UNHRC set to censure Israel for 21st time

Israel's ambassador to the UN in Geneva tells 'Post' Arab draft text "is totally unbalanced."

By
January 10, 2009 23:35
3 minute read.
UNHRC set to censure Israel for 21st time

Pillay UN rights gaza 248.88 ap. (photo credit: AP [file])

 
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The UN's Human Rights Council in Geneva is expected to censure Israel on Monday for its military operations in Gaza, according to Israel's ambassador to the UN in Geneva. The draft text, which was proposed by Arab countries, "is totally unbalanced," Aharon Leshno Yaar told The Jerusalem Post by telephone from Geneva on Saturday night. "I would have expected the council to condemn Hamas for using civilians as human shields" and "for storing weapons in mosques and schools," Leshno Yaar said. At present there is no mention in the one-sided resolution of the thousands of rockets that Hamas has fired against Israeli civilians, he said. The draft text gives the mistaken impression that Israel woke up one morning and decided to attack civilians in Gaza for no reason, he said. This resolution "will plant the illusion in the minds of Hamas that the international community is supporting them, and that would be tragic," he said. According to the UN Watch NGO, should the resolution pass, it would mark the 21st time that the council has censured Israel since it replaced the UN's Human Rights Commission in June 2006. It has issued 25 resolutions against countries, of which 20 resolutions were leveled against Israel, four against Myanmar and one against North Korea, according to UN Watch. Leshno Yaar said that he and the Foreign Ministry have lobbied European officials not to support such anti-Israel texts. "The atmosphere is very heavy here in Geneva, because the focus is on human rights and humanitarian issues. I feel that I am fighting here alone with few friends," he said. On Friday, when he spoke before the council at the start of its special session on "the grave violations of human rights in the occupied territories, including the recent aggression in the occupied Gaza Strip," he gave council members information on the rocket attacks and on Israel's efforts to provide humanitarian relief to the civilians in Gaza. In the last two weeks, Israel has facilitated the entry of 540 trucks carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian supplies into Gaza, Leshno Yaar said. "Hamas has chosen a military buildup over the welfare of the Palestinian people, while masquerading as a legitimate government. It has imposed terror on the Palestinian population and Israeli civilians alike. Its endeavors are aided by partners Iran, Syria and Hizbullah, who supply Hamas with a vast arsenal of weaponry instead of donating money and materials that could be used to build infrastructure or aid development," he said. Hamas is a threat to moderate societies in the region, he said. "This is not only Israel's war." Reports by the United Nations, however, paint a bleak picture of IDF activities in Gaza. According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as of Friday, 758 Gazans have been killed as a result of the fighting. Out of that number, 60 were women and 257 were children. In addition, the UN said, 16,000 people have been displaced and are staying in shelters, and as of Thursday, some 800,000 Gazans were without running water. "The situation is intolerable," the UN commissioner for human rights, Navanethem Pillay, said when she addressed the council's special session on Friday. "The conflict has already caused the loss of hundreds of lives, a rapidly mounting score of injured civilians, the systematic destruction of basic means of subsistence, as well as the dangerous pollution of water resources and the degradation of indispensable services," Pillay said. "Let me also underscore that while indiscriminate rocket attacks against civilian targets in Israel are unlawful, Israel's responsibility to fulfill its international obligations is completely independent from the compliance of Hamas with its own obligations under international law," she said. The obligation of a state to protect civilian life "is not subject to reciprocity," she said. Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits collective penalties or punishment of a civilian population, Pillar said.

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