Overview of the UN Human Rights Council during a debate at the United Nations in Geneva.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Those who purchase settlement products are accomplices to an act of war, PLO Ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi told the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday as it met in Geneva toward the end of its 31st session.
For most of the day, UN member states including Iran and Syria accused Israel of human rights violations against Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem. They did so in advance of a vote later this week on five resolutions against Israel, including one that calls on it to return the Golan Heights to Syria.
Very few speeches mentioned the Palestinian attacks that have claimed 34 lives, including 30 Israelis and two visiting US citizens; many focused on West Bank settlement activity.
“Settlements only prolong the occupation and undermine the future of the Palestinians,” Khraishi said. “Anyone who buys products of the settlements are accomplices to the Israeli authority and to acts which constitute acts of war.”
He added: “The Israeli occupation has lasted almost 50 years. This has only generated violence and instability in the region. It must be ended if we are going to have human rights prevail in the region.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein charged that, “The presence and continued development of Israeli settlements lie at the root of a broad spectrum of human rights violations in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem.”
His statement, which was read out by his deputy, Kate Gilmore, condemned Palestinian attacks against Israelis, but also called the Israeli response to those incidents “excessive.”
“Some of these responses strongly suggest unlawful killings, including possible extrajudicial executions and willful killings. Prompt, independent, impartial thorough and effective investigations should be carried out into all allegations of excessive use of force,” al-Hussein stated, calling on violators of international humanitarian law to be held accountable.
Still, in spite of his harsh words on the settlements, the UNHRC backtracked slightly in the wording of its resolution, toning down the resolution on the settlements and no longer calling on UN member states to halt their imports of such products, but rather advising them that it is against international law.
However, it still urges all states “to ensure that they are not taking actions that either recognize or assist the expansion of settlements or construction of the wall in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem.”
The debate took place under Agenda Item 7, which mandates that the UNHRC debate alleged Israeli violations of human rights at each session. Israel is the only country against which there is such a mandate.
To show his country’s opposition to Agenda Item 7, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Eviatar Manor, did not participate in the debate. But, in a statement to the press, his office wrote: “While 19 million Syrians, Iraqi and Yemeni are fleeing their destroyed cities and homes; while Daesh [Islamic State] and al-Qaida are expanding their terrorist networks in the Middle East, Africa and Europe; while North Korea and Iran are testing their ballistic capabilities; the UNHRC continues to find it relevant to allocate its limited resources of time, personnel and money to produce six reports on Israel and [to] consider five resolutions in the context of a dedicated Agenda Item, singling out Israel.
“In the course of the last three weeks, thousands demonstrated on the Place des Nations demanding the UN’s attention. But we are sorry to tell them that they are wasting their time. The Human Rights Council is only obsessed with the fate of the Palestinians, and prefers to close its eyes to other critical Human Rights violations. It consistently disregards the human rights of Israelis. In fact, it does not care for them at all,” Manor said.
“As long as the HRC does not undergo behavioral therapy to treat its obsession with Israel, we will not cooperate with these biased mechanisms!” he continued.
In Washington, US Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday night promised the AIPAC policy conference that his country would continue to support Israel at the UN.
“We will continue to stand against biased resolutions and attempts to delegitimize Israel at the United Nations,” he said.