On May 29, the OAS panel of “independent experts” convened in Washington to build the case for toppling the Bolivarian government and prosecuting Maduro at the International Criminal Court.
by Elliott Gabriel
Part 3 - An advocate for “universal” human rights … with exceptions
Cotler — an international human-rights lawyer and former Conservative, who recently joined Canada’s ruling Liberal Party — has long stood at the forefront of the West’s inquisitions against the governments of the Global South. While he has made questionable claims that he represented anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela in court, he has also championed right-wing Venezuelan coup leader Leopoldo Lopez.
Speaking to The Canadian Jewish News upon his appointment to the OAS panel last October, Cotler said: “The international experts panel is as timely as it is necessary. As Venezuela slides into dictatorship … and the human suffering of the Venezuelan people intensifies, the restoration of democracy and human rights while combating the culture of impunity is an overriding priority.”
Yet while Cotler has spoken passionately about the plight of human rights victims in some parts of the world – earning the title of “Counsel for the Oppressed” from flagship Canadian magazine Maclean’s – the award-winning rights champion has simultaneously shown scant concern for the plight of the Palestinian people suffering genocide at the hands of an Israeli state that acts with complete impunity.
Surely the plight of Gaza – which has been subjected to 11 years of a suffocating siege by land, air, and sea – would elicit a twinge of sympathy from any supporter of “universal human rights”? Sadly, not only has this not been the case but Cotler’s antipathy toward extending “universal” rights to Palestinians was made shockingly clear in his unflinching accusation that resistance-movement Hamas was to blame for the shocking massacre of 62 unarmed protesters in the Gaza Strip last month.
If Cotler deserves distinction, it is for his fanatical devotion to the Zionist project, and his knee-jerk rallying to the defense of its actions on the basis of defending the right of the Jewish “original aboriginal people” to an ethno-religious colony built atop the freshly-bulldozed or bombed homes of Palestinians.
Israeli apartheid institutions deny the people of Palestine their own universal right to self-determination by imposing suffocating restrictions on their movement, travel, and trade. Israeli security forces have been criticized by rights organizations for resorting to the very kinds of excessive and wanton force for which Cotler has castigated Venezuela — including the extrajudicial killing and torture of unarmed Palestinians, including children. While Cotler has called on Western countries to intervene in cases of genocide, he is firmly against any criticism of Israeli apartheid or the construction of huge settlements within the occupied West Bank, which remains illegal under international law despite the apathy of Ottawa and Washington.
In the eyes of Cotler, the State of Israel and the Jewish People are one in the same. For this partisan of the universal application of human rights law, any criticism of Tel Aviv – whether its leadership is Labor or Likud, liberal-colonial or fascist-colonial – is a manifestation of the “new anti-Semitism” and the denial of Israel’s right to live as equals in the “Family of Nations,” as the tired old Zionist cliché goes.
It’s as if Cotler — whose ruling Liberal Party prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has apologized for Canada’s settler-colonial crimes against First Nations peoples — sees the “Family of Nations” as those countries — such as the U.S., Canada, and Australia — that completely did away with their indigenous populations. So now the European Jews who claim “Israel” as their home deserve a crack at it. Understood.
But what boundless cynicism does it require to claim with a straight face that the human-rights situation in Venezuela is even worse than that in the Gaza Strip – where Israeli bombings are routine, a blockade prevents medical goods and foodstuffs from entering the enclave, and the Israelis experiment with cruelly novel forms of repression and over a decade of collective punishment against a people guilty of resisting, and voting for what he calls “terror group Hamas”?
Of course, Cotler has also explicitly called for the “Responsibility to Protect” the people of Syria from “mass atrocity crimes” committed by the “regime” of President Bashar al-Assad. What else could one expect from such a typically hypocritical Western human-rights imperialist?
As Blumenthal noted in a recent interview with The Real News: “Whenever Israel committed some kind of atrocity, the Mavi Marmara massacre or one war after another in Gaza, Cotler would rush out, just like Dershowitz, as Israel’s public advocate … So, he’s just a suspicious, sort of morally dubious, figure. And for him to be on this panel, I think they just deserved to be questioned about that.”