Written by CAMERA analyst David Litman
For a brief analysis of three basic false claims from the report, see here.
The UN’s newest anti-Israel “Commission of Inquiry” (“COI”) published its first report on June 7. The report itself is mostly recycled allegations against Israel published in past UN reports, but it would be a mistake to dismiss the report as a complete dud.
It serves as a roadmap for the campaign of anti-Israel propaganda that the COI will be embarking on in perpetuity. With a large budget and a mandate to report twice a year, the initial report confirms that the COI will approach its mission with the zeal of the most radical of anti-Israel activists.
The report begins with faulty assumptions and predetermined conclusions which serve a specific purpose of reframing the conflict into dubious narratives, such as “social justice.” Rather than waiting to engage in any serious analysis of “root causes,” the COI has already blamed “systematic discrimination” and “occupation” for the conflict, notwithstanding the conflict began even before Israel declared independence.
Having established these conclusions in advance of any investigation, the COI goes on to rewrite history – erasing Palestinian responsibility – to jam the conflict through the preconceived narrative. As the report tells it, there has never been a threat to Israel’s survival. There were no offers of statehood to the Palestinians. There is no antisemitism. There is only big bad Israel imposing its will on innocent, peaceful Palestinian victims.
Finally, having reframed the conversation and erased the role played by Palestinians, the COI recycles vague, unsupported, boilerplate allegations against Israel without actually investigating the veracity of the claims.
The result is a work of baseless propaganda clearly designed by anti-Israel partisans, not by any honest, impartial investigators. It is a work of propaganda written to deceive a well-intentioned, but unknowledgeable, public.
Below is an analysis of the dishonesty of the report to help inform the public. Armed with an awareness of the deceitful games being played by the UN commissioners, the public will be more readily able to form conclusions for themselves.
Predetermined Conclusions and Faulty Assumptions
The COI itself admits that it has not conducted its own investigation or legal analysis yet, but that didn’t stop the commissioners from deciding already that the “root causes” of the conflict are “systematic discrimination” and “occupation.” By casting the conflict in these terms – even before it has done any investigation of its own – the COI filters the conflict through a slanted, partisan lens. Before it has even collected all the relevant information, it has ruled out entire categories of evidence.
“Decides to urgently establish an ongoing independent, international commission of inquiry, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, to investigate…all underlying root causes of recurrent tensions, instability and protraction of conflict, including systematic discrimination and repression based on national, ethnic, racial or religious identity;”
Here, the Human Rights Council asked (“to investigate…all underlying root causes”) and then answered its own question (“including systematic discrimination…”). In other words, the HRC did not ask the COI to honestly investigate the root causes. It asked the COI to come up with the “facts” to fit the predetermined conclusion.
Any serious jurist would look at this language and immediately understand it is an unserious investigation that is not worth having their name attached. Nonetheless, the three commissioners have already shown they’re happy to oblige the HRC. The commissioners even took it a step further, claiming the mandate required the COI to “take full account of intersecting forms of discrimination, including gender-based discrimination, as both a driver and a root cause of conflict.”
Whatever value the relatively recent concept of “intersectionality” may have, it represents but one theoretical, and entirely inadequate, lens through which to analyze the conflict.
Rather than being an honest attempt to find solutions, such wording instead shows the commission is laser-focused on a particular narrative. Only facts that fit into this preconceived explanation will do for them.
The report’s discussion of root causes elsewhere tracks this same blind commitment to the narrative. In reference to the conflict in May 2021, the report repeats allegations that the “escalation was triggered” by “impending eviction” in Sheikh Jarrah, “ethnic tensions,” and “the use of force by Israel against Palestinians in East Jerusalem during Ramadan” (of course, leaving unmentioned the incidents of violence by Palestinians in Jerusalem against Israelis). No mention is made of the intra-Palestinian rivalry, the canceled Palestinian elections, and the significant rise in incitement to violence and hatred by Palestinian officials in the preceding weeks.
What else is absent from their discussion on what may have “triggered” the 2021 war? The barrage of 154 rockets launched at Israeli civilians on May 10, starting the actual hostilities.
