Time for U.N. to Remove Notorious Agenda Item on Israel

— by Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch

Israel has decided to return to the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) — a 47-nation body that in two weeks will welcome back China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia as members — in time for a scheduled review of the Jewish state’s record this Tuesday.

Now is the time for the council to show good faith on its part — starting with the removal of its notorious agenda item on Israel, the only provision of its kind focusing on a specific country at every meeting. Not even gross abusers like China, Sudan, or Syria, nor any other country in the world, is subjected to this kind of treatment.

The Israel-only agenda was criticized by the U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, upon its adoption in June 2007. Mr. Ban “voiced disappointment at the Council decision to single out Israel as the only specific regional item on its agenda, given the range and scope of allegations of human rights violations throughout the world.”

More after the jump.

Courtesy of Yaakov “Dry Bones” Kirschen.

Under that item, in its last session in March, the Council adopted six resolutions condemning Israel, and only four on the rest of the world combined: one each on Syria, Iran, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. The plight of the vast majority of the world’s victims of gross and systematic violations — from China to Saudi Arabia, Cuba to Zimbabwe — failed to merit a single resolution.

Israel is the only U.N. member state excluded from the regional group system at the council. European Union states should immediately enable Israel to join the Council’s Western group, to which it was admitted at the U.N. in New York over a decade ago, and end this violation of basic equality and due process.

Moreover, the Council’s permanent investigator on Israeli violations is mandated by the Council to examine only Israel, and not Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad, or any other Palestinian actor. It is the only country mandate that examines the actions of only one side, and presumes them to be violations.

The one they chose for the job, Richard Falk — who reports to the General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, on the same day as Israel is scrutinized by the HRC in Geneva — endorses Hamas, praises 9/11 conspiracy theorists, and was just condemned two weeks ago by Ban, the U.S., the U.K. and Canada, for implying the Boston attacks were somehow the fault of the U.S. and Israel.

The U.N. must stop violating its own charter guarantee to respect the equal rights of nations large and small, and the HRC must respect its own principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity.

Quotes and key facts on HRC treatment of Israel:

  • U.N. secretary general, Kofi Annan, said on 25 March 1998:

    Israel [is] the only Member State that is not a member of one of the regional groups… This anomaly should be corrected. We must uphold the principle of equality among all United Nations Member States.

  • On 12 December 1999, Anan remarked:

    The exclusion of Israel from the system of regional groupings [and] the intense focus given to some of Israel’s actions, while other situations sometimes fail to elicit the similar outrage… have given a regrettable impression of bias and one-sidedness.

  • In regard to Israel’s exclusion from a regional group, Anan said that “we must uphold the principle of equality among Member States. I shall keep encouraging all concerned to find a solution.”
  • The late U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Sergio de Mello, actively lobbied ambassadors in Geneva for the inclusion of Israel into the Western group.
  • On 15 March 2005, Anan spoke of the “need to correct a long-standing anomaly that kept Israel from participating fully and equally in the work of the Organization” by including Israel as member of the Western European and Others Group in Geneva.
  • Sir Robert Jennings, QC, former president of the International Court of Justice, wrote:

    Israel’s exclusion from the regional group system places the UN in breach of its fundamental obligations regarding sovereign equality and is thus illegal… The need now to redress it is urgent.

  • On 20 June 2007, the U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, criticized “the Council decision to single out Israel as the only specific regional item on its agenda, given the range and scope of allegations of human rights violations throughout the world.”


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