February 1, 2010
With Australia’s support, Israel has moved closer to receiving fairer treatment within the United Nations. Israel last week was admitted to the Human Rights Council’s JUSCANZ grouping, a sub-group of the UN regional Western Europe and Others Group, allowing it to vote (and be voted) for membership in the Human Rights Council.
AIJAC’s Executive Director Dr. Colin Rubenstein said, “Australia should be congratulated for its role in facilitating Israel’s membership of this subgroup. I hope this means Israel will finally be allowed to take part in all UN activities. For too long, Israel has been denied equal treatment at the UN. This is a small, albeit much delayed, step toward an end to the anti-Israel ground rules and hostile sentiment that has long prevailed in the halls of the UN.”
Five regional groups operate at the UN – African Group, Asian Group, Latin American and Caribbean Group, Eastern European Group and Western European and Others Group. These groups nominate and vote for member states to join UN bodies, such as the Security Council and the Human Rights Council.
Israel is the only country in the UN not allowed full membership in any of the world body’s regional groups. Although the Asian Group is Israel’s natural geographical regional group, the Arab and Islamic states have blocked Israel’s membership.
Until 2000, Israel was not a member of any group, thus preventing it from voting for (and being voted for) membership in the UN’s important bodies. That all sovereign states be treated equal by the UN is inscribed in the organization’s charter, yet that equality had never been extended to Israel.
In 2000, Israel was granted temporary membership of the Western Europe and Others Group (WEOG). In 2004, this temporary membership was extended to a permanent membership for New York activities only. This means that for UN activities and organizations based in New York, such as the General Assembly and Security Council, Israel was finally treated the same as all other UN member states. However, Israel remained excluded from membership of a regional group for UN activities in Geneva, including the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.
This is despite the Human Rights Council being seemingly fixated on Israel, passing more resolutions against Israel than all other countries combined. It has also designated a permanent investigator of alleged Israeli human rights abuses, but not of Palestinian human rights abuses.
WEOG includes states that are not in Western Europe, including Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada. It is subdivided into two consultative groups, made up of EU and non-EU member states, respectively. The second subgroup is called JUSCANZ, after its original five members, Japan, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It is has since expanded and includes other non-EU democracies, such as Norway, Switzerland and South Korea.
By allowing Israel to become a full member of the JUSCANZ group in the Human Rights Council, these democracies have recognised Israel for being “like-minded” and helped correct some of the UN discrimination against Israel.
Despite the improvements, discrimination through votes, funding of agencies and related activities will not likely be affected.
Israel still faces the automatic majority of the Non-Aligned Movement and Organisation of the Islamic Conference countries, which produce regular one-sided anti-Israel resolutions in the General Assembly, Human Rights Council and related bodies.
For additional information, contact Dr. Colin Rubenstein at 03-9681-6660.