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Israel Averts International Probe on Gaza Atrocities

Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 2 2010 (IPS) - Less than 48 hours after the Israeli attack on a flotilla of six ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, the most powerful political body at the United Nations acted most ineffectively: it opted for a shaky “presidential statement” instead of a demanding resolution.

The United States diluted that statement even further by resisting a call for an “independent” investigation of the deadly Israeli attacks which killed nine pro-Palestinian activists, mostly Turkish nationals, on a humanitarian mission.

And at the closed door session of the Security Council Monday, U.S. representatives came up with a weak substitute: “an impartial” investigation implicitly backing Israel’s call for conducting its own probe as judge, jury and executioner.

Who would judge the extent of that “impartiality” remained unanswered.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who led the Security Council debate on the Israeli attack, complained that the United States had “delayed and watered down” the final presidential statement.

Israel has clearly declared it will carry out its own inquiry, opposing any independent probe which will involve international participation.

But as the call for an independent inquiry gathered momentum – backed by the League of Arab States and the Organisation of Islamic Conference – the 47-member Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted a resolution Wednesday calling for an “independent, international” probe into violations of international law by Israel.

The vote was 32 in favour to three against (Italy, the Netherlands and the United States), and nine abstentions.

The resolution, which strongly condemned the Israeli military action in international waters, also called for the immediate removal of the three-year Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Meanwhile, Australia broke ranks with the United States and much of the Western world, when in a phone call Wednesday, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Nethanyahu that he supported an “independent” inquiry into Sunday’s attacks.

“We are friends; and at times, however, the role of friends is to speak plainly and that is what Australia has done in relation to this matter,” Rudd was quoted as saying.

According to wire service reports, one Australian in the flotilla was shot and four were in the process of being deported, after being taken into custody by the Israeli armed forces.

But despite these developments, Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon refused to assert himself in the face of Israeli atrocities that have triggered a sense of outrage worldwide.

Asked over and over again whether he would back an international probe, Ban continued to duck the question.

“I am in the process of studying all options,” he told reporters Wednesday.

He said there is a need for a “full investigation so that this type of things will not happen again”.

Pressed further for an answer on the type of investigation he would prefer, the secretary-general said he is not in a position to say anything definite.

“It will take some time” to take a decision, he said, continuing to evade questions by reporters.

In his opening statement, however, Ban said the Israeli authorities must provide, as soon as possible, a full and detailed accounting of the events surrounding the incident, including information on the detained, wounded and killed.

“Everything must be done to prevent another incident of this kind. All concerned should act with a sense of care and responsibility, and in accordance with international law,” he said.

He said the Gaza tragedy only highlights the serious underlying problem. “The long-running closure imposed on the Gaza Strip is counter-productive, unsustainable and wrong,” Ban declared. “It punishes innocent civilians. It must be lifted by the Israeli authorities immediately.”

“In recent months, I have consistently urged the government of Israel, at the highest levels, including during my visit in March, to lift this blockade and allow the United Nations and other humanitarian relief supplies into Gaza.”

If this had been done, this tragedy would have been avoided, he added.

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