UNHRC strengthens call for arms embargo against Israel

This is the four year in a row that the UNHRC has dealt with the issue.

UNHRC 521 (photo credit: Reuters)
(photo credit: Reuters)
The UN Human Rights Council is expected to vote on Monday on a resolution that strengthens the call for an arms embargo against Israel over fears of human rights violations.
This is the fourth consecutive year that the UNHRC has dealt with the issue, which has gained prominence as the International Criminal Court considers bringing war crimes lawsuits against Israelis for actions in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, and military conduct in Gaza.
Known as the accountability resolution, the text calls for all UN member states to “refrain from transferring arms [to Israel] when, in accordance with applicable national procedures and international obligations and standards, they assess that there is a clear risk that such arms might be used to commit or facilitate serious violations or abuses of international human rights law or serious violations of international humanitarian law.”
Monday’s vote, which will be held toward the end of the 46th session in Geneva, will be followed on Tuesday with votes on the Palestinian right to self-determination, the boycott of settlement activity, and a call for Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights.
This is a smaller list of resolutions on Israel than last year, when five such texts were approved. Only three of the four resolutions in the 46th session will be dealt with under Agenda Item 7, which is a standing item under which the Security Council is mandated to debate alleged Israeli human rights violations at every session. Israel is the only country that faces such a mandate.
The UNHRC meets three times a year, but resolutions on Israel are approved only at its March session, where there is both a debate – held in Geneva on Thursday – and votes on resolutions next week.
At the meeting on Thursday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet said her office had prepared three reports on Israeli activity against Palestinians for the 46th session, which covered the period of November 1, 2019, to October 31, 2020.
Bachelet said there were “persisting serious concerns of unnecessary or disproportionate use of force against Palestinians. In the vast majority of cases monitored and documented by my office, Palestinians were killed or injured while appearing to pose no imminent threat of death or serious injury in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem.”
She also spoke out against rising incidents of settler violence against Palestinians, including vandalism, and took the Palestinian Authority to task and the “de facto” authorities in Gaza (Hamas) for human rights violations against their own people. But she did not condemn any Palestinian violence against Israel.
Israel refuses to participate in Agenda Item 7 debates, but while it took place, the Foreign Ministry tweeted a call for Item 7 to be abolished.
Meirav Shachar, Israel’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, told The Jerusalem Post that the “obsessive concentration” on Israel was expressed by the continued presence of Item 7, which she said was a “stain on the UNHRC.”
She said so long as Item 7 exists, “the council cannot deal with Israel in an impartial way,” and that the continued presence of Item 7 was the collective failure of the entire UN to ensure impartiality.
Israel’s campaign against Agenda Item 7 has gained tacit support among European and Western countries. Many of those countries did not participate in the debate on Thursday, and only Ireland and Luxembourg took the floor.
The Palestinians maintain majority support at the 47-member UNHRC, but European and Western states have increasingly expressed concern about the number of resolutions against Israel and the ways in which the texts duplicate each other.
With an eye toward soliciting Western and European approval for the resolutions, the text that calls for the arms embargo was moved both for the purposes of debate and vote to Agenda Item 2, and merged with another annual resolution on general allegations of Israeli human rights abuses against Palestinians.
This is not the only forum where such texts are passed. The General assembly also approves some 20 resolutions against Israel annually. For both bodies, it is the largest number of texts condemning any single country.
The UNHRC in this session considered human rights violations in only six other countries – North Korea, Myanmar, Nicaragua, South Sudan, Iran and Syria – and in each case, the matter is dealt with only once.