Adriana Camisar
Adriana Camisar

The UN Special Committee is not about human rights

The Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (often referred to as “the Special Committee” or SCIIHRP) is one of the most anachronistic and absurd anti-Israel entities that still exists at the United Nations, spreading unsubstantiated charges against Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East, and wasting valuable U.N. resources.

The UN General Assembly established this Committee in 1968, in the aftermath of the 1967 war (a war of self-defense in which Israel had to fight against the armies of three Arab states sworn to its destruction: Egypt, Jordan and Syria). After miraculously winning the war, the anti-Israel forces at the U.N. sought to “punish” the Jewish state by establishing this committee, with the mandate to investigate alleged human rights violations by Israel in the territories occupied as a result of the war.

The Committee is formed by the representatives of three member states, who have themselves very poor human rights records: Malaysia, Senegal and Sri Lanka. From its inception, it was not an impartial body but a highly tendentious one, tasked with finding Israel guilty first and looking for the evidence later, while ignoring gross human rights violations, not committed by Israel, on that same territory. And so, with good reason, Israel has refused to participate in its inquiries.

The Special Committee is one of the entities that comprise the powerful anti-Israel propaganda apparatus that operates out of the United Nations building in New York. The other two entities are the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) and the Division for Palestinian Rights of the U.N. Secretariat (DPR). In addition to treating Israel as an illegitimate entity and a “racist” state, the three entities advocate for the “right of return” of the millions of descendants of the original refugees from Israel’s 1948 war of independence to what is now the state of Israel. The implementation of the right of return would destroy Israel as a majority-Jewish state, creating yet another Arab state — “from the river to the sea”— and effectively killing the two-state solution that the U.N. claims to support.

The report that the Special Committee issues every year is so biased against Israel that it could not pass any serious scrutiny. The 2020 report, for example, which was submitted to the General Assembly last August, includes the claim that Israel is “legally responsible” for ensuring the right to health for all Palestinians in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is, of course, not true, as the Oslo Accords, which governs Israeli-Palestinian relations, clearly establishes that all responsibilities in the sphere of health in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip belong to the Palestinian Authority. Furthermore, the Palestinians, who preferred to make their own arrangements, repeatedly rejected Israel’s overtures for cooperation. Despite this, Israeli hospitals were always available to Palestinian COVID-19 victims and Israel quietly provided vaccines to the Palestinian Authority in the months after this report was issued, even as reports came out about the corruption in the handling of the COVID-19 crisis by the Palestinian Authority, and despite the continuous practice of the Palestinian Authority to pay millions to the families of terrorists who killed Israelis.

The Special Committee 2020 report goes as far as to blame Israel for the increase in “domestic violence against women” in the West Bank and Gaza, suggesting an absurd linkage between the “prolonged occupation” and the violence committed by local Palestinians against Palestinian women.

None of the egregious human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank or by Hamas in Gaza (which, according to the State Department’s 2020 Human Rights Report, include arbitrary killings, torture, arbitrary detentions, forced child labor, etc.) are mentioned. And Israel is repeatedly condemned for its “occupation” of the Golan Heights, without any mention of the atrocities that the Syrian regime is still perpetrating against its own people or the fact that, at the height of the Syrian civil war, Israel provided invaluable humanitarian aid to thousands of Syrians in need, including unaccompanied children.

The resolution that renews the mandate and the funding authorization for this committee is put to a vote every year at the U.N. General Assembly. The U.S. State Department has for years included this resolution on its short list of important resolutions, particularly because of its very detrimental impact. And, when explaining its vote against this committee last year, the U.S. representative stated the following:

“…The resolution on “The Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories,” (SCIIHRP) for instance, makes no mention of human rights violations by Hamas. There is no reference to a Gaza court that convicted three Palestinian peace activists on the charge “weakening revolutionary spirit” for the simple act of Skyping with Israeli peace activists. None of these resolutions address what human rights organizations identify as Hamas’ persecution of journalists, opponents and activists who do not toe the Hamas party line.

These anti-Israel resolutions recycle the tired, habitual rhetoric that only lock both sides into the same intractable conflict. They presuppose the outcome of final status issues that can be resolved only through negotiations between the parties. They also damage U.N. credibility, casting into doubt the impartiality of the U.N. These resolutions also waste limited U.N. resources better devoted to international priorities. This one-sided approach only undermines trust between the parties and fails to create the kind of positive international environment critical to achieving peace. It also rewards the obstructionism that continues to impede real progress toward peace. As the United States has repeatedly made clear, this dynamic is unacceptable…”

Even though an increasing number of states are realizing the detrimental nature of the Special Committee, the resolution authorizing its continuous operation still gets approved. This is so because of the large number of abstentions, which are, unfortunately, not counted at the General Assembly. Last year, only 76 countries voted in favor — far less than half of the total membership of the General Assembly (which has 193 states). This is why it is so important for responsible, peace-loving nations to start voting against this anachronistic and highly counterproductive body.

This post was originally published on the B’nai B’rith website.

About the Author
Adriana Camisar is B’nai B’rith International's Special Advisor on Latin American and U.N. Affairs. A native of Argentina, Camisar is an attorney by training and holds a Master’s degree in international affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.
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