UNHRC headquarters 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The United Nations Human Rights Council condemned Israel last week in five
resolutions – the same number devoted to the rest of the world.
condemnations were directed at Syria’s government, which under Bashar Assad
continues to slaughter its population. Just one resolution mentioned Iran – but
not to censure its illegal nuclear program or its many human rights violations,
just to renew the mandate for an investigator there. (There are currently 10
UNHRC rapporteurs appointed in various countries, but only one – Richard Falk,
the UN special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights – is permanent and need
not be renewed annually.) The most potentially damaging resolution leveled
against Israel last Thursday was a decision to “dispatch an independent
international fact-finding mission, to be appointed by the president of the
Human Rights Council, to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements
on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian
people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East
Like the Goldstone inquiry, the proposed “fact-finding
mission” if created will undoubtedly generate a massive international legal,
political and media campaign against Israel, conveniently deflecting attention
away from human rights abuses or war crimes (such as the firing of mortar shells
and Kassam and Grad rockets from Hamas-controlled Gaza at Israeli civilians)
being committed elsewhere in the world.
And like the Goldstone inquiry,
we once again face a dilemma: Should Israel cooperate with the UNHRC’s
fact-finding mission or should we boycott the body altogether? Dan Meridor, the
minister for intelligence and atomic energy, left the question open, saying on
Channel 2’s Meet the Press that Jerusalem would wait to see what the committee’s
mandate was and who its members were before making a final
However, another government official said Israel would not
“cooperate with a kangaroo court.”
Israel fought hard to win admission to
the UN in 1949.
While numerous UN members – particularly the Arab states
– tried hard to exclude us. The struggle to be part of the UN emanates from an
ethos – a Zionist ethos – to engage with the other nations as an equal. The
State of Israel was never meant to be a modern-day ghetto.
cooperating, Israel shows good faith, proves it is a bona fide participant in
the UN and conveys the message that we have nothing to hide. Cooperating also
gives us the opportunity to mitigate the inevitable damage.
On the down
side, however, cooperating lends legitimacy to the findings. It also gives the
impression that despite being given a fair chance to do so, Israel failed to
convince the UNHRC of its position on settlements. By refusing to cooperate,
Israel reserves the right to reject outright the very mandate of UNHRC’s
Unfortunately, judging from experience with the UN,
there is little chance that cooperation will significantly influence the
outcome. In February 2011, after completing a six-day visit in Israel, during
which the Foreign Ministry, the IDF, the Supreme Court and other state
institutions fully cooperated, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi
Pillay issued a statement lambasting Israel for its supposed violations of
international law. No similar statements were issued on countries such as China,
Russia, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Vietnam and Zimbabwe, where human rights
are regularly abused.
The very fact that 29 of the 47 member-states in
the UNHRC voted to create a “fact-finding mission” is testimony to their
partiality against Israel. For while it makes sense to dispatch a fact-finding
mission to, say, Syria, where journalists fear for their lives and reports are
sketchy, there is no lack of information on settlement activity in Judea and
Samaria. A multitude of left-wing NGOs and foreign government representatives
regularly track settlement growth.
But while it might be convenient to
use them to bash Israel, settlements are not the problem.
leadership’s refusal to enter into direct negotiations without preconditions,
not Israeli settlements, is the real obstacle to peace. A Palestinian state will
not be established by the UNHRC in Geneva or in New York, but only via direct
negotiations with Israel. The Palestinian leadership’s insistence on unilateral
measures, such as appealing to the UNHRC, seems to reveal a preference for
harming and delegitimizing Israelis over dialogue with us.