The other main remark by the COI regarding “root causes” comes on page 16, in which the commissioners tell us:
“What has become a situation of perpetual occupation was cited by Palestinian and Israeli stakeholders to the Commission as the one common issue that constitutes the underlying root cause of recurrent tensions, instability and protraction of conflict in both the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel.”
Citing “occupation” as a cause for conflict is like citing a state of war as a cause for armed conflict. “Occupation,” in the legal sense being used here, is literally the result of conflicts, not a cause. The conflict in Ukraine isn’t the result of Russia’s occupation of Crimea, Luhansk, and Donetsk. The occupation of those territories is the result of conflict.
In this case, Judea and Samaria were occupied by Jordan during the 1948-49 War of Independence between Israel and surrounding Arab armies. Israel captured the territories in a defensive war nearly two decades later in the 1967 Six Day War.
Whether Judea and Samaria are “occupied” territories, as the commissioners charge, is debatable. Curiously, while the report states in paragraph 15 – in such a way to show they know the “occupation” isn’t the cause, but actually the result of war – that “the occupation of territory in wartime…deprives the occupied Power of neither its statehood nor its sovereignty,” the commissioners never get around to identifying who the “occupied Power” was in 1967 (or the years prior), what characteristics of “statehood” it held, nor whether it actually had “sovereignty” over the territories in any sense of the word.
What is indisputable, however, is that Israel’s control over the territory was not the cause of conflict, but a result of a conflict that was about wiping the Jewish state off the map. That conflict has never ended, as Hamas’s Charter calling for Israel’s destruction demonstrates.
But even assuming the territories are “occupied,” to argue that it is the “occupation” that is causing the conflict is to put the cart before the horse, not just in the legal sense, but also the factual sense. Consider that the Palestine Liberation Organization was founded in 1964, three years before Israel took control of Judea and Samaria. Fatah, the faction of the Palestinian Authority’s leader Mahmoud Abbas, began carrying out terror attacks that same year.
Even entirely accurate information, when presented through these narrative filters created by the COI – blaming only “discrimination” and “occupation” – will result in heavily distorted pictures of the conflict.
Assigning Agency Only to Jews
Having cast the situation purely in terms of “discrimination” and “occupation,” the report then works to deprive Palestinians of any agency or responsibility. The COI’s narrative demands that consequences be assigned only to the actions of Israel, while depicting the Palestinians as leaves in the wind.
The report itself sets this framework by acknowledging its focus was “overwhelmingly directed towards Israel” because of the “asymmetrical nature of the conflict.” The moral perversion and astounding idiocy (sometimes, it needs to be called what it is) of this argument is shocking. No one would argue that in the conflict between the international coalition and Islamic State, the asymmetry of power somehow meant that questions of morality and responsibility fell only on the international coalition. Yet this is exactly what the COI is suggesting in this context.
Rewriting Legal and Political Documents
One way the COI distorts history to ignore Palestinian responsibility is by omitting crucial language from important legal and political documents dealing with the conflict.
Take how the report discusses UN resolution 242, adopted after the Six Day War in 1967:
“In its resolution 242 (1967), adopted unanimously on 22 November 1967, the Security Council called for the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from ‘territories occupied in the recent conflict’, which it affirmed would be in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. Despite this, Israel has not brought an end to the occupation, which would allow the Palestinian people to enjoy their right to self-determination.”
In fact, resolution 242 had two conditions for a “just and lasting peace.” The COI only mentioned one of them. The other:
“Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force;”
By erasing the fact that Israeli “withdrawal” is conditional on its right to “live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force,” the COI is erasing Palestinian responsibility. Israel alone cannot just bring “an end to the occupation” without addressing the continued security threat, as even the UN recognized in November 1967.
Notably, resolution 242 isn’t the only way in which the COI tells half-truths about UN documents and positions. The commissioners reference the infamous Goldstone Report’s claim that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is “collective punishment” (para. 42). However, the Commission fails to inform readers that a UN report (the “Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Inquiry on the 31 May 2010 Flotilla Incident”) that actually investigated the question of the blockade found it is entirely legal and a proportionate measure in response to the threats to Israel’s security.
