Hillel Neuer
International human rights lawyer, writer & activist

Rare victory: Israel’s admission to UN Regional Group is a milestone moment

GENEVA, Dec. 1 – After decades of being excluded from all of the UN Human Rights Council’s regional groups in Geneva, Israel will be formally invited to join the Western group on Monday.

This is a rare and historic victory for the cause of equality at the United Nations, a memorable milestone moment, and an important step forward in the long struggle against institutionalized injustice at the world body.

Israel is to be saluted on its special diplomatic achievement.

Special recognition must go to Canada, the UK, France, Germany and the US for playing a key role in ending an egregious form of bias within the existing pattern and practice of anti-Israel prejudice at the UN.

For two decades UN Watch fought publicly and privately to overturn the blatantly discriminatory practice whereby the Jewish state was segregated — in direct violation of the UN Charter’s equality guarantee — into a category of its own, the only nation excluded from a regional group. That is why it so gratifying to see this victory today. Given all of the obstacles, one might even call it a Hannukah miracle.

Contrary to several news reports, however, admission to WEOG in Geneva is unrelated to membership on the 47-nation council. Israel remains an observer state just like 145 other nations in Geneva, all of whom are entitled to participate in the council’s proceedings but not to vote on resolutions.

And regrettably this advance will not detract from the Arab states’ continued ability to target Israel in resolutions, urgent sessions and a special agenda item.

Rather, WEOG admission will allow Israel to participate together with all 192 other UN member states in receiving regular briefings, and to have its small say in the selection of council investigators, known as special rapporteurs.

More than anything, what regional group admission means for Israel is a sign of equal treatment — the removal of a symbol of bigotry and of an ugly stain upon the reputation of the UN.

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."