Deconstruction Zone: Human Wrongs Council
Jul 31, 2015 | David Harris
The 47-member UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on July 3 voted to assail Israel because of the Hamas-triggered war in mid-2014.
That’s right, assail Israel, not Hamas.
But then again, this is the inaptly named UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). When it comes to Israel, these things are so routine they barely raise an eyebrow in the international community.
Hard as it may be to believe, tiny, democratic Israel has been the target of more country-specific resolutions at the UNHRC than all other nations combined.
Think about it for just a moment. There are 193 UN member states, including some of the worst human rights violators in modern history. Yet many, if not most, get off scot-free.
Actually, the answer is really quite simple. It’s, above all, about numbers.
So, let’s take the example of an anti-Israel resolution.
Right off the bat, the Palestinians can count on the automatic support of the 21 voting members of the Arab League (if it’s the entire UN General Assembly, or the league’s representatives in the case of a smaller body like the UNHRC).
So, too, with the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
And then comes the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) [Ed. Note: Of which the OIC and Arab League members are also members, and dominate most decision-making on Israel] Suffice it to say that the current chairman is Iran and Venezuela is on deck.
That’s close to two-thirds of the UN membership, providing a decisive majority for any anti-Israel text.
But, alas, it doesn’t end there.
In some ways, the most problematic voting can come from the 28-member European Union and those nations who tend to follow this group.
After all, these are democratic countries that have relations with Israel and shouldn’t necessarily be in lockstep with the Arab League, OIC or NAM.
And, true, there are times when, voting as a bloc, the EU will abstain on an Israel-related matter, for which they congratulate themselves on their courage.
And indeed, every so often, the EU won’t achieve a consensus, in which case individual nations will go their own way.
But on July 3 in Geneva, the eight EU countries all voted together – and voted “yes.”
While such a vote from Portugal, Ireland, or France may not be a complete surprise to observers of the world body, a comparable vote by Estonia, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, and UK is more noteworthy – and deeply disappointing.
Apropos, when France wonders why Israel is opposed to initiatives from Paris in the UN on the peace process, this vote, and some that preceded it (e.g., at the UN Security Council, World Health Organisation, and UNESCO) offer an answer.
Paris cannot present itself to Israel as fair-minded and balanced, on the one hand, and then, when push comes to shove on a UN vote, go in the opposite direction.
Once again, as in the case of last year’s vote on the Hamas-Israel war at the UN Human Rights Council, only one country out of 47 stood tall, defended the truth, and displayed courage – the United States. (Had Australia and Canada also been members, they doubtless would have joined with the US.)
Five others thankfully abstained – Ethiopia, Kenya, Macedonia, Paraguay, and, notably, India, which had hitherto voted with the automatic majority on Israel-related measures.
And so, by a vote of 41 to 1, with five abstentions, the UNHRC adopted yet another measure against the one and only liberal democracy in the Middle East.
In doing so, it showed that it couldn’t – or wouldn’t – distinguish between a terrorist entity, Hamas, calling for Israel’s destruction – and Israel, a UN member state seeking to defend itself against the onslaught of cross-border missiles, mortars and tunnels.
But, frankly, what’s most troublesome of all about this vote, and the countless hours of discussion, debate and decision that led up to it, is that it denied genuine victims of human rights abuses the attention and protection they deserve.
That’s what the UNHRC is supposed to be doing – giving voice to the voiceless, protecting the defenceless, shining the spotlight on the perpetrators, calling them to account.
But how can it, when it is pathologically obsessed with Israel, numerically captive to those ready to protect the guilty parties, and willing to throw truth to the wind?
David Harris is the Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee. © American Jewish Committee, reprinted by permission, all rights reserved.