Even though these stories are from the last week or two they are still as relevant as ever. In fact if you look through any articles about the UN and Israel they will sound like reruns, and in effect they are.
We’ll start with the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) which focused this term’s Universal Periodic Review of human rights on Israel. Since Israel announced its complete cutting of ties with the UNHRC back last March, it announced that it was going to boycott this session and simply not attend. This caused widespread consternation, not to say condemnation from the usual suspects.
Yisrael Hayom has the story:
Israel boycotted the United Nations’ human rights forum on Tuesday, becoming the first country ever to decline to attend a session that was due to scrutinize its own rights record.
Israel’s no-show at the Human Rights Council drew widespread criticism, including a tacit rebuke from the United States, which said the U.N. process of reviewing human rights was a “valuable mechanism” as it was applied to all countries.
The council had been due to examine Israel under the Universal Periodic Review of human rights in all U.N. member states. Its last review was in December 2008, when it attended.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told Reuters that Israel had announced it was “suspending indefinitely its participation in the U.N. Human Rights Council work. This policy has not changed.”
The council’s president, Poland’s Ambassador Remigiusz Henczel, called it “an important issue and unprecedented situation.” The 47-member forum adopted a motion regretting Israel’s no-show and urging it to cooperate in a review to be conducted at its October-November session “at the latest.”
Arab states had been poised to criticize Israel’s treatment of detainees, settlement expansion and naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, which Palestinians say is collective punishment but which Israel says is vital for its security.
“As the only recalcitrant state among 193, Israel’s deliberate absence would sabotage the principle of universality,” Peter Splinter, Amnesty International’s representative to the U.N. in Geneva, said in a blog.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, addressing the council on Tuesday, avoided naming the close ally while stressing that Washington greatly valued the way all countries’ human rights records are examined.
“The Universal Periodic Review has been a valuable mechanism both because it is universally applicable to all U.N. member states on equal terms and because it is conducted in a cooperative and collaborative manner,” she said.
Pakistan’s Ambassador Zamir Akram, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said that Muslim states had “a great deal of reservations and anxieties” about postponing the review of Israel.
“What is surprising for us is the level of leverage and the level of understanding being extended to Israel by some countries for its behavior in violation of all of its obligations,” he said.
“We wonder if this cooperative spirit would be extended to some other country not so close to some major powers in this world,” Akram added in an apparent reference to Washington.
A team of U.N. investigators set up by the council last year is due to report soon on whether Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria violate international human rights law.
Regarding that little mention above of Amnesty, here’s Elder of Ziyon’s take on that biased organization:
If the Israeli government is not careful, it will ruin an important global human rights process for everybody.
As the only recalcitrant state among 193, Israel’s deliberate absence would sabotage the principle of universality. Consequently the Universal Periodic Review stands to lose the compelling legitimacy it derives from being applied even-handedly to all states. Why should states that would prefer to escape scrutiny of their human rights record, or are severely resource constrained, submit to this process if Israel’s non-compliance demonstrates that it is no longer universal?
UN Watch has the truth:
In reality, the UPR is — for the most part — a mutual praise society.
Though the New York Times today praised the UPR’s “universal and collaborative characteristics,” saying it provided “a platform to scrutinize and discuss the situation of human rights in even the most closed and repressive regimes,” it apparently forgot that earlier it had reported on how Qaddafi’s Libyan regime came out of its review with top marks:[…]
While some countries, notably Canada, tried to hold brutal regimes accountable in the reports, for the most part like-minded abusers of human rights praised each other and blunted any possible usefulness that the UPR was meant to have.
The best that can be said is that the UPR is somewhat less of a joke than everything else the UNHRC does, but it is still a joke. The UPR is essentially a continuation of the UNHRC’s one-sided obsession with Israel with a superficial sheen of “universality,” and Amnesty cannot even be bothered to point that out.
The indomitable Anne Bayefsky, an expert in the UN and human rights law, published an excellent Op-ed in the Jerusalem Post:
Just days after the UN put on a show about Holocaust remembrance, it is business as usual in terms of demonizing and encouraging hatred of Jews in the present. In Geneva, the UN’s top human rights body, the Human Rights Council, is conducting its so-called “Universal Periodic Review” (UPR), and Israel was supposed to arrive before the firing squad on January 29 to listen to Iran itemize the failings of “the Zionist entity.” The greater tragedy of modern anti-Semitism, however, is that the United States and almost every other Western government pressured Israel to participate too – for the sake of the reputation of the UN and the appearance of universality. These goals were considered to be the greater good.
[…]… the UN Human Rights “Council,” desperate to repair the UN’s human rights credibility after Libya was elected President of the Human Rights “Commission,” created the much-trumpeted UPR. All 193 UN members undergo the same procedure – states like Syria and the United States, for example.
During the UPR, country representatives turn up in Geneva while diplomats from other states proceed to make comments and recommendations on improving the country’s human rights record. Since the country can “accept” or “reject” those recommendations, it is in its interest to line up friendly participants, a disingenuous role willingly played only by rogue states. At the end, the President of the Council thanks the country concerned, regardless of the statements made by its representatives, the recommendations it has rejected, or its actual human rights record.
So here’s how the UPR rubber hit the road of crimes against humanity in Syria. On October 7, 2011, the Syrian vice-minister of foreign affairs and his entourage took their places in the Council chamber. And then the Cubans said: “the Syrian government is working for the human rights of its people.” The North Koreans said: “we commend Syria on its efforts taken to maintain security and stability.” The Iranians said: “we appreciate the efforts of the government of Syria to promote and protect human rights.” Ditto Sudan, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Algeria, Lebanon, China, Zimbabwe, Burma/Myanmar, and so on.
Four days later, on behalf of the three countries charged with compiling recommendations, Mexico reported to the Council: “Syria received a total of 179 recommendations…It is a pleasure to inform you that 98 recommendations were accepted and 26 shall be considered.” Among the