News that the UK has put the UN Human Rights Council ‘on notice’ for its disproportionate focus on Israel is a welcome development. In a statement issued on the last day of the Council’s 34th session, the UK’s mission in Geneva condemned the ‘unacceptable pattern of bias’ in the international body and warned that it would vote against future resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if this continued.
The statement pointed out that five resolutions had been passed in this session condemning Israel, all coming under item 7 which is dedicated to attacking the country’s human rights record. However, not one condemned Palestinian incitement or terror.
One resolution condemned Israeli behaviour in the Golan while being silent on the slaughter in Syria. The statement concluded that the UK’s ‘enduring commitment to the universality of rights’ is also a ‘source of enduring disappointment with the Council’s bias against Israel.’
On a personal level, it is particularly satisfying to hear this. Earlier this month, I travelled to the Human Rights Council in Geneva as part of a global delegation from B’nai B’rith International. Meetings were held with the heads of diplomatic missions from many countries, in an attempt to highlight the perverse manner in which Israel was delegitimised at the UNHCR, UNESCO and in the General Assembly. The painful evidence of anti-Israel bias was laid out clearly and dispassionately.
A number of conversations were especially challenging, with some ambassadors stating that Israel’s actions were a primary barrier to regional peace. Naturally, settlement activity was condemned repeatedly. Another senior diplomat, while sympathising with concerns over bias and double standards, said there was little point in vetoing anti-Israel resolutions as they were bound to pass anyway.
The preferred strategy was to soften their language, making them seem more palatable to Israeli ears. The suggestion of issuing a blanket veto in the face of this venomous campaign to demonise Israel, and thus providing moral clarity in the process, was roundly dismissed.
But the UK delegation was more receptive to these arguments, as were those from other friendly nations. Even the Human Rights Council’s no 2 expressed his intense disapproval of the Council’s voting record on Israel. ‘Repulsive’ was the word that came to mind.
The UN’s Israel fixation has been alluded to by the new UN Security General, Antonio Guterres. In a recent interview he made it clear that the country had to be treated “the same as all the others,” with “exactly the same rights and obligations” and “without any form of discrimination.”
He recognises that the Human Rights Council has made a mockery of itself in ignoring or downplaying genuine human rights abusers and then allowing those same countries to focus on the Jewish state. Such selective attention is a standing contradiction to the idea of universal values.
Guterres has also slammed the UNESCO resolutions denying the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, earning him a vicious Palestinian rebuke. Refreshing criticisms have also come from Nikki Haley, the new US Ambassador to the UN, who has condemned the body’s relentless assault on Israel. According to many who know her in Washington, she is a ‘straight shooter’ who will speak truth to power.
None of these developments portend any major changes at the UN, at least in the short term. But they do perhaps offer a glimmer of hope.