It was seen as a feather in New Zealand’s cap when former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer was appointed to head the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Inquiry into the Israeli attack on a flotilla bringing aid to Gaza in May 2010.
Unfortunately, the resultant report, released this month, is far from adequate. It supports the Israeli view that the aid flotilla should never had taken place – calling it ‘reckless’ – and justifies the Israeli raid, with a qualification that the way the boarding took place was “excessive and unreasonable”. Israel is not even asked to apologise, only to issue “an appropriate statement of regret”.
Amazingly the Panel decided that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza was legal and only about stopping gun runners. It conveniently ignored evidence that the blockade is primarily economic, aimed at collectively punishing the people of Gaza for continuing to support Hamas. Turkey disagrees with this finding and is going to the International Court of Justice to get a judgement on the legal status of the blockade.
The Panel report is a big step backwards from an earlier UN report, by the Human Rights Council, which found the Israeli commando action “betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality” and those responsible could be prosecuted. It also declared the blockade unlawful. Unlike the Palmer Panel, which simply relied on existing documentation, the HRC investigating body actually interviewed more than 100 witnesses to the raid.