A session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva underway.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Two major groups of Arab states questioned Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas in Gaza, in addresses to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday in Geneva.
Describing Israel’s actions in Gaza as self-defense is both “legally incorrect” and “morally abhorrent,” said Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
As the occupying power, Israel does not have the right to defend itself from Hamas, a group which is under its control, said the United Arab Emirates, speaking on behalf of the Arab group at the UN.
The countries were among some 30 nations that spoke against Israel’s actions in Gaza and the West Bank. They included Russia and China, who are both members of the Security Council.
China told the UNHRC that it supports the Palestinian drive to become a member state of the United Nations.
Other countries that took the floor were from the Middle East, Asia, India, and Latin America.
Venezuela accused Israel of war crimes and genocidal actions during the Gaza war this summer.
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Switzerland, Ireland, and Iceland were among the few Western countries to address to address the UNHRC under Agenda Item 7.
Ireland condemned both Israel and Hamas as unacceptable for attacking innocent civilians during the Gaza war.
With respect to Israeli attacks in Gaza, Ireland said, “Whatever efforts may have been made to avoid civilian casualties, the facts show plainly that these efforts did not work, and that the attacks were continued despite the clear evidence of massive casualties.”
A number of countries, including Iran and Pakistan, took issue with the absence of Western countries, which are protesting the UNHRC’s decision to debate Israel at each session under standing Agenda Item 7.
“This silence is particularly conspicuous and disturbing, considering that Israel’s most recent brutal military aggression on the occupied Gaza Strip resulted in the deaths of 2,142 Palestinians, including 501 children,” said Pakistan on behalf of the OIC.
Israel is the only country at the United Nations that is debated by the Human Rights Council at every session. It is also the only country to which a special investigator is permanently assigned.
The newly appointed UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, Makarim Wibisono, is in the midst of his first official visit to the Middle East on a fact-finding mission.
As a protest, for seven years Israel has refused to grant access to Human Rights Council investigators. Past mandate- holders Richard Falk and John Dugard were also not allowed to visit Israel or the Palestinian territories.
Wibisono is to visit Jordan and Egypt, with plans also to go to Gaza.
“Despite my best efforts, I have not been granted access by Israel to the occupied Palestinian territory at this time,” Wibisono said. “I deeply regret not having the opportunity to visit the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, and to speak face-to-face with victims and witnesses of Israel’s alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.”
He is to report his findings from this trip to the UN General Assembly in October and to the UNHRC in March.
Separately, the UNHRC has mandated a three-member legal panel led by Canadian William Schabas to investigate Israeli’s actions during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza this summer. The results of that inquiry are to be presented in March.
On Tuesday the UNHRC is also to debate the global issue of racism under Agenda Item 8. Father Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth, plans to speak to the UNHRC about the persecution of Christian minorities by extremists in the Arab world.
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