Update as of 4.30 a.m. EST: Hours after William Schabas announced his resignation as head of the United Nations Human Rights Council's inquiry panel into the 2014 Gaza war, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the “anti-Israel” council to end its investigation.
“After the resignation of William Schabas it is time to shelve the anti-Israeli report his committee wrote,” Netanyahu reportedly said, echoing similar statements made by Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who had earlier said that appointing Schabas was like “appointing Cain to investigate who killed Abel.”
Canadian lawyer William Schabas, who was appointed as head of a United Nations panel to inquire into allegations of war crimes during Israel's military assault on the Gaza Strip last year, resigned on Monday over accusations of personal bias, according to media reports. His resignation comes ahead of the publication of the U.N. Human Rights Council report in March.
The Israeli government had consistently opposed Schabas’ appointment in August as the chairman of the inquiry panel, allegedly calling it akin to choosing “Count Dracula to run a blood bank.” Israeli authorities had demanded Schabas’ ouster, stating that because he had, in the past, done consultation work for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), he would be biased in his inquiry.
“When it comes to the UN’s bias against Israel -- this is just the tip of the iceberg. The organization chose an outspoken critic of Israel to lead its Gaza inquiry,” Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., had reportedly said in August last year. Israel had also filed a formal complaint with the president of the human rights council, demanding Schabas’ resignation and had said that it would not cooperate with the “kangaroo court.”
In a letter written to the council on Monday, Schabas reportedly said that he is resigning because he did not want this issue to overshadow the publication of the report.
“My views on Israel and Palestine as well as on many other issues were well known and very public,” Schabas reportedly wrote. “This work in defense of human rights appears to have made me a huge target for malicious attacks.”
Schabas also said that the consultation work he had done for PLO in 2012, was a “tiny part” of his body of academic work, according to media reports.
Over 2,200 Palestinians, including more than 500 children, and over 70 Israelis, were killed in the conflict in the Gaza Strip last year between July and August. The U.N. panel was tasked with looking into the conduct of Israel and Hamas during the conflict and investigating allegations of war crimes.