UNHRC arms embargo call against Israel passes by only slim margin

Body approved the text by a 22-8 vote, with 17 abstentions

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)
Overview of the Human Rights Council one day after the U.S. announced their withdraw at the United Nations in Geneva,
A United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution that sought to exact harsh penalties against Israel for its settlement activity and alleged human rights violations, including a call for an arms embargo, passed by a slim margin in Geneva on Friday.
It also called on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to present a report next year on how Israel can be better forced to comply with UN resolutions that call on it to halt settlement activity and withdraw to the pre-1967 lines.
The 47-member body approved the text by a 22-8 vote, with 17 abstentions as it wrapped up its 43rd sessions.
Those who opposed the measure were: Australia, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Fiji, Togo and Ukraine.
Those who abstained were: Bahamas, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Germany, India, Marshal Islands, Italy, Japan, Nepal, Netherlands, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Spain and Uruguay.
The relocation of the controversial text from Agenda Item 7 to Agenda Item 2 failed to garner more support. The Palestinian Authority had highlighted the importance of this particular text given the pending Israeli annexation of portions of the West Bank.
The resolution called “upon all states to promote compliance with international law and all High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention... including by ensuring that they do not become involved in internationally unlawful conduct, and to assess the potential that arms could be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian or human rights law.”
Israel traditionally boycotts all Agenda Item 7 debates to protest the mandate that the UNHRC must debate alleged Israeli human rights abuses at every session. Such a mandate exists only for Israel and is not leveled at any other country.
The placement of the accountability resolution under Agenda Item 7 allowed Israel’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Aviv Raz Shechter to take the floor.
She reminded the council that Israel and the Palestinian Authority had worked in partnership to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the past months.
“The Palestinian representatives here, however, choose to ignore the facts, keep up with their narrative of the victim – as they have for the past 72 years,” she said.
Since Israel’s creation in 1948, Shechter said, “The Arab effort to deny and destroy the Jewish State started immediately – and for some, has never ceased.” Since then, she said, “Israel’s hope for peace was only met twice, by Egypt and Jordan.”
She charged that the council is biased for attacking only Israel when dealing with the conflict.
“This Council has one agenda item designed to condemn only one state. This item 7 is nothing but a systematic mechanism of discrimination against Israel and Israelis, one deeply rooted in the culture of this Council and of some of its member states,” Shechter said.
“Let’s call Item 7 by its proper name, the item of institutionalized antisemitism,” Shechter said. “Spreading false narratives and avoiding taking responsibility is not the path the Palestinians should be taking to promote their cause,” she added.
Shechter told the Council, “you are dealing with a conflict involving the rights of two peoples, not one. A conflict involving the suffering of two peoples, not one. These kind of conflicts need a direct negotiation process that brings peoples together rather than more recriminations of this Council that only serve to pull our peoples farther apart.  We have enough of that!”
PLO Ambassador to the UN Ibrahim Khraishi recalled that the International Criminal Court was in the midst of deciding whether it had the jurisdiction to hear war crimes suits against Israelis for their actions against the Palestinians.
“States that abstain from voting for this resolution are sending a message to Israel inviting it to continue with its annexation project over the coming days. Speeches along can not stop this action. If they fail to do so, then those who obstruct Justice must be held accountable,” Kharishi said.
The Council ended Friday without finalizing the passage of all the resolutions. On Monday when the session is resumed, it is expected to pass four pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel resolutions.
Two of those resolutions will continue to take Israel to task for its military and civilian hold over the West Bank, one of the resolutions affirms the Palestinian right to self-determination and one calls on Israel to return the Golan Heights to Syria.
With Israeli annexation pending, the thrust of the pro-Palestinian resolutions was to affirm Palestinian statehood, a two-state solution, the pre-1967 lines, to declare Israeli settlement activity to be illegal and to chastise the international community for failing to hold Israel accountable.
The resolution on settlements “condemns the declaration made by Israeli officials calling for the annexation of Palestinian land and reaffirms the prohibition of acquisition of territory resulting from the use of force.”
The resolution on self-determination calls on the international community not to recognize Israeli annexation. It “calls upon all states to ensure their obligations of non-recognition, non-aid or assistance with regard to the serious breaches of peremptory norms of international law by Israel.”