Once again, by erasing these facts and presenting only the Goldstone line, the COI focuses responsibility only on Israel while ignoring Palestinian violence.
The same is true for legal documents like the Oslo Accords. The report states, “The entire territory, divided in the Oslo Accords into Areas A, B and C, was to be gradually handed over to the Palestinians. These agreements have never been fully implemented: Area C…remains under full Israeli control…” This statement is simply false. Nowhere did the Oslo Accords state that the entire territory was to be handed over to the Palestinians.
The COI also fails to mention Palestinian responsibilities under the accords. For example, under the 1998 Wye River Memorandum, the Palestinian leadership was to “make known its policy of zero tolerance for terror and violence” and to prohibit “all forms of incitement to violence or terror.” Instead, the PA literally encourages terrorism and officials are constantly inciting violence.
Omitting Palestinian Violence, Discrimination
Another way in which the report works to tip the scales is by ignoring rampant Palestinian discrimination and violence, all the while accusing Israel of engaging in that exact same behavior.
The report falsely portrays Israel’s Nation-State Law and the Law of Return as discrimination, notwithstanding that the former has no effect on anyone’s rights and the latter is clearly lawful under international law, as CAMERA has already pointed out. At the same time, the Palestine National Charter contains similar language to that found in the Nation-State Law (“Palestine is the homeland of the Arab Palestinian people”; the “Palestinians are those Arab nationals…”). Yet nowhere did the COI express concern over the Palestinian version like it did over the Israeli law.
Adding icing on the anti-Israel cake, the commissioners even blatantly lie when they claim that the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are not eligible for Israeli citizenship. Meanwhile, Palestinian leaders demand a judenrein Judea and Samaria. The COI’s claim is a complete inversion of the truth.
Indeed, while the COI repeatedly announces its focus on discrimination, nary a word can be found about institutionalized Palestinian discrimination against Jews. The Palestinian Authority has an entire financial reward system designed to reward not just Palestinians but also Arab Israelis for murdering Jews. Palestinians who sell land to Jews face life in prison and are even threatened with the death penalty. PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas rails against the “filthy feet” of Jews. The Hamas Charter quotes the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and refers to the “Nazism” of Jews. Not once is this open and institutionalized hatred and incitement addressed in the report.
The pattern of targeting Israel while ignoring Palestinian agency is embedded everywhere. In paragraph 47, the COI blames Israel for the “political fragmentation of Palestinian society,” while failing to mention this “fragmentation” began when Hamas violently took over the Gaza Strip after Israel unilaterally withdrew from the territory.
It claims a “significant increase in the incidence and severity of settler violence,” while only later mentioning, as if in passing, that “[t]here were also attacks directed against Israeli civilians by Palestinians in early 2022.” As CAMERA has pointed out elsewhere (see pages 14-16), even using figures on settler attacks from highly critical organizations like Yesh Din, the data suggests the number of violent settler attacks are but a fraction of a percent of the number of Palestinian attacks in Judea and Samaria.
By omitting these acts of Palestinian hatred, incitement, and violence, and accusing only Israel of such behavior, the commissioners clearly expose their disinterest in truth-finding. Their interest lies only in maligning the Jewish state.
Ignoring Israeli Peace Offers and Palestinian Rejectionism
Perhaps most absurdly, the COI casts the continuation of the conflict as entirely the responsibility of Israel. According to the report, the “one common issue that constitutes the underlying root cause” cited by all of the “stakeholders” the commissioners met with was “perpetual occupation.” The fact that every “stakeholder” it met with said this only demonstrates the obvious: that the COI is only interested in hearing one side of the story.
But the report takes it a step further.
In what is perhaps the most blatant display of the unseriousness of this commission, the report “notes the strength of prima facie credible evidence available that convincingly indicates that Israel has no intention of ending the occupation…”
Other than the above-mentioned faulty reference to the Oslo Accords, nowhere else does the COI reference any of the peace offers or opportunities for statehood rejected by the Palestinians. The commissioners can only claim “prima facie credible evidence” by literally ignoring the giant piles of evidence to the contrary.
