UN Durban Conference at which fliers were handed out with a picture of Hitler captioned with an assertion that if he had won there would be no Israel. Durban is just one of Pillay’s numerous credentials against Israel, set out in detail by the NGO UN Watch in a submission to the UN. Her indisputable anti-Israel bias is shared by her two fellow commissioners, Miloon Kothari and Chris Sidoti, as outlined in an article by David Litman earlier this month in JNS.
The funding level for this commission of inquiry is the second-highest of all 33 such investigations the UNHRC has ever conducted (after a probe on Myanmar). The budget for the first three years alone is $11.81 million followed by $5.47 million each year for an indefinite period. These eye-watering figures are an indication of the lengths the UN is prepared to go to push forward and publicise its anti-Israel agenda.
It is not usually possible to confidently predict the outcome of court proceedings or international investigations, especially in the democratic world. But — like Putin’s mock trials such as the one that recently convicted opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and Hamas’s latest kangaroo court that sent two Gaza Palestinians to prison for spying for Israel last week — the UNHCR commission’s findings were certain from the moment it was convened. A combination of biased commissioners, a long track record of unfounded condemnation of Israel and a one-sided mandate that never mentions Hamas, singling out Israel alone, can mean only one thing.
On June 13, among its wide range of anti-Israel findings, including accusations of apartheid (a calumny originally dreamt up in Moscow), the commission will deem Israel guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. As Putin supported the UN General Assembly resolution establishing the commission, he will agree with its report — for it will be a report that legitimises and justifies a mirror image of his aggression against Ukraine.
The 2021 war will not be the last major Hamas assault on Israel, just as Putin will not rest against Ukraine if he seizes the Donbas where his forces are now fighting. He will demand a negotiation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that cedes all of Ukraine’s conquered territory to Russia. Likewise, Hamas’s Moussa Abu Marzouk told Russia Today at the conclusion of the May war:
‘This is just one of a [series] of wars, and a war will come [until] we negotiate with them [i.e., the Jews] about the end of their occupation and their leaving of Palestine.’ As Putin is determined that Ukraine will not exist as a separate entity, Marzouk is determined that ‘Israel will come to an end just like it began’.
These future wars launched from Gaza will not only be enabled by weapons and funding supplied via Iran, including Russian weapons. The most important enabler will be the UNHRC with its trumped-up and provocative reports on Israel that provide political cover for Hamas violence. It should be a matter for international outrage when later this month the UNHRC supports the aggressors in a conflict and condemns the defenders while the deadliest European war since 1945 rages on.