(photo credit: Reuters)
Israel had compelling reasons to avoid any dealings with the misnamed UN Human
Rights Council. Israel, and has, indeed stayed away from UNHRC forums since
March, 2012. But on Tuesday, Israel relented, despite the absence of compelling
reasons for an about-face.
Fellow democracies, which hardly dominate the
council, had exerted excruciating pressure on Israel to cooperate with the
UNHRC, lest it be seen as setting a precedent for rogue regimes.
accompanied by nebulous carrots dangled before Israel. One is that Israel will
cease being the sole geopolitically unaffiliated country at UN forums in
Presumably, at some unspecified date, Israel will be coopted to
the Western European and Others Group, as it is in New York’s UN
The other carrot is that moves will be undertaken, again at an
unspecified time, to release Israel from the dishonorable unique status accorded
it at the UNHRC under Agenda Item 7. This turns Israel into a permanent subject
of debate at every council session. No other country has a compulsory agenda
item reserved for it.
These promises are far too vague to constitute
tangible diplomatic achievements. They certainly do not justify Israel’s
reversal of an eminently justified policy.
The UNHRC, which initiated the
Goldstone and Mavi Marmara reports, is one of the most hostile forums to Israel,
even within the UN framework. It consistently singles Israel out as its favorite
The council is noxiously anti-Israel. The UNHRC has censured
Israel more than any other state and it adopted the infamous Agenda 7 to make
sure all UNHRC sessions focus disproportionate attention on the Jewish
John Dugard, until 2008 the special rapporteur on the question of
Palestine to the UNHRC, described his mandate as scrutinizing Israeli human
rights infractions and not those of the Palestinians. His successor Richard Falk
likened Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to the Nazis’ treatment of Jews
during the Holocaust.
Formally, UNHRC was born only in 2006 but it in
fact it started out as the much-discredited UN Human Rights Commission. Former
UN chief Kofi Annan took the extraordinary step of abolishing the latter
precisely because of unabashed politicization that mostly manifested itself in
its fixated demonization of Israel, which was slated for vilification on any
occasion and under any pretext.
The council replaced the commission amid
pledges of sincere introspection, contrition and, most of all, cleaning up of
its avowedly shameful record. Nonetheless, the commission’s preposterous
patterns reasserted themselves right away. The council consistently discerns
nothing more urgent than to occupy itself with than Israel’s so-called human
The council is a carbon copy of the commission, with one
exception. The commission held a single yearly session.
treats us to multiple annual extravaganzas.
The majority of its 47
members are from the Third World, which not only guarantees massive anti-Israel
bias but makes mockery of human rights. Thus, before he was overthrown, Muammar
Gaddafi’s Libya was among the UNHRC’s movers and shakers.
administration had pointedly reversed an earlier Bush administration decision
not to seek a seat on the council due to its lack of any credibility, obsession
with Israel and failure to confront the world’s real
Admitting that the council has a “strong bias against
Israel,” the US delegation to the UNHRC nevertheless argued that by staying
away, Israel was forgoing the opportunity to “present its own narrative.” The
trouble, though, is that nobody in the council is listening.
up was hardly ideal, but better than more spectacles of the sort the UNHRC
invariably stages. Last year, Israel refused to take part in its universal
periodic review (which each UN member must undergo).
Now Israel has
switched tack and two days ago defended its record in a hearing that descended
into a kangaroo court, where some of the most repressive regimes pass judgment
on a sterling democracy and where the damning verdict had been composed long
before the proceedings began.