Israel decided to end its year and a half boycott of the three-ring circus known as the United Nations Human Rights Council. Responding to significant diplomatic pressure from the United States and Germany, Israel sent representatives to a Council session on October 29th to participate in a review of Israel’s human rights record. The review was conducted in accordance with a process known as the Universal Periodic Review, in which each of the 193 member states of the United Nations has its human rights record assessed by the Council approximately every four years. Israel submitted a detailed 78-page report as part of this process, describing specific actions Israel has taken to fulfill its human rights obligations and responding to a number of recommendations by other member states.
The problem for Israel is that the Human Rights Council, which is dominated by Islamist states and their allies, stacks the deck against Israel, which has been subject to far more condemnations by the Human Rights Council than Iran, Sudan, Syria and other serial human rights violators combined. The Obama administration’s decision to join the Human Rights Council, said to be for the purpose of influencing this body from within, has not changed the Council’s anti-Israel bias.
Israel is the only country listed on the Human Rights Council’s permanent agenda. Moreover, it is the only country subjected to an investigatory mandate that examines the actions of only one side to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – Israel – and presumes the Jewish state to be guilty, while giving Hamas, Hezbollah and their state sponsors a free pass.
Moreover, Israel is still prevented from actually joining the Human Rights Council itself because it is denied full membership in any regional group of nations, from which the Council members are selected. Geographically, Israel should be a part of the Asian Nations Group, as are its Arab neighbors, but Arab nations who are members of that group have blocked Israel from joining. As a consolation prize, Israel has been relegated to limited membership in a group known as “Western Nations and Others” (WEOG), which bars Israel from group membership privileges in any UN activities outside of New York. Thus, unless the WEOG changes its policies, which Israel has requested, it cannot represent the WEOG or any other regional group on the Human Rights Council which persistently judges its conduct.
Nevertheless, Israel decided to swallow its revulsion at the Council’s modus operandi and participate in the Universal Periodic Review session. It candidly admitted its imperfections, but defended its overall human rights record. Israeli ambassador Eviator Manor also pointed out to the Council that “Israel has been regularly subject to significant, and often politically motivated, scrutiny over the years, disproportional to the worldwide human rights situation. The promotion of human rights is a just yet complex task in every society – especially in a democratic, multicultural society that constantly confronts terrorism…”
As if on cue, Arab states, Turkey, Cuba, Venezuela and Russia, which have appalling human rights records that they refuse to acknowledge, heaped criticism on Israel in a blatant demonstration of the double standard that the Human Rights Council has come to embody.
Palestinian ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi dismissed Israel’s decision to participate in the Council’s review of its record as having “no value,” while ducking any accountability for the miserable human rights record of Palestinian militia and government officials.
“We reaffirm that Israel’s policy of aggression and racism is an infringement on the rights of the Palestinian people,” said Qatar’s Geneva envoy, Almuhannad al-Hammadi. Qatar should look in the mirror and reflect on its own sorry human rights record. It is in no position to judge Israel.
For example, Qatar has a migrant population of 1.5 million people, mostly from India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, who are discriminated against on a daily basis. Some have been forced to work for no pay. As the Guardian reported in September 2013:
Qatar, one of the richest countries on the planet, will be hosting the World Cup in 2022. But much of the Gulf state’s expansion is being built by some of the poorest migrant workers in the world. In the worst cases, employees are not being paid and work in conditions of forced labour. Each month dozens of young Nepalese migrant workers are returning home in coffins.
Concurrent with the Human Rights Council’s review of Israel’s human rights record under the Universal Periodic Review process, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Human Rights Richard Falk submitted his latest report to the UN General Assembly. Falk’s mandate comes from the very same Human Rights Council now sitting in judgment of Israel.
Falk’s latest submission was typical of his one-sided reports during his six year mandate, which lay all the blame for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Israel’s shoulders. In remarks to UN correspondents discussing his latest report, he said that from a political and moral perspective Israel has practiced “systematic discrimination” that would “qualify as an instance of apartheid.” When asked about Hamas’s building of tunnels from Gaza into Israel, which was done to enable the carrying out of terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, Falk first claimed that he didn’t know much about the tunnels and then proceeded to defend the tunnels as “an obvious response” to the Israeli blockade of Gaza. After lumping the terror tunnels into the category of reasonable resistance, Falk defended Hamas as having made “a concerted effort to adopt a political course of action.” He claimed that Hamas has made “offer after offer of peaceful co-existence with Israel” to last for as long as 50 years.
“Resistance” is the code word used by jihadist groups like Hamas and their supporters, meant to justify their violence and distinguish it from terrorism. Falk himself illustrated this perverse logic in an Al Jazeera article last December, when he compared the Palestinian terrorists to resistance fighters against the Nazis during World War II:
It gives perspective to imagine the situation being reversed as it was during the Nazi occupation of France or the Netherlands during World War II. Resistance fighters were uniformly perceived in the liberal West as unconditional heroes, and no critical attention was given as to whether the tactics used unduly imperiled innocent civilian lives. Those who lost their lives in such a resistance were honoured as martyrs…Hamas leaders have made similar arguments on several occasions, in effect asking what are Palestinians supposed to do in the exercise of resistance given their circumstances, which have persisted for so long, given the failures of traditional diplomacy and the UN to secure their rights under international law.
Contrary to Falk’s characterization of Hamas’s aspirations for peaceful co-existence with Israel, Hamas’s own leaders have laid bare their true agenda. Peace for them means Israel’s destruction as a Jewish state. “Palestinians have the right to resist Israeli occupation and will one day return to property they lost in 1948,” Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, said at a rally in 2011 to commemorate what the Palestinians refer to as the day of nakba (catastrophe). “Palestinians mark the occasion this year with great hope of bringing to an end the Zionist project in Palestine,” he proclaimed.
Israel is expected by Falk and the Human Rights Council that he represents to take the persistent terrorist threats it faces lying down. In the world inhabited by the hypocrites who denounce Israel while abusing the human rights of their own residents, Israel is expected to look the other way while the “resistance fighters” build their tunnels of terror and launch their rockets against Israeli civilians. Fortunately, while Israel was willing to play along with the meaningless Universal Period Review, it shows no inclination to drop its guard or to back away from defending its citizens with whatever means it deems necessary. Hopefully, this will remain true no matter what the UN Human Rights Council may think.
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