Schabas
Prof. William Schabas. Photo by YouTube
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Prof. William Schabas, appointed on Monday as head of the United Nations probe into Operation Protective Web, has acknowledged in an Israeli TV interview that "there are many instances of double standards" at the international body.

Schabas was asked by a Channel 2 interviewer why investigations had not been conducted into the American invasion of Iraq, the Russian attack on Chechnya and other incidents in which thousands of civilians were killed while Israel has been probed twice in six years.

"The fact that there have not been investigations into certain atrocities in certain places can be explained by the political balance and the relative strengths of the players," Schabas said. "It's very regrettable, but that's the situation."

Schabas, a Canadian expert on international law, declined to categorize Hamas as a terrorist organization during the course of the interview, saying "it would not be fair for me to answer that question. We need to start with a blank page and investigate the issue in the most neutral and objective way possible."

Questioned about statements he had made in the past that could be construed as being anti-Israel, Schabas said: "I can promise you that I am not anti-Israel, but that doesn't mean that I don't have my own opinions about some of the people in Israeli governments over the years.

"The statements were made in a specific context and that's how they should be seen. I have been to Israel several times. I have lectured at universities and I'm on the editorial board of an Israeli journal. I wouldn't have done those things if I was anti-Israel."

Schabas said the inquiry will investigate the use of force in Gaza, the injuries that resulted and the proportionality of the injuries and the identification of military targets.

It was in Israel's interests to cooperate with the inquiry, he said, because Israel had commented on the issues in the past and those comments were part of the public record.

"Israel has published statements maintaining that it acted out of self-defense and does not fire on civilians. It's one thing to say something and another to examine specific incidents and see whether the statements are accurate. The Israeli interest is to give its version of events."

He stressed that if Israel did not participate, "a one-sided picture of the events will be created, unfortunately."