Hillel Neuer
International human rights lawyer, writer & activist

EU walks out on anti-Israel UN debate, stirs outrage from Arab states

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In an important development, the European Union has stopped participating in the UN Human Rights Council’s agenda item against Israel. This has the Arab and Islamic states up in arms. Below from the recent debate on September 23, 2014, under Agenda Item 7, “The Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.”

The State of Palestine expressed its disappointment at Israel’s decision not to participate in this agenda item of the Council. The occupation and numerous human rights violations by Israel for the last 47 years made Israel the world’s biggest violator of human rights.

United Arab Emirates for the Arab Group expressed extreme discontent about the European Union’s decision to boycott this agenda item.

Iran for the Non-Aligned Movement condemned in the strongest terms the violations of human rights as a result of Israel’s military aggression against Palestine. The Non-Aligned Movement was deeply disappointed by the decision of certain tates to cease their participation in this agenda item.

Pakistan for the Islamic Group expressed deep disappointment that certain member states of the Western European and Others Group had ceased their participation under agenda item 7 which was particularly disturbing in the light of the latest Israeli behavior.

Saudi Arabia condemned the actions of Israel, including the recent violations in Gaza. Saudi Arabia said it saw that an increasing number of States were insisting on boycotting agenda item 7 and were calling for it to be moved into item 2 or 3, which was proof of double standards concerning Israel. Item 7 was a fundamental agenda item of the Council which would stand until Israeli occupation and impunity ended.

UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer took the floor:

Thank you, Mr. President.

Today is an important day for justice at the United Nations.

In free and democratic societies governed by the rule of law and the principle of constitutionalism, right is preserved by an independent judiciary empowered to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority.

Here at the United Nations, the system works differently. Here, the majority faction has the power to decide whatever it wants. There are no limits. The minority faction has no judicial recourse, no right of appeal, no remedy.

Now, today we meet under Agenda Item 7, which singles out one nation, Israel, for differential and discriminatory treatment.

Let us recall that in 1968, a similar form of discrimination took place in Tehran, at a UN conference celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

René Cassin, author of that Declaration, was present at that event. When he saw that one nation was being singled out, he left early in protest.

Because sometimes, Mr. President, non-participation speaks loudest. Sometimes, it is the only remedy that can deny the legitimacy of that which cannot otherwise be challenged or overcome.

Let us also recall that the Agenda Item 7 that is before us was denounced by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon immediately after its adoption, in June 2006, for denying the universality of human rights, and that its one-sided mandates have also been criticized by human rights groups including Amnesty International.

Today, the international community is joining the voices of principle.

Today, we heard complaints, but in fact non-participation in this debate is a sign of support for justice.

We see the European Union did not take the floor in this debate. The United States did not take the floor. Nor did Canada, Australia, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, and many other liberal democracies.

Today we heard loudest from deeds, not words. The free and democratic world, echoing the appeal of René Cassin, have spoken for justice.

Thank you, Mr. President.

About the Author
Hillel Neuer is executive director of UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights organization in Geneva, Switzerland. An international lawyer, Neuer has been described by the Tribune de Genève as a human rights activist who is “feared and dreaded” by the world’s dictatorships. Israel's Ma’ariv newspaper ranked Neuer as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Jewish People in the World.” Hillel Neuer is a renowned speaker who has published widely, testified before the United Nations and the U.S. Congress, and appeared on CNN, BBC, and Al Jazeera. On September 14, 2016, the City of Chicago adopted a resolution declaring “Hillel Neuer Day” in recognition of his work as “one of the world’s foremost human rights advocates.” In June 2018, McGill University awarded Neuer with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, citing his work as “an innovator” in “creating global platforms for courageous dissidents and champions of human rights from around the world,” and for being “a passionate advocate for human rights, fighting tirelessly against discrimination, torture, and injustice."