The Trump administration decided to boycott the United Nations Human Rights Council’s special session bashing Israel this week. The Council is devoting time, during its regular annual month-long meeting in March, to take up ‘Agenda Item 7’ dealing with the "human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories." Israel is the only country in the world that is targeted under such a special agenda item during the Council’s regular sessions, held three times a year. The Human Rights Council uses this vehicle to concentrate its venom on Israel, with the objective of delegitimizing the Jewish state. Later this year, the Council plans to follow up on its request for production of a database of businesses involved with West Bank settlements, for the purpose of creating a blacklist of firms that countries and the UN itself will be pressured to boycott.
The misnamed Human Rights Council counts among its members such human rights abusing Islamic countries as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Under pressure from the Palestinians and the Islamic states supporting them, it is the Jewish state of Israel that captures the Council’s obsessive attention. In fact, the Human Rights Council has adopted more resolutions condemning Israel than all of the other 192 member states of the United Nations combined. At last year’s month-long meeting, held around this same time, the Human Rights Council sought fit to issue five resolutions against Israel, while Syria, North Korea and Iran were the subject of only one resolution each. Saudi Arabia got off scot-free. That is real March madness.
Ambassador Nikki Haley, whom has doggedly gone after anti-Israel bias at the UN since beginning her service as the U.S. Permanent Representative, said:
“While we are making some progress on reversing the anti-Israel bias at the UN in New York, regrettably, today in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council begins debate on the only country permanently on the body’s calendar. It is not Syria, where the regime has systematically slaughtered and tortured its own people. It is not Iran, where public hangings are a regular occurrence. It is not North Korea, where the regime uses forced labor camps to crush its people into submission. It is Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.”
Ambassador Haley said that the United States would not participate in discussions under Agenda Item 7, “other than to vote against the outrageous, one-sided, anti-Israel resolutions that so diminish what the Human Rights Council should be.” She urged other Council members “who purport to be defenders of human rights to do the same.” If what’s past is prologue, however, other democratic countries on the Human Rights Council, such as the United Kingdom, will at best abstain.
This year, Saudi Arabia was one of several members of the Human Rights Council which attempted to silence testimony before the Council by the head of UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights non-governmental organization (NGO), after he dared to call out Saudi Arabia and a select number of other Council members for their own human rights records. UN Watch’s speaker, Hillel Neuer, asked of Saudi Arabia: “when will you end gender apartheid? When will you stop oppressing all religious practice that is not Wahhabist Islam? When will you release Raif Badawi, serving 10 years in prison for the crime of advocating a free society?”
The Saudi representative interrupted Mr. Neuer’s testimony, joining in a “point of order” raised by other countries objecting to the testimony as outside of the Human Rights Council’s agenda. The Vice-President of the Council (Egyptian ambassador Amr Ahmed Ramadan) asked the NGO representative to “respect member states, and more importantly to respect this Council.”
The UN Human Rights Council does not deserve any respect as presently structured. It certainly shows no respect for Israel, a full member state of the United Nations, while bending over backwards to indulge the lies of the so-called observer “Palestinian state.” The Council’s grossly disproportionate targeting of the Jewish state is anti-Semitism writ large.
The Trump administration is re-evaluating the appropriate stance the United States should take in general towards the UN Human Rights Council, which the Obama administration had decided the U.S. should join. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has already indicated that the U.S.’s participation in future sessions of the Council would depend on whether the Council undergoes significant reforms, including shedding its blatant anti-Israel bias.
Former President Barack Obama’s ambassador to the Human Rights Council and other human-rights institutions in Geneva from 2014 to 2017, Keith Harper, is upset with the Trump administration’s re-evaluation. Harper was an Obama campaign bundler who was rewarded with the diplomatic post. Needless to say, he is no longer serving in that post. While admitting that the Human Rights Council has displayed “a bias against Israel,” Harper contends that the Obama administration managed to use its membership on the Human Rights Council to chip away at that bias and protect Israel. If so, it did not make any material difference.
Yes, the proportion of condemnatory resolutions adopted by the Human Rights Council exclusively targeting Israel declined between 2009 and 2016. Nevertheless, according to UN Watch, in two sessions held during 2016 – Obama’s last full year in office - “5 out of 12 condemnatory country-specific resolutions (or 42%) exclusively targeted Israel.” The average percentage of such resolutions targeting Israel during the Obama years was approximately 45 percent. That’s hardly evidence of any real progress in chipping away at the anti-Israel bias, considering that Israel is only one of the UN’s 193 member states (or .5%).
The situation at the UN General Assembly is even grimmer. “From 2012 through 2015,” according to UN Watch, “the United Nations General Assembly has adopted a total of 97 resolutions criticizing countries; 83 out of those 97 have been against Israel (86%).”
And then there is the infamous anti-Israel UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which the Obama administration allowed to pass rather than veto.
Obama’s envoy to the Human Rights Council, Keith Harper, claimed that, in his view, it would be "essentially diplomatic malpractice to disengage, in light of all the benefits that the US leadership has brought to bear as far as the outcome from the Council.”
In truth, the Obama administration engaged in “diplomatic malpractice,” specifically at the Human Rights Council, and more generally at the United Nations as a whole, by indulging their hatefests. Hopefully, President Trump will succeed in reversing this destructive course.