The United Kingdom has condemned the United Nations Human Rights Council for its biased treatment of Israel and for failing to condemn Palestinian terrorism in a strongly worded statement in Geneva.
Reflecting a sudden policy shift, it warned the UNHRC on Friday that Britain would stop supporting anti-Israel resolutions unless the 47-member body changed its tune on Israel.
“Today, we are putting the Human Rights Council on notice,” UK Ambassador Julian Braithwaite told the UNHRC as it wrapped up its 34th session.
He spoke just after the UNHRC approved four resolutions that condemned Israeli actions against the Palestinians and one that called on it to return the Golan Heights to Syria.
The UK supported two of the resolutions, abstained on another two, and voted against the one with regard to the Golan Heights.
Similarly concerned with UNHRC bias, the US traditionally has been the only country to consistently vote against all UNHRC resolutions that involve the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and the Golan Heights.
In this session, both the US and Togo voted against all five resolutions that condemned Israel.
But Braithwaite warned that the UK would follow the US in rejecting all resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if the UNHRC did not treat Israel proportionately.
Of the 10 condemnations issued against individual countries during the 34th UNHRC session, five were leveled at Israel.
Erin Barclay says US seeks end to UN human rights council's 'obsession' with Israel on March 1, 2017 (credit: REUTERS)
“If things do not change, in the future, we will adopt a policy of voting against all resolutions concerning Israel’s conduct in the Occupied Syrian and Palestinian Territories,” Braithwaite said.
He spoke just two days after a terrorist attack in London
claimed the lives of five people, including the assailant.
The attack, in which the terrorist drove an SUV onto a crowded sidewalk and then left the vehicle to stab a police officer, is akin to the type of terrorist incidents that have occurred in Israel over the last few years.
“According to the Quartet’s report last year, there were 250 terrorist attacks leading to the deaths of at least 30 Israelis,” Braithwaite said. “Yet, neither ‘terrorism’ nor ‘incitement’ were a focus of this week’s council discussions and resolutions. This is not acceptable.”
Israel has “a population of eight million in a world of seven billion. Yet, since its foundation, the Human Rights Council has adopted 135 country- specific resolutions – 68 of which against Israel. Justice is blind and impartial. This selective focus on Israel is neither,” Braithwaite said.
He also took issue with the UNHRC mandate to debate Israeli human rights abuses at every session under Agenda Item 7.
“Nowhere is the disproportionate focus on Israel starker and more absurd than in the case of today’s resolution on the occupation of Syria’s Golan. Syria’s regime butchers and murders its people on a daily basis. But it is not Syria that is a permanent standing item on the council’s agenda – it is Israel.”
“While we are unswerving in our conviction that the Golan Heights are occupied and do not recognize Israel’s annexation, we cannot accept the perverse message sent out by a Syria Golan resolution that singles out Israel as [Bashar] Assad continues to slaughter the Syrian people,” Braithwaite said.
In the past, as in this session, the United Kingdom has set aside its concern about bias and focused instead on alleged Palestinian suffering at the hands of Israel, particularly with regard to settlement building.
But, unless the question of Israeli human rights abuses are dealt with proportionately, the UK will place more weight on the issue of bias, he said.
“For as long as the Human Rights Council continues down this disproportionate and biased path, it will make the achievement of a negotiated two-state solution harder, not easier,” Braithwaite said.
PLO Ambassador to the UN Ibrahim Khraishi said Israeli violations against Palestinians occur frequently and with severity.
“Israel is the leading violator of human rights,” Khraishi said, asserting that it has violated all 149 articles of the Geneva convention. There is no difference between the terrorist attack in London and Israeli violence against Palestinians, he said.
Agenda Item 7 “will remain on the agenda unless an end is put to occupation,” Khraishi said. He added the Palestinians have a right to seek a peaceful resolution of the matter through the UNHRC, particularly with the use of Agenda Item 7.
Egyptian Ambassador to the UN Amr Ramadan said he does not believe that Agenda Item 7 singles out Israel.
“We are talking about illegitimate practice under human rights law. If those practices ceased, we would not need these draft resolutions,” he said.