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Israel Must Cooperate with US-Led Commission of Inquiry

Washington, DC — In yet another attempt to block the progress of the U.S. led Mitchell Commission of Inquiry into the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada and continuing violence in the Occupied Territories, Israel suspended its contacts with the Commission and forced Larry Pope, head of the Commission’s Technical Staff to resign. The commission originally received it’s mandate based on the understandings reached at Sharm al-Sheikh last October but the committee is a far cry from the broad-based, comprehensive U.N. investigation the violence warrants.
Despite the formation of the Mitchell Commission each day more unarmed Palestinians civilians are killed. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) urgently repeats its call for international protection for the Palestinians and the establishment of a broad based U.N. commission of inquiry into the continuing violence in the Occupied Territories. ADC urges the international community to act immediately in establishing an independent U.N. commission or, at the barest minimum, ensure that the Mitchell Commission continue their investigation unimpeded.
From the outset Israel has objected to any international investigation of its actions and stymied the progress of the Mitchell Commission, in spite of the fact that the Mitchell Commission is composed of representatives of 4 governments which are all NATO members and staunch Israeli allies. Soon after the Mitchell Commission was established, the Director General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Alon Liel, said the Commission’s mandate was “limited” and he did not see the Commission as in any way running an independent investigation. He further urged that the commission do most of its work in Washington, analyzing written documentation submitted by both sides. Israel has been successful at manipulating the composition of the Commission and once it was established, Israeli actions have cast doubts as to whether it will ever fully cooperate with the Commission in good faith.
When Larry Pope of the Mitchell Commission traveled to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the flashpoint for the Intifada, without notifying the Israeli authorities, Israel demanded and received his resignation. It then ended what little cooperation it had extended to the Commission, citing a violation of procedural agreements dictated by Israel. Its refusal to cooperate with the Commission makes it clear that Israel not wanting any investigation into its excessive use of force against unarmed Palestinian civilians as recognized by the UN Security Council, the UN Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and numerous other independent agencies. To date, more than 341 unarmed Palestinians civilians have been killed, many of them children, and thousands have been maimed.
ADC President Hala Maksoud said, “Our government should ensure that its own Commission, which Israel agreed to, is allowed to investigate these serious human rights abuses. It is incomprehensible that Israel be allowed to control how this inquiry operates or allowed to thwart it altogether. The international community also has an obligation to extend immediate protection to the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, and our government should take the leading in extending such protection.”