The Palestinians on Saturday welcomed the almost unanimous show of support they received at the United Nations Human Rights Council as it ended its 25th session in Geneva.
Four resolutions condemning Israeli treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza passed by a 46-to-1 vote. Italy, Germany and France on behalf of the European Union were among the nations that stood against Israel.
“This vote confirms the world’s clear condemnation of the systematic human rights violations committed by Israel, the occupying power, against the Palestinian people and their fundamental rights,” said Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki.
“The vote also reflects a clear affirmation by the international community on the indisputable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, establishment of their independent state and return based on UN Resolution 194," Malki said.
One of the four resolutions encouraged the boycott of West Bank settlements and the Jewish neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem.
Malki in a statement to the media highlighted that item and said, “Most pertinently, it signals that the world is committed to ensuring that no profiteering is allowed from the occupation regime."
Although the council often votes to condemn Israel, it is unusual for all such resolutions to be approved nearly unanimously. The EU in past council sessions has often been split on these resolutions with some member states abstaining and others voting in support of the Palestinians.
Italy's representative to the UNHRC, Maurizio Enrico Serra, told the council that the EU supports these motions and that "EU member states would be voting in favor" of them.
A fifth resolution against Israel condemned its continued presence on the Golan Heights and its treatment of the Syrian population that lives there passed with the approval of 33 nations. There were 13 abstentions, including EU member states, and one vote against.
The United States was the only nation to support Israel in all five resolutions.
Israel was not present at the meeting, due to the ongoing Foreign Ministry strike.
Prior to Friday’s vote, the US issued a scathing attack against the UNHRC for its continued biased treatment of Israel and charged that the council was harming the peace process.
The PLO’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Ibrahim Khraishi, however, told the council such resolutions help the peace process.
“There is an Israeli occupation. Israel would like to continue with this occupation and to continue with its daily violations. We utterly refuse this situation and we will continue to resist this situation with all means available, in conformity with the provisions of the international law,” Khraishi said.
He took issue with statements Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman had made about Palestinians and the council, and charged that he is a “liar.”
Khraishi said that Israel “thinks this whole action [the council resolutions] is tantamount to anti-Semitism. We do not know what is really meant by anti-Semitism when it is claimed by Israelis.”
The issue for the Palestinians, he said, is to end the occupation and to force Israel to comply with international law.
But the US said that the council held Israel to a higher standard than any other nation. It took particular issue with the council’s Agenda Item 7, which mandates that Israel must be debated at every UNHRC session. Israel is the only country with such a standing agenda item
“We are deeply troubled once again to be presented with a slate of one-sided resolutions that undermine efforts to make progress in the negotiations,” said Paula Schriefer, who headed the US delegation to the 25th UNHRC session.
She noted in particular that the US remains “deeply troubled, however, by this council’s standalone agenda item directed against Israel, and by the many repetitive and one-sided resolutions under that agenda item.
“None of the world’s worst human rights violators, some of whom are the object of resolutions at this session, has their own stand-alone agenda item at this council. Only Israel, a vibrant and open democracy, receives such treatment,” she said.
Schriefer noted that the US provided financial and technical assistance to the Palestinian people and is the largest donor to UNRWA.
“We are disappointed that this council continually singles out Israel for criticism without acknowledging the violent attacks directed at its people, nor the obligations and difficult steps required of both sides to resolve their conflict,” Schriefer said.
She explained that the US supports the Palestinians’ right to self-determination, but that it does not believe these resolutions help advance a two-state solution or the peaceful resolution of the conflict.
The US said that the resolution on the Golan is an example of the problematic treatment Israel continues to receive at the hands of the UNHRC.
“Especially disturbing is this council’s complacency with the repeated introduction of a resolution focusing on the Golan Heights. To consider such a resolution while the Syrian regime continues to slaughter its own citizens by the tens of thousands exemplifies the absurdity of this agenda item and each of the other resolutions on Agenda Item 7,” Schriefer said.
Israel was the only country at the UNHRC's 25th session in Geneva to have multiple resolutions leveled against it and resolutions censuring other countries lacked the same level of support. The resolutions on the People's
Republic of Korea, was approved by 30 votes, the one on Iran by 21 and Syria by 32.