A year-and-a-half ago, in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, the United Nations Human Rights Council announced that it was setting up a fact-finding commission to investigate claims of human rights abuse and war crimes.
The commission's chairman, one of the most respected members of the South African Jewish community and a committed Zionist, begged senior Israeli ministers to cooperate with him, but Prime Minister Ehud Olmert refused. The result was the damning Goldstone Report, which has continued to haunt Israel and especially the IDF for almost a year now.
While some insist that the report's unbalanced tone towards Israel is proof that there was no point in cooperating with it in the first place, many in Israel believe that Judge Goldstone could have been brought on side if he had been treated with the respect he so obviously thinks he deserves. The IDF has been forced to investigate every single allegation in the Goldstone Report and supply the UN with three comprehensive reports of its own anyway. Surely things would have been simpler if Judge Goldstone had been accommodated.
Does that mean that Israel is in for a similar beating with the latest UNHRC investigation over the Gaza flotilla? Not necessarily.
As ever, the UNHRC remains a forum dominated by member-states with some of the worst human-rights in the world, devoted to Israel-bashing. No one assumes that their commission's report will be anything but damning, but a number of steps Israel has taken seem to have preempted the worst of the damage.
First, no less than three Israeli commissions have been set up to investigate both the IDF and the government's conduct over the flotilla. Second, Israel will probably support a commission being set up by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, believing it will prove to be more impartial. Third, Israel has already changed its policy by dramatically easing the blockade of Gaza and has proved that any supplies brought by ships trying to break the blockade will ultimately be delivered to the people of Gaza.
In the wake of the Gaza operation, it was easy to accuse Israel of whitewashing any crimes allegedly carried out by its troops. Judge Goldstone simply knocked on an open door. But in the case of the nine Turks killed on the Mavi Marmara and all that has happened since, even observers not well disposed towards Israel can see that the UNHRC's decision to form a committee is little less than obsessive -- and therefore irrelevant.