The oxymoron that the UN Human Rights Council has become

This article is based off of information found in Anne Bayefsky’s article covering the Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People year long exhibit displayed in the UN headquarters in New York City. This article is a critique on the exhibit and not a critique on Bayefsky’s piece, who was also disgusted by the exhibit. 

The United Nations Human Rights Council was originally established in 2006 replacing its predecessor, the United Nations Human Rights Commission. The replacement was made necessary due to the heavy criticism leveled against the Human Rights Commission of allowing member states with poor human rights records to be members of the commission. However, in about eight years, the Human Rights Council (UNHRC) seems to become as bad as its predecessor was. The most recent example of their bigotry is their “Year of Palestinian Solidarity.”

Anne Bayefsky, the Director of the Touro Institute of Human Rights and the Holocaust, recently wrote a piece that was published by the Jerusalem post covering the exhibit in the UN Headquarters in New York that kicked off this year of solidarity. In her piece, Bayefsky describes the features of the exhibit. It begins with a history of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, describing that in 1948 the Palestinians were forced into leaving Israel en masse. The exhibit completely left out the fact that all of the Arab countries and the Palestinians rejected the 1947 UN partition plan. The exhibit also completely ignores the persistent efforts by Arab countries to annihilate Israel. According to Bayefsky, the exhibit states, “In 1948 the first Arab-Israeli war breaks out”. The exhibit fails to mention how Israel’s War of Independence began to begin with. One of the first battles was at the Gush Etzion’s block of kibbutzim. The battle ended with the complete massacre of all of Gush Etzion’s remaining defenders.

Bayefsky also notes that the exhibit states, “There were no apparent reason for the wars of 1967 and 1973.” Once again, the exhibit has left out important information regarding the Six Day War (1967) and the Yom Kippur War (1973, known as the October War by Arab Countries). In 1967, Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran. At the time, the UN deemed the closing of the Straits of Tiran to be an act of war against Israel. Egypt also forced out the UN peacekeeping troops from the Suez region and together with Syria was amassing an army to attack Israel. Israel, out of self-defense, launched a preemptive strike and almost completely destroyed the Egyptian and Syrian air forces. Jordan also allied with Egypt and Syria and participated in the war. After six days, the UN was able to arrange a ceasefire. The Yom Kippur War (1973), on the other hand, was an Egyptian-Syrian coordinated surprise attack against Israel. They launched the attack on the Jews most holy day, Yom Kippur (hence the war’s name).  However, after many battles, Israel was able to fend off the invading armies and thanks to the late prime minister Ariel Sharon, a general at the time, the Israeli army was able to cross the Suez Canal, which forced Egypt to seek peace.

In my opinion, perhaps one of the most disturbing aspects of this exhibit is that it claims, as Bayefsky states, “The only ‘contravention of international law’ is by Israel.” The exhibit has pictures showing Yasser Arafat standing with pictures of a map without Israel being present on it. By showing Arafat as being a hero for starting the first and second Intifadas and calling them uprisings and not as attempts of committing mass murder, it gives a sense of legitimacy to the two Intifadas. Not only were the Intifadas organized years of constant terrorist attacks against civilians, they are also a horrible way of protesting. One of the reasons why the United States has its rule of never negotiating with terrorists because by negotiating with them, it is rewarding them for their violent and aggressive behaviors against innocent civilians.

The exhibit also had statements from children living in the Palestinian Authority controlled territories. Below is one of the statements the exhibit played for its visitors:

Fida Qishta: “Israel justified its war on Gaza as retaliation for rockets fired into southern Israel. Hamas said Israel provoked the rockets by breaking the ceasefire agreement. But you can get trapped in all this. Who did what to whom first?…It doesn’t matter if they are the relatively simple and ineffective rockets from Gaza into southern Israel or Israel’s sophisticated US-made missiles launched from F-16’s and Apache helicopters. The real question is the imprisonment of the people of Gaza.

This statement is grossly inaccurate. There is no way one can be trapped in the question of who did what first. Israel does not fire on a civilian target by choice. When Hamas fires rockets into Israel, they target civilian areas while firing from civilian areas in the Gaza Strip. Hamas does this purposely as a strategy to demonize Israel in the media when Israel has no choice but to retaliate. What Hamas continues to do by targeting civilian areas with their rockets is considered war crimes. Israel would be wrong not to retaliate. What Israel does when having to target civilian zones in the Gaza Strip is probably not done by any other country. They spend 24 to 48 hours warning civilians living in the targeted areas that there is an impending attack. They also drop leaflets via planes in the designated areas. Only when everyone is warn and given an ample amount of time to leave the designated area does Israel launch its attack. Israel has no desire to target civilian areas and do not start wars unless provoked. It would be considered a crime for Israel not to defend its citizens when they are attacked.

If the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) really cared about putting an end to the Israel-Palestine conflict, they have much to improve upon. While there are Palestinian refugees, it must be acknowledged that there also Jewish refugees from Arab countries. These Jewish refugees were forced out of their countries of origin after Israel won the War of Independence in 1948 and as a result lost much if not all of their wealth and possessions. The UNHRC should also be forcing the PA to reform their education system, teaching peace and tolerance instead of war and terrorism. They should be promoting a more accurate history of the conflict. Finally, the UNHRC should not be having a Year of Solidarity with the Palestinians. Rather, they should be encouraging the Palestinians to push off the harnesses that Hamas and the PA have placed on them and speak for peace and rid themselves of the terrorists in their midst. Only then can true peace be a possibility.

About the Author
Justin Goldstein is currently a second year MSW student at Yeshiva University's Wurzweiler School of Social Work.