Israel boycotting 38th U.N. Human Rights Council session

Without any fanfare Israel stopped attending the daily council session last week after the United States announced that it planned to withdraw from the UNHRC.

June 27, 2018 13:22
2 minute read.
Israel boycotting 38th U.N. Human Rights Council session

Overview of the Human Rights Council one day after the U.S. announced their withdraw at the United Nations in Geneva,. (photo credit: DENIS BALIBOUSE/REUTERS)


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Israel is boycotting the 38th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which opened in Geneva on June 18 and ends on July 7.

Without any fanfare, it stopped attending the daily council session last week after the United States announced its plan to withdraw from the UNHRC.

The US said it planned to give up its seat as one of 47 UNHRC voting members and it would stop attending council sessions.

US Ambassador to the UN in New York Nikki Haley charged that the UNHRC was morally problematic because it safeguarded abuser regimes and was biased in its treatment of Israel.

Since the UNHRC was created in 2006, it has passed 310 country specific resolutions, a quarter of which - 76 texts - dealt with Israel.

Israel is not a UNHRC member, but has the right to attend its sessions and participate in its debates.

Therefore, it could not follow the US’s lead with a dramatic exit. Instead it opted, according to a diplomatic official, “to lower its profile.”

It still maintains diplomatic and communication ties with the UNHRC and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Israel formally cut its ties with the UNHRC in 2012, but restored them a year later under pressure from the Obama Administration and the international community.

It specifically feared that unless those ties were restored, Israel would not participate in the “universal periodic review process” of its human rights which all UN member states undergo.

Such a step, they feared, would embolden others not to participate in one of the more respected aspects of the UN human rights system.

Israel has since gone completed another periodic review in January, the results of which are due to be voted on this Friday. It will next come up for review in 2022.

It has time, therefore, to consider what relationship it wants with the UNHRC in light of the Trump Administration’s announcement, which has not ended what Israel considers to be a slew of biased steps.

On Monday, the UNHRC is set to debate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict under Agenda Item 7. It is mandated to hold this debate at every session. All other country specific human rights issues are debated under Agenda Item 4, save for Israel.

The UNHRC is also working on a blacklist of companies conducting business in Israel-controlled regions over the pre-1967 lines, including east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

It was believed to have delayed publication of that list to dissuade the US from withdrawing from the council. At the start of the 38th session the UNHRC announced that it was moving forward with the list.

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