Show some backbone, EU

The UN Human Rights Council is readying itself for a busy week of anti-Israel decisions.

eu flags 88 (photo credit: )
eu flags 88
(photo credit: )
The UN Human Rights Council's preoccupation with Israel will surge to a new intensity this week with the expected election of two officials who describe the Jewish state in Nazi terminology, along with three more resolutions indicting it for a litany of alleged crimes. Unless the European Union starts showing backbone, the UN's other powerful voting blocs will continue scapegoating the Middle East's only democracy in order to divert attention from situations of gross human rights abuses in places like Tibet, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe, which target peaceful protesters, women and dissidents. The council was created in June 2006 to reform the discredited Commission on Human Rights, criticized by many for its regular focus on Israel to the exclusion of the world's worst human rights violators. However, apart from some passing attention to Burma, the supposedly reformed body has devoted all of its condemnatory resolutions to the Jewish state - 16 to date. Even still, the upcoming week, wrapping up the council's main annual session, will stand out as particularly egregious. First, the 47-nation council will vote on three separate resolutions, introduced by the Arab and Islamic states, slamming Israel for alleged human rights violations in the Golan Heights, concerning the settlements, and for "severely impeding the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination." There is not a word about recent Palestinian rocket and shooting attacks targeting civilians. As it happens, the council already condemned Israel during the first week of this session - over events in Gaza - after Arab and Islamic states pushed the panel to rearrange its schedule and open with Agenda Item 7, "the Human Rights situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories," before anything else. BY CONTRAST, the council has maintained strict silence on the bloody shootings and mass arrests taking place in Tibet. Its resolutions have been equally silent about abuses in 190 other countries. Second, the Arab and Islamic states applied massive pressure on the council leadership to list Richard Falk as the only nominee to be the next Special Rapporteur on the Palestinian territories, to replace John Dugard, whose six-year term ends soon. The terms of the mandate, unchanged from February 1993, are to investigate "Israel's violations of the principles and bases of international law." Actions by Palestinians and other Middle East regimes - rocket attacks, suicide bombings, state sponsorship of terror - are excluded from the investigator's purview. Falk, an emeritus professor at Princeton, is a veteran figure on the international scene of radical Left and pro-Palestinian politics. "It is especially painful for me, as an American Jew," he wrote in a recent article, "to feel compelled to portray the ongoing and intensifying abuse of the Palestinian people by Israel through a reliance on such an inflammatory metaphor as 'holocaust.'" After describing the Nazi horrors, he asked, "Is it an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not." Falk's article concluded by warning of a "Palestinian holocaust in the making." If appointed, Falk will be a ubiquitous voice undermining the balanced approach of the road map for peace. THIRD, THE council is expected to elect Jean Ziegler, a radical Geneva politician, to its 18-member advisory committee. As the UN expert on the right to food for the past seven years, Ziegler ignored many of the world's most starving populations, instead launching polemics against the West, the US and Israel. In 2005, Ziegler compared Israeli soldiers to concentration camp guards. During a 2006 interview, he said, "I refuse to describe Hizbullah as a terrorist organization. It is a national resistance movement. I can understand Hizbullah when they kidnap soldiers." As documented by a new UN Watch documentary available on YouTube, Ziegler also has an odd affinity for dictators. In 1989, shortly after Libyan agents blew up Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, he went to Libya to co-found the "Moammar Khaddafi Human Rights Prize," and served as its spokesman. The prize has since been awarded to anti-Western dictators such as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, as well as racists and anti-Semites such as Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, and Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Muhammad. In 2002, the award went to Roger Garaudy, a French Holocaust denier - in the same year that Ziegler won it himself. Bizarrely, although he once boasted of it - in five different newspapers, including Time magazine - Ziegler now denies any involvement with the prize. Can anything be done? Yes. On the resolutions, the Arab and Islamic states rely on an automatic majority of non-democratic countries. Yet the key battle is one of legitimacy, won or lost by how the democratic European Union votes. If the EU would announce a new stand of opposing the endless one-sided resolutions - instead of abstaining or even voting in favor - they might actually end. Regarding Richard Falk, the appointment tomorrow will be by consensus between the council president and the 47 member states. If Canada and the EU publicly declare their opposition to his nomination, there will be no consensus. Though Falk could be elected by the Arab-backed majority, it is considered embarrassing for any expert to begin a mandate without the support of key democratic countries. The US, while not a voting member, must also publicly declare that they do not support this US national. Finally, Ziegler's election, also for tomorrow, will be decided by the 47 council members. His victory is virtually assured - unless Switzerland withdraws his nomination. Human rights activists from Darfur, Cuba, the US and Europe have appealed to Swiss President Pascal Couchepin to act now, as have many hundreds of individuals through a petition on There's only one day left. This week more than ever, the very credibility of the UN human rights system is at stake. The writer is executive director of UN Watch in Geneva.