Just days after the UN put on a show about Holocaust remembrance, it is business as usual in terms of demonizing and encouraging hatred of Jews in the present. In Geneva, the UN’s top human rights body, the Human Rights Council, is conducting its so-called “Universal Periodic Review” (UPR), and Israel was supposed to arrive before the firing squad on January 29 to listen to Iran itemize the failings of "the Zionist entity." The greater tragedy of modern anti-Semitism, however, is that the United States and almost every other Western government pressured Israel to participate too – for the sake of the reputation of the UN and the appearance of universality. These goals were considered to be the greater good.
In the world of international human rights, the standard-bearer is the universal application of human rights principles. “We the peoples of the United Nations,” says the UN Charter, “reaffirm faith…in the equal rights…of nations large and small.” Hence, the UN Human Rights “Council,” desperate to repair the UN’s human rights credibility after Libya was elected President of the Human Rights “Commission,” created the much-trumpeted UPR. All 193 UN members undergo the same procedure – states like Syria and the United States, for example.
During the UPR, country representatives turn up in Geneva while diplomats from other states proceed to make comments and recommendations on improving the country's human rights record. Since the country can “accept” or “reject” those recommendations, it is in its interest to line up friendly participants, a disingenuous role willingly played only by rogue states. At the end, the President of the Council thanks the country concerned, regardless of the statements made by its representatives, the recommendations it has rejected, or its actual human rights record.
So here’s how the UPR rubber hit the road of crimes against humanity in Syria. On October 7, 2011, the Syrian vice-minister of foreign affairs and his entourage took their places in the Council chamber. And then the Cubans said: “the Syrian government is working for the human rights of its people.” The North Koreans said: “we commend Syria on its efforts taken to maintain security and stability.” The Iranians said: “we appreciate the efforts of the government of Syria to promote and protect human rights.” Ditto Sudan, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Algeria, Lebanon, China, Zimbabwe, Burma/Myanmar, and so on.
Four days later, on behalf of the three countries charged with compiling recommendations, Mexico reported to the Council: “Syria received a total of 179 recommendations…It is a pleasure to inform you that 98 recommendations were accepted and 26 shall be considered.” Among the recommendations that "did not enjoy the support" of Syria were “immediately end attacks on peaceful protesters and bring violators to account,” “put an end to secret detentions” and “allow journalists to freely exercise their profession.” At the end of this stage of the UPR, the President of the Council turned to Syria and signed off with “I thank both you and your delegation for your participation in the UPR.”
At the time, there were 2,600 dead Syrian citizens at the hands of their own government. And Assad got the message about the human rights bona fides of the UN.
The next and final stage of the UPR took place in Geneva on March 15, 2012 – by which time there were 11,000 dead. On that occasion, the Council formally adopted the so-called “outcome” of the UPR – a report containing no findings and no decision to take action. It was gaveled through without comment from the President with these words: “May I now propose that the Council adopts the decision on the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Syria?” I see no objection.”
There are now over 60,000 dead in Syria.
And yet, incredibly, the enormous pressure now descending on Israel to play by these rules has been mounted for the sake of the credibility of the UPR. It is the Jewish state that poses the threat to the UN’s house of cards.
This is what modern anti-Semitism in the world of international affairs is really all about. Israel’s willingness to expose the lack of universal application of standards, its refusal to play with a stacked deck, its stubborn insistence that it will not go quietly into that good night, is itself an affront – a violation of the rules of a club from which Jews have been excluded throughout history.
The discrimination against Israel by the UN human rights system is not hard to find. The UN Human Rights Council has a permanent agenda of 10 items, one reserved for condemning Israel and one for considering all other 192 UN members. Almost 40 percent of all Council resolutions condemning specific countries have been directed at Israel alone. There have been more special sessions on Israel than any other country. Israel is the only UN state excluded from full membership in any of the UN’s regional groups, where key negotiations and information-sharing occurs.
The official UN document entitled “summary of stakeholder submissions,” which is intended to drive Israel’s UPR, includes allegations from NGOs that object to “the Jewish character of the state,” and demand that “five million Palestinians” should “return” to Israel to seal the deal.
And then there all the fabricated, hate-filled investigations and reports the Council regularly produces after every Israeli effort at self-defense, from the infamous “Goldstone” report – later recanted by its namesake – to the flotilla report claiming Turkish terrorists were humanitarians.
After another Council investigation on settlements was initiated last year, Israel said enough; it would not cooperate with the Council, which entailed not attending the UPR session today. Its absence at Tuesday’s UPR is the first time that anybody has cared that the hatemongering might take place in the country’s absence. The worry? Somebody might notice that the UN Human Rights Council is really not about the universal application of human rights after all.
If President Obama and his new administration were really serious about leadership, they could have easily been telling their colleagues on the Council to change the rules, because true equality cannot be built on the inequality of the few. Because the discrimination and demonization of the Jewish state and the Jewish people is not an isolatable flaw, but subverts the very foundation of human rights and the United Nations. Because the road to hell is paved with the cries of the insignificant, the marginal and the irrelevant.
But instead, through their UN Ambassador in Geneva, Eileen Donahoe, American diplomats publicly beseeched Israel last week to make nice.
With the Israeli election still sorting out decision-makers, and Western countries apoplectic about the emperor’s imminent disrobing, postponement has now occurred in the short term. In the long term, however, there is no middle ground.
Israel will no doubt continue to be bullied by the US administration, but there is an answer. Israel, too, is all for universality. So those who are similarly serious about the basics can amend two procedural, unambiguously discriminatory rules. The Human Rights Council can change its agenda so that there is one item for all 193 UN member states, and the Western regional group can fully admit Israel to its Council meetings in Geneva. Alternatively, the “Human Rights” Council can carry on, and every member stand challenged to justify its support of this agent of modern anti-Semitism.