UNHRC slams Israel's actions in Gaza

"We have witnessed another round of the circus," Israel's Ambassador to the UN in Geneva tells Post.

Palestinians Rafah food  (photo credit: AP)
Palestinians Rafah food
(photo credit: AP)
The United Nations Human Rights Council condemned Israel for the 15th time in less than two years on Thursday. Only one other nation, Myanmar (ex-Burma), has been condemned by the council in that time. "We have witnessed another round of the circus," Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Yitzhak Levanon told The Jerusalem Post by telephone following the vote held during a special session on Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. "I think that this is a farce," Levanon said. Both Israel and the United States boycotted the proceedings, which ended with a call for Israel to lift its siege of Gaza but made no mention of the Palestinian rocket attacks on communities in the western Negev. With the support of 30 out of 47 countries, the council released a statement calling on Israel to stop its military operations in Gaza and to open the Strip's borders to allow the entry of food, fuel and medicine. It asked the international community to insure that Israel stop its actions in Gaza, which it referred to as "collective punishment of the Palestinian civilians that leads to disastrous humanitarian and environmental consequences." Canada was the only country to vote against the resolution put forward by Syria and Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Fifteen countries, including seven from the EU, abstained. Gabon's representatives absented themselves from the vote. Canada's representative, Terry Cormier, said his country was concerned by both the situation of the Palestinians in Gaza and the attacks against Israelis. "Unfortunately, neither this resolution nor the current session addressed the role of both parties. It was regretful that the current draft resolution did not condemn the rocket attacks on Israeli civilians," Cormier said. The EU ambassadors said they abstained because they, too, were concerned by the one-sided nature of the resolution. "We believe that this council should deplore the fact that innocent civilians on both sides are suffering," Slovenian Ambassador Andrej Logar said on behalf of the seven EU states on the council. Still, Muriel Berset Kohen, who represents the non-EU-member Switzerland, which also abstained, told the council that Israeli actions "went against international law." Syria's representative, Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui, said he had called the session to stop the "brutal aggression" of the Israeli people. The IDF, he said, had killed 90 civilians and the border closures had turned Gaza into a "huge prison of 1.4 million people." The Palestinian representative in Geneva said the resolution was intended to highlight abuses committed by Israel. "We recognize Israel, but we are against what Israel is practicing against our people," Muhammad Abu Koash told journalists after the meeting. Earlier, he told the council that "if Jewish cities were exposed to such... annihilation it would have prompted immediate international" action. Levanon told the Post he was proud that Israel had for the first time boycotted the council session. He said he had made it clear he was absent in protest against the council's mistreatment of Israel. If the council continues in this way, he warned, "it will suffer the same fate" as the UN Human Rights Commission, which was replaced by the council in June 2006. The commission was also criticized for singling out Israel. Speaking at the IDC's Herzliya Conference in Israel earlier this week, Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen harshly criticized the actions of the Human Rights Council actions against Israel. "At the United Nations, censuring Israel has become something of a habit, while Hamas's terror is referred to in coded language or not at all. The Netherlands believes the record should be set straight, both in New York and at the Human Rights Council in Geneva," Verhagen said. At a press conference in Geneva on Wednesday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also rebuked the council when asked about its special session on Gaza. "I appreciate that the council is looking in depth into this particular situation. And it is rightly doing so. I would also appreciate it if the council will be looking with the same level of attention and urgency at all other matters around the world. There are still many areas where human rights are abused and not properly protected," he said. Hillel Neuer, the executive director of UN Watch, said the only other country to be condemned by the council was Myanmar, and that happened only once. The latest vote against Israel by the council "is business as usual," Neuer told the Post. AP contributed to this report.