U.S. exit from U.N. Human Rights Council is long overdue

You don’t have to be a fan of the Trump administration to applaud them for the courageous and principled stance they have taken at the UN since entering office.

June 21, 2018 21:36
4 minute read.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley delivers remarks to the press

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley delivers remarks to the press announcing the US's withdrawal from the UN's Human Rights Council at the Department of State in Washington, US, June 19, 2018. (photo credit: TOYA SARNO JORDAN / REUTERS)


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The United States is out. Yesterday, the country’s ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, and Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, announced the US withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council, citing the body’s pathological bias against Israel.

You don’t have to be a fan of the Trump administration to applaud them for the courageous and principled stance they have taken at the UN since entering office. Haley, like no other US ambassador before her, has aggressively challenged the status quo at the UN and the institution’s grotesque anti-Israel obsession throughout its ranks.

Haley blocked anti-Israel resolutions in the UN Security Council. She called out the UN General Assembly for its hatred of the Jewish State. She led a campaign to withdraw her country’s membership from UNESCO, the UN cultural organization determined to erase any links between Israel and Judaism’s holiest sites.

And now the US has followed through on a threat it made last year – to withdraw from the U.N. Human Rights Council unless the body agreed to reform itself. It has not, thus exposing the UN Human Rights Council for what it is: A forum of moral bankruptcy in which the worst criminal regimes can wash their hands of responsibility, while simultaneously entertaining their absurd obsession with the Jewish State.

Current Council members are the Who’s Who of the world’s tyrannies. There’s Qatar, a modern- day slave state. Myanmar, a country busy driving Rohingya Muslims into the sea. Congo, a failed state run by warlords. And Pakistan, al-Qaeda’s favorite safe haven. Not to mention the world’s leading human rights violators, Russia and China.

Yet these serial human rights offenders have decided that it’s acceptable to single out the only Jewish State in the world – and the only true democracy in the Middle East region – for systemic discrimination. By remaining on the Council, other countries give legitimacy to this agenda.

The anti-Israel bias at the Council is enforced by Agenda Item 7, which mandates a discussion on Israel at every session. It operates under the title: “Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories,” with the subtitle of “Human rights violations and implications of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and other occupied Arab territories; Right to self-determination of the Palestinian people.”

Israel is singled out in a way that no other country is subjected to by the stand-alone focus that is engraved in the Council’s permanent agenda, leading to discriminatory treatment of the Jewish State at every Council meeting.

The evidence of the organization’s bias against Israel is disgusting. From its inception in 2006 until May 2018, the Council held 28 special sessions. Of the 22 sessions that singled-out specific countries, more than 30 percent targeted Israel.

For example, eight sessions were held on Israel, while only five sessions addressed the mass murder in Syria; two sessions were held on the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar; and only a single meeting each was held on serious human rights violations in countries like Congo, Libya, South Sudan, and Burundi. Moreover, in the period of June 2006 through June 2016, the Council adopted 135 resolutions criticizing countries; 68 out of those 135 resolutions have targeted Israel.

That’s more than 50%.

If this body is tasked with protecting human rights in the world, we’re all doomed. The UN Human Rights Council is not part of the solution, it is the problem.

Critics have suggested that by withdrawing from the Council the US is losing all leverage.

However, the strategy to reform the Council from the inside spectacularly failed under the Obama administration. The Trump administration experienced the same frustrations, failing to secure any meaningful concessions from member states.

The best option now is to discredit the body and boycott it for as long as it singles out the only Jewish state among nations. And there’s hope. With its decision, the US has provoked important changes in the behavior of other member states.

Britain on Monday called on the council to end its discriminatory treatment of Israel. “We share the view that the dedicated Agenda Item 7 focused solely on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories is disproportionate and damaging to the cause of peace,” said British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

The minister threatened that “unless things change we shall vote next year against all resolutions introduced under Item 7.”

Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, meanwhile, responded to the U.S. decision, saying Australia shared “many of the concerns held by the US,” particularly about the Council’s “anti-Israel bias.” Last month, Australia and the U.S. were the only two countries on the Council to vote against an independent investigation into the deaths that occurred during the Hamas-orchestrated Gaza border riots.

“For too long, [the UN Human Rights Council] has been a protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias,” Haley said on Monday. The US made the right choice by withdrawing from this circus. Let’s hope others will follow.

The author is a senior fellow at The Israel Project and director of the Human Security Centre in London.

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