Israel and the Rights Council

Israel has switched tack and 2 days ago defended its record in a UNHRC hearing that descended into a kangaroo court.

UNHRC 370 (photo credit: Reuters)
(photo credit: Reuters)
Israel had compelling reasons to avoid any dealings with the misnamed UN Human Rights Council. Israel, and has, indeed stayed away from UNHRC forums since March, 2012. But on Tuesday, Israel relented, despite the absence of compelling reasons for an about-face.
Fellow democracies, which hardly dominate the council, had exerted excruciating pressure on Israel to cooperate with the UNHRC, lest it be seen as setting a precedent for rogue regimes.
This was accompanied by nebulous carrots dangled before Israel. One is that Israel will cease being the sole geopolitically unaffiliated country at UN forums in Geneva.
Presumably, at some unspecified date, Israel will be coopted to the Western European and Others Group, as it is in New York’s UN forums.
The other carrot is that moves will be undertaken, again at an unspecified time, to release Israel from the dishonorable unique status accorded it at the UNHRC under Agenda Item 7. This turns Israel into a permanent subject of debate at every council session. No other country has a compulsory agenda item reserved for it.
These promises are far too vague to constitute tangible diplomatic achievements. They certainly do not justify Israel’s reversal of an eminently justified policy.
The UNHRC, which initiated the Goldstone and Mavi Marmara reports, is one of the most hostile forums to Israel, even within the UN framework. It consistently singles Israel out as its favorite scapegoat.
The council is noxiously anti-Israel. The UNHRC has censured Israel more than any other state and it adopted the infamous Agenda 7 to make sure all UNHRC sessions focus disproportionate attention on the Jewish state.
John Dugard, until 2008 the special rapporteur on the question of Palestine to the UNHRC, described his mandate as scrutinizing Israeli human rights infractions and not those of the Palestinians. His successor Richard Falk likened Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to the Nazis’ treatment of Jews during the Holocaust.
Formally, UNHRC was born only in 2006 but it in fact it started out as the much-discredited UN Human Rights Commission. Former UN chief Kofi Annan took the extraordinary step of abolishing the latter precisely because of unabashed politicization that mostly manifested itself in its fixated demonization of Israel, which was slated for vilification on any occasion and under any pretext.
The council replaced the commission amid pledges of sincere introspection, contrition and, most of all, cleaning up of its avowedly shameful record. Nonetheless, the commission’s preposterous patterns reasserted themselves right away. The council consistently discerns nothing more urgent than to occupy itself with than Israel’s so-called human rights offenses.
The council is a carbon copy of the commission, with one exception. The commission held a single yearly session.
The council treats us to multiple annual extravaganzas.
The majority of its 47 members are from the Third World, which not only guarantees massive anti-Israel bias but makes mockery of human rights. Thus, before he was overthrown, Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya was among the UNHRC’s movers and shakers.
The Obama administration had pointedly reversed an earlier Bush administration decision not to seek a seat on the council due to its lack of any credibility, obsession with Israel and failure to confront the world’s real rights-abusers.
Admitting that the council has a “strong bias against Israel,” the US delegation to the UNHRC nevertheless argued that by staying away, Israel was forgoing the opportunity to “present its own narrative.” The trouble, though, is that nobody in the council is listening.
Not showing up was hardly ideal, but better than more spectacles of the sort the UNHRC invariably stages. Last year, Israel refused to take part in its universal periodic review (which each UN member must undergo).
Now Israel has switched tack and two days ago defended its record in a hearing that descended into a kangaroo court, where some of the most repressive regimes pass judgment on a sterling democracy and where the damning verdict had been composed long before the proceedings began.