From the 1947 UN Partition Plan, to the 2000 Camp David negotiations, to the 2008 offer by Olmert (which PA leaders boasted about rejecting), and every offer in between, the Palestinians have consistently rejected statehood and peace when given a real opportunity for it. Other steps, like Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, far from demonstrating “no intention of ending the occupation,” show instead Israel’s clear willingness to trade land for peace and to enable Palestinian statehood.
But, as its first report clearly shows, the COI is only interested in evidence that fits its preconceived narrative. That narrative cannot tolerate the existence of Israeli peace gestures, nor can it allow readers to know about Palestinian rejectionism.
Recycling Vague Allegations and Imagining Nefarious Purposes
Having set the framework with faulty assumptions and predetermined conclusions and erasing Palestinian responsibility, the COI completes its propaganda project by regurgitating past UN allegations for which the COI provides no new evidence. In the UN system, such vague, unsupported allegations are repeated over and over, laundered through report after report, hiding the fact that the allegations rest on little, if any, actual evidence in the first place.
Take just the claim found in paragraph 41, where the COI tells us that “[t]he High Commissioner also noted the apparent failure to verify that targets were military objectives” during the May 2021 conflict. Tracing the claim backwards, we find only another entirely unsupported statement to the same effect by the High Commissioner. In making the claim, nowhere has the UN acknowledged that it simply does not have knowledge of what Israel knew at the time it launched those strikes. It’s simply claiming an “apparent failure” because it has no knowledge to the contrary, which is sort of like a court allowing a prosecutor to present her case and then instructing the jury to rule on the defendant’s guilt without hearing the defense’s arguments.
Elsewhere, the report recycles a claim from the Goldstone Report that Israel is engaged in “systematic efforts” to “hinder and control Palestinian democratic processes, not least through the detention of elected political representatives…” The claim mindreads a nefarious intent on the part of Israel: that it wants to prevent Palestinian democracy. All the while, it ignores the fact that those “elected political representatives” belong to a long-dormant legislative body that has not met in a decade and a half not because of Israel, but because Hamas took control of it and then PA leader Mahmoud Abbas subsequently issued a presidential decree rendering the PLC powerless.
Moreover, as CAMERA has pointed out elsewhere (see pages 21-23), the charge that Israel detains “elected political representatives” sidesteps the fact that those detained officials have carried out murderous terror attacks or are members of internationally-designated terrorist organizations, many of whom are individually designated by the U.S. Treasury Department. Instead of wrestling with the obvious security explanation, the COI assigns – without any actual evidence – nefarious motivations.
The commissioners find only evil designs elsewhere, too. In paragraph 56, the report “noted with concern the increasing attacks on and efforts to silence human rights defenders,” before referencing the designation of six organizations connected to the terrorist organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The report suggests the designations were “based on vague and unsubstantiated reasons,” though at no point engages with the abundant public evidence of their connections to the PFLP. The claim that the designations are purely to “silence human rights defenders” is based entirely on conjecture.
It’s almost as if the commissioners cannot comprehend the idea that Israelis have the same basic instinct as every other group of people – to protect themselves from those who would harm them. Perhaps they just don’t want to admit that Israelis have basic human instincts.
By simply repeating past UN allegations like these over and over, actors like the COI work to create a false impression of credibility and reliability. As UN-expert Anne Bayefsky put it, the “overriding standard of ‘proof’ that the Jewish state is allegedly a moral affront to humankind is this: the UN said so.”
Yet, repeating baseless claims ad infinitum does not render the claims true.
Nonetheless, the effectiveness of these baseless claims relies on readers not actually looking into the allegations for themselves. That’s what truly ends up making the predetermined conclusions, faulty assumptions, and erasure of Palestinian agency so potent in creating a hostile environment for Israel. The seemingly credible allegations from a seemingly independent body feed into those narratives.
This is why it is so important for those who value factual accuracy and achieving peace must constantly expose these falsehoods, whether they come from the media or the UN.