Looks like Desmond Tutu won't be making a visit to Israel after all. Upset that Israel refused to roll out the red carpet for His Holiness, Tutu packed off in a huff, taking his six-person band of merry UN pranksters with him.
Too bad. Nothing would help the peace effort more than another biased report on Israel from the UN Human Rights Council, a body so blatantly anti-Israel that it makes one long for the old, discredited UN Commission on Human Rights. In only six months of existance, the UNHRC has managed to condemn Israel eight times, compared to none for any other state in the world.
It was clearly going for number nine when it picked outspoken Israel critic Tutu to head its mission to Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip, where after days of heavy fighting between Israeli troops and Palesinian terrorists attempting to fire Kassam rockets at Israeli civilians, an Israeli shell veered off course and killed 19 innocent Palestinians. Although the IDF accepted responsibilty for the incident, it also claimed it was an accident. The UN wasn’t so sure, and it dispatched Tutu to investigate.
But just to make sure Tutu didn't veer off the script at crucial junctures, the UNHRC imposed a narrow mandate on his mission - to assess the situation of victims, address the needs of survivors and make recommendations on ways to protect Palestinian civilians against further Israeli attacks. The mission would not examine any Palestinian complicity in the matter, like the use of Beit Hanoun as a site for launching missiles at Israeli civilians, or even recommend ways to protect Israeli civilians from more Palestinian attacks. That apparently would muddle the issue, making it harder to issue another one-sided condemnation of Israel - the UNHRC's bread and butter.
Given the UNHRC's track record, it is not surprising that Israeli officials announced they would refuse to cooperate with the mission. As a sign of protest, the government refused to grant the UNsters diplomatic visas to conduct their work. Instead, the government offered tourist visas, an accurate represention of how the government viewed the mission's activities. Tutu refused to come as a tourist and demanded diplomatic status. The issue was still being reviewed when Tutu folded the mission.
On his way out, he blamed the Israeli government for dragging its feet on the matter."At times not making a decision is making a decision," Tutu told reporters, reminding them that his wife remained hospitalized while he waited for Israel to grant him another shot at bigger headlines. "We couldn't obviously wait in limbo indefinitely," he explained.
The idea that Tutu thinks Israel is obligated to work on his timeframe is a sign of arrogance befitting a man who would accept a mission to look at only one side of a conflict and present it as the accurate truth. The fact that he would go on record saying Israel made a decision on the matter when, in fact, it did not confirms Israeli concerns that he would ignore the truth when it interfered with his preconcieved notions. His pathetic references to his hospitalized wife shows how far he's willing to go to manipulate public opinion.
I say kudos to the Israeli government, which, for onces, handled a tough situation the right way. Let Tutu make excuses for why he can't play by Israel's rules; Israel owes him nothing. And best of all, Israel will not have to deal with another biased report being filed on the UN's stationary. May this incident hightlight yet again how the UNHRC cares more about politicizing human rights than in helping promote them. Will there ever be a UN mission sent to focus on Israeli human rights and condemn Palestinians for violating them? Not as long as the UNHRC thinks Desmond Tutu is an appropriate choice to lead an investigation.