Editorial: UN Intentions

Like the Goldstone inquiry, the proposed “fact-finding mission,” if created, will deflect attention from war crimes elsewhere.

UNHRC headquarters 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
UNHRC headquarters 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The United Nations Human Rights Council condemned Israel last week in five resolutions – the same number devoted to the rest of the world.
Just two condemnations were directed at Syria’s government, which under Bashar Assad continues to slaughter its population. Just one resolution mentioned Iran – but not to censure its illegal nuclear program or its many human rights violations, just to renew the mandate for an investigator there. (There are currently 10 UNHRC rapporteurs appointed in various countries, but only one – Richard Falk, the UN special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights – is permanent and need not be renewed annually.) The most potentially damaging resolution leveled against Israel last Thursday was a decision to “dispatch an independent international fact-finding mission, to be appointed by the president of the Human Rights Council, to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.”
Like the Goldstone inquiry, the proposed “fact-finding mission” if created will undoubtedly generate a massive international legal, political and media campaign against Israel, conveniently deflecting attention away from human rights abuses or war crimes (such as the firing of mortar shells and Kassam and Grad rockets from Hamas-controlled Gaza at Israeli civilians) being committed elsewhere in the world.
And like the Goldstone inquiry, we once again face a dilemma: Should Israel cooperate with the UNHRC’s fact-finding mission or should we boycott the body altogether? Dan Meridor, the minister for intelligence and atomic energy, left the question open, saying on Channel 2’s Meet the Press that Jerusalem would wait to see what the committee’s mandate was and who its members were before making a final decision.
However, another government official said Israel would not “cooperate with a kangaroo court.”
Israel fought hard to win admission to the UN in 1949.
While numerous UN members – particularly the Arab states – tried hard to exclude us. The struggle to be part of the UN emanates from an ethos – a Zionist ethos – to engage with the other nations as an equal. The State of Israel was never meant to be a modern-day ghetto.
By cooperating, Israel shows good faith, proves it is a bona fide participant in the UN and conveys the message that we have nothing to hide. Cooperating also gives us the opportunity to mitigate the inevitable damage.
On the down side, however, cooperating lends legitimacy to the findings. It also gives the impression that despite being given a fair chance to do so, Israel failed to convince the UNHRC of its position on settlements. By refusing to cooperate, Israel reserves the right to reject outright the very mandate of UNHRC’s fact-finding mission.
Unfortunately, judging from experience with the UN, there is little chance that cooperation will significantly influence the outcome. In February 2011, after completing a six-day visit in Israel, during which the Foreign Ministry, the IDF, the Supreme Court and other state institutions fully cooperated, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay issued a statement lambasting Israel for its supposed violations of international law. No similar statements were issued on countries such as China, Russia, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Vietnam and Zimbabwe, where human rights are regularly abused.
The very fact that 29 of the 47 member-states in the UNHRC voted to create a “fact-finding mission” is testimony to their partiality against Israel. For while it makes sense to dispatch a fact-finding mission to, say, Syria, where journalists fear for their lives and reports are sketchy, there is no lack of information on settlement activity in Judea and Samaria. A multitude of left-wing NGOs and foreign government representatives regularly track settlement growth.
But while it might be convenient to use them to bash Israel, settlements are not the problem.
The Palestinian leadership’s refusal to enter into direct negotiations without preconditions, not Israeli settlements, is the real obstacle to peace. A Palestinian state will not be established by the UNHRC in Geneva or in New York, but only via direct negotiations with Israel. The Palestinian leadership’s insistence on unilateral measures, such as appealing to the UNHRC, seems to reveal a preference for harming and delegitimizing Israelis over dialogue with us.