In a move likely to keep the spotlight on the Goldstone Report, the UN Human Rights Council voted on Thursday to form an independent standing committee to evaluate the document’s demand that Israel and the Palestinians probe their actions in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.
The US and five European countries – Italy, the Netherlands, Hungary, Slovakia and Ukraine – voted against the resolution. Israel, which is not a member of the council, attacked the move as a “dangerous precedent.”
“No such assessment committee has been formed by this council before,” Israel’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Aharon Leshno Yaar told the council prior to its vote.
“This resolution is so biased and one-sided – so defamatory – that it crosses far over the line of being ‘only’ anti-Israeli,” said Leshno Yaar.
PLO Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Ibrahim Khraishi said Israel’s opposition was a “flimsy” pretext to ignore international law.
“If accountability and responsibility is not going to be our guide, we have to ask this council what are you going to give our people? Please tell me,” Khraishi told the 47-member body. “Israel should not be above the law.”
Thursday’s resolution does not include a call to release abducted IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, as set out in the Goldstone Report, even though the young man’s parents flew to Geneva to ask the council to add their son’s name to the resolution.
It does, however, attempt to move forward the Goldstone Report’s call for an escrow account to be established to pay reparations to Palestinians harmed by “unlawful” Israeli acts during the IDF’s incursion into Gaza in January 2009.
The resolution calls for the UN high commissioner for human rights to create modalities for that escrow fund.
Leshno Yaar focused his opposition to the resolution on the new committee of experts.
Such a move gives additional publicity venues to a biased and inaccurate report, he told The Jerusalem Post
. It’s a form of “legal harassment,” he added.
The Palestinians want to see a “mountain of reports and mechanisms [against Israel] that will keep the council here in Geneva and the [UN] in New York busy for eternity,” Leshno Yaar said.
Khraishi told council that the resolution would ensure compliance with the Goldstone Report.
Compiled by a four-person fact-finding mission lead by South African jurist Richard Goldstone, the report accused both Israelis and Palestinians of possible war crimes in Gaza, but the bulk of its text focused on Israel.
Leshno Yaar told the council that there was no need for a new committee of experts.
It “clearly contradicts and duplicates last month’s General Assembly resolution that asked the secretary-general to report on investigations by the end of July, as the committee of experts will shoot out another report, less than two months later, in September,” Leshno Yaar told the council.
The committee, he said, would continue to generate “a new round of Goldstone-esque reports.”
But Khraishi said that all the resolution did was to follow up on what the council and the UN General Assembly had already agreed to.
As such the resolution reiterated a recommendation in the Goldstone Report for a discussion on the future legality of certain munitions.
“There are cluster bombs that are still exploding in the faces of children in Palestine,” said Khraishi.
The resolution also reiterates the call both by the Goldstone Report and the UN General Assembly that Switzerland host a conference of parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to explore applying it to the Palestinian territories.
Thursday’s resolution was the last of five resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that the council approved this session.
Since it’s inception in 2006, the council has passed 39 resolutions censuring countries, of which 32 have focused on Israel.
The US was the only country at the UNHRC this week in Geneva to vote against all five resolutions involving Israel.
In recent weeks the Obama administration’s relationship with Jerusalem has been strained. But in Geneva, the US took the council to task for its treatment of Israel.
“We are deeply troubled to be presented once again with a slate of resolutions so replete with controversial elements and one-sided references that they shed no light and offer no redress for the real challenges in the region,” US Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe said in a speech to the council on Wednesday.
“The council is too often exploited as a platform from which to single out Israel, which undermines its credibility,” said Donahoe. “The US strongly encourages the council to seek an alternative to highly politicized resolutions and a permanent agenda item focused on one country.”
She suggested that this issue was best addressed under “a robust common rubric.”
Both parties should examine their own human rights record, she said.
Her speech was delivered in advance of the vote on a resolution supporting a Palestinian right to self-determination. The US was the only country on the council to vote against it.
Donahoe said that her country supported a two-state solution even though it opposed the resolution.
But Khraishi said that there was no difference between belief in a
two-state solution and support for the Palestinian right to
The Palestinian people now live under “the yoke of unjust and bloody occupation,” he said.
He added that he hoped to pass a resolution next year that would allow Palestinians to exercise their right to a state.
The other Israel-related resolutions the council approved this week
dealt with human rights issues in the “occupied Syrian Golan,” as well
as two resolutions on Israeli treatment of Palestinians in the West
Bank and east Jerusalem.
Leshno Yaar said he appreciated the support of the US at the council.