US boycotts UNHRC debate against Israel, slamming 'long-standing bias'

State Department says, "the United States will vote against every resolution put forth under this agenda item and is encouraging other countries to do the same."

March 20, 2017 15:08
3 minute read.

Overview of a Human Rights Council special session at the United Nations in Geneva. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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The United States on Monday boycotted the United Nations Human Rights Council debate against Israel, otherwise known as Agenda Item Seven, to protest the biased manner in which the Jewish state was singled out.

“The United States strongly and unequivocally opposes the existence of the UN Human Rights Council’s Agenda Item Seven,” the US State Department said.

America is one of the council’s 47 member-states, but the Trump administration has warned that it could reconsider its participation unless a number of changes are made, including changes in the UNHRC’s treatment of Israel.

The US also pledged to vote against five anti-Israel resolutions the council is expected to pass later this week. The UNHRC will also likely approve seven resolutions regarding human rights abuses in seven other countries, including Syria and Iran.

The UN Human Rights Council is mandated to dedicate Agenda Item Seven to a discussion on human rights abuses in Israel at every session.

It is the only country against which there is such a mandate; all other human rights abuses, including those by Syria and Iran, are examined under Agenda Item Four.

“The United States will vote against every resolution put forth under this agenda item and is encouraging other countries to do the same,” the State Department said.

Israel and the US are working together to sway Western countries to oppose such resolutions, but still expect an automatic majority will exist for their passage.

“Today’s actions in the council are yet another reminder of that body’s long-standing bias against Israel. No other nation has an entire agenda item dedicated to it at the council,” the State Department said. “The continued existence of this agenda item is among the largest threats to the credibility of the council. As an expression of our deeply held conviction that this bias must be addressed in order for the council to realize its legitimate purpose, the United States decided not to attend the council’s Item Seven General Debate session.”
Erin Barclay says US seeks end to UN human rights council's 'obsession' with Israel on March 1, 2017 (credit: REUTERS)

The US statement spoke of its respect for human rights and called on “all UN member states and international partners who are committed to human rights to work with us to pursue much needed reforms in the UN Human Rights Council.”

Under former president George W. Bush, the US refused to participate in all council debates, but former president Barack Obama believed it was important for the United States to engage the council.

The US held a UNHRC seat for six of Obama’s eight years in office.

Under his administration, the country always voted in support of Israel and in the last few years, it also refrained from participating in Agenda Item Seven debates.

The EU and most Western countries have followed suit. Israel’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Aviva Raz Shechter, who also boycotted the session, said: “The Human Rights Council is obsessed with Israel and continues to lose its standing.”

PLO Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Ibrahim Khraishi told the council that he resented the decision of some countries to boycott the Agenda Item Seven meeting. “It will only encourage the occupying power [Israel] to continue their systematic violations with total impunity.

This will undermine international credibility,” he said.

The State of Israel, Khraishi continued, “totally disregards all international instruments and international humanitarian law through daily practices that target and kill Palestinians. In addition, we have an apartheid that is being imposed by the occupying power against the Palestinian people.”

He called on the international community and international companies to boycott Israeli settlements.

“Anyone who imports products from settlements is a partner in Israeli violations of human rights,” he said.

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