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Nitsana Dahan-Leitner, who is in the Tel Aviv offices of Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center, describes the challenges Israel will face from the United Nations in coming weeks.

Her calm and peaceful demeanor hides the fierce opposition Israel faces from the UN Human Rights Council [COIcomposed of three members. The UN Human Rights Council was given the mandate to “investigate in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (including East Jerusalem) all allegations of violations of international human rights law and all alleged violations or abuses of the International Human Rights Law until and including April 13 2021.”

While there have been vigorous UN probes into Israel before, the difference between the current one is the fact that it has been conceived as a permanent and ongoing inquiry that will probe Israel as well as the IDF. The commission was not assigned an deadline for its duration.

Darshan-Leitner who founded Shurat HaDin 2003, explains that “the UN Human Rights Council investigation does not come out of thin air.” “It’s linked to the ongoing proceeding of the International Court of Justice (The Hague).

The ICC was created through the Rome Statute in 1998, which established the court. The court has the authority to prosecute people for crimes of aggression as well as crimes against humanity and genocide. Israel supported the idea of an International Court of Justice, but was concerned about the possibility that it would be applied against them. Israel, the US and many other nations have not ratified or signed this statute and are therefore not legally bound.

In the month of March 2021, Fatou Bensouda, the ICC prosecutor in The Hague, announced that she would be opening a war crimes probe against Israel as well as Hamas.

A decision made by the International Court against Israel could have major implications. The court is part of the majority of European and Scandinavian nations and is legally bound by law to observe the decisions of its members. If the ICC ruled IDF soldiers committed war crime All Israelis who were involved in IDF military operations could be detained. This includes people who travel in the member states like Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. The harsh economic sanctions can also be imposed on the Jewish state and its banking sector. Israel may be facing other threats, like sanctions, weapon embargoes or boycotts. El Al or other Israeli airlines might not be allowed in certain countries.

Bensouda was removed from office in June 2021. Karim Khan, a British barrister, was appointed her replacement. Bensouda’s fourteen investigations, eight of which were in the process of being completed, were transferred to the new prosecutor. Darshan Leitner explained to the Palestinians that he categorised the items on his court docket as “in the planning stage”, which is politely to say that the claims are not urgent or have sufficient merit.

nitsana darshan leitner Darshan Leitner Darshan Leitner said “this has upset the Palestinian Authority.” “They were unable to comprehend why their tireless efforts to convince the prosecutor to open an investigation have been slowed down.”

In the month of September, 2021 PA called for the creation of a Commission in the International Court of Justice to get Karim Khan to change his mind.

Darshan Leitner asserts that Israel has been accused of war crimes and apartheid violations since then. Amnesty International released a report in February that said that it was accusing Israel of committing apartheid violations within and beyond the Green Line. The report said Israel “has established an institutionalized system of oppression against Palestinians” and further claimed that it has been a victim of Israel in its racial division since 1948.

Darshan Leitner clarifies that Palestinian claims against Israel before the International Criminal Court focus on two distinct areas. IDF military operation and Israeli settlements. Darshan Leitner believes these zones constitute war crimes.

Karim Khan is urged by the Palestinians, the ICC prosecutor is being urged to prioritise the investigation into Israel under “apartheid” an alleged new accusation. This is not the case that Bensouda was able to investigate in his initial investigation. She claims that “whatever gets the investigation moving is legitimate according to their view, and it doesn’t matter what it’s or whether it’s true.”

KARIM KHAN, new ICC prosecutor. (Credit: Michael Kooren/Reuters)
The UN’s three-member Commission of Inquiry, led by Navi Pillay (South Africa) and comprising Miloon Kthari (India), and Chris Sidoti [Australia), is the latest attempt to persuade The Hague.

According to Darshan Leitner, Pillay, Kothari and Sidoti are known for their biases against Israel.”All three have a proven track record of statements and actions on the same topics they are called to ‘investigate the matter,'” she says. “Pillay has been accused of accusing Israel of apartheid, and was the driving force behind the antisemitic Durban conferences. Others are not too far from the scene.”

The UN Human Rights Council 49th session (HRC49) is held at Geneva’s office from February 28 until April 1. The main focus of the session will be likely to be the final report of the inquiry commission on Operation Guardian of the Walls. It refers to the Israeli operation in Gaza in response to the Hamas missiles fired at Israel in the month of May 2021. In the course of the session, Israel is expected to face accusations of apartheid, war crimes and crimes versus humanity.

Darshan-Leitner says that while the State of Israel will not join or be a part of the commission of inquiry, Shurat HaDin cannot sit back quietly and ignore the allegations that are likely to be issued from the commission.

“There are two possible strategies to combat the Pillay Committee,” Darshan-Leitner elaborates. “One is the practical response – answering the accusations of apartheid. One is the response to material to the allegations of apartheid. The second is personal, and focuses upon the inimicality of its participants.

She states that her past experiences show that ShurathaDin and others will not be able to convince those who are already uneasy about Israel.

Shurat Haidin suggests that Shurat Hadin is more interested in illustrating that all members to the commission of enquiry have a bias towards Israel, and the UN will be willing to sacrifice its fundamental values and notion of fairness to delegitimize Israel.

“We are planning to begin a campaign to call to the removal of all the COI members,” says Darshan-Leitner. “We are planning to organize mass petitions to take legal action against the COI as well as its members and all other individuals who assist the COI.”

Shurat HaDin will also attempt to establish that it’s not Israel but rather the PA who are the real violators of human rights. “We are going to scan their laws and uncover what we know – the discrimination against women, children as well as the LGBTQ community and their flawed legal system. Did you not know that PA law allows men to legally rape the spouse of his partner? Marital rape is not an offense under their ‘advanced human-rights-friendly’ legislation.

This is just one of many examples of the UN’s “champions of human rights” who are eager to assist. They claim Israel which is a genuine democracy, of being an apartheid state. However, they support an oppressive regime that hasn’t held elections for fifteen years and regularly violates human rights of its own citizens.

Darshan Leitner states that Shurat HaDin will also reveal how minorities are treated in Gaza and Palestine. nitsana darshan leitner The number of Christians in the PA is declining. They are increasing.

Shurat HaDin’s leader feels Israel made serious errors when it handled a UNHRC-previous commission of inquiry in 2009, headed by Richard Goldstone, South African jurist. Jerusalem did not cooperate with in the Goldstone Commission during that famous episode. They claimed it was biased and had an agenda that was predetermined. It would not have any influence on their ability to work with it. The aftermath of the extremely critical final report it caused a lot of international tensions for Israel.

“While I am fully convinced that Israel was correct in not cooperating with the vicious Goldstone witch hunting I’m not sure we dealt our cards effectively. It’s not enough just to avoid the UNHRC or label them as racist and discriminatory. The government had to back its decision with a well-organized and proactive campaign to disseminate its own propaganda and counterattack on the anti-Semitic UNHRC.”This is where an NGO such as Shurat HaDin can play such a crucial role. She says, “We can act, make a statement, and even take legal actions in cases where government’s hands are essentially tied.”

Darshan Leitner is trying to fill in the gaps. She outlines the current situation and says that ultimately the purpose of the PA was to influence The Hague Chief Prosecutor. Therefore, “if I can uproot the foundation of the commission to expose how erroneous it is, how the claim of apartheid is false and more suited to the PA and the PA’s agenda, it will demonstrate that the commission has no significance.

“If we do not do this, the result will be terrible. The prosecutor may be influenced and may reconsider his decision. This could be tragic and it could alter the course of justice. It’s not possible to do this.”