Alamuddin and Clooney in the Port in Gaza

The UN commission of inquiry does not bode well for Israel, which should know that a demonstration of mercy, compassion and concession is not a weakness.

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Human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin, June 12, 2014.
Human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin, June 12, 2014.Credit: AP

What can we conclude from the attempt by the United Nations Human Rights Council to appoint Amal Alamuddin to the international commission of inquiry to investigate possible war crimes by Israel during Operation Protective Edge? Not just that the organization knows something about public relations.

True, the 37 year old British-Lebanese human rights lawyer and fiancee of actor George Clooney announced she would be unable to serve as a member of the commission as she has other plans for the fall. Nonetheless, the UN's recruitment of Alamuddin suggests Israel is on the ropes with the international community. Even the most apathetic and closed minded of the right's spokesmen – who constantly attack the left and B’Tselem for their interviews with the foreign press, or self-loathing, or with some sort of intentional malice – cannot deny that the commission of inquiry's high profile presents another challenge to Israel’s international standing.

The offer to Alamuddin, who among other things was part of the team that defended Wikileaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange, exemplifies the blurring of boundaries between culture and celebrities and diplomacy, and even the increase of nepotism within the realm of international diplomacy. Some would say that if Alamuddin had agreed to be a member of the commission of inquiry she would have given it the glamour of Hollywood, which would have reduced the severity and seriousness of the matter. It is possible. But one thing is clear: Whether or not it was a PR move by the UN, to which Clooney is connected because of his commitment to increase awareness of the crisis in Darfur in Sudan, the deterioration of Israel’s international standing is a disaster. Tens of thousands of demonstrators who went out into the center of London on August 9 are not only pro-Palestinian; they sent a clear message to Israel that it must take responsibility for its actions.

The right wing in Israel, including groups who are not transparent about their sources of funding, such as “Mothers of Soldiers Against B’Tselem,” accuse the Israeli left in general and B’Tselem in particular of slandering the army through their actions. The right does not understand that when the executive director of B’Tselem gives interviews to foreign channels, it is a badge of honor for Israeli democracy, a testimony to moral strength.

The firm Israeli answer to the commission of inquiry is not just pictures of tunnels and films of plane attacks. It must be, at the very least, the generosity of victors. While Israel finds itself being unable to be seen as talking with Hamas, it must recalculate its route – as one of its most senior ministers who is loved by the right says. The global criticism over the bombing of a civilian population does not adopt the rhetoric of Israel’s self-authorized moral approval, and this is very dangerous for Israel.

This does not mean finding favor in the eyes of the so-called ignorant world. A demonstration of mercy, compassion and concession is not weakness. Providing aid and granting the possibility for help are not weakness. In any case, as anyone who repeats the mantra “Israel has the right to defend itself" knows, Israel also has the obligation to facilitate Gaza's rehabilitation.

Israel should not exploit incitement by Hamas during negotiations to make low-level hostilities permanent. Hamas wants to remove the blockade - its position in the talks is the establishment of a port. This is not an unfounded demand. This is the time, absent a foreign minister who represents the crucial long-term interests of Israel, to use both our attribute of mercy and of straight thinking: Open the crossings, expand the fishing zone along the Gaza coast, and allow increased movement between Gaza and the West Bank.

Israel should also bring about the creation of a port, one where Alamuddin and Clooney can have their pictures taken – on the first ship allowed to enter Gaza, after the blockade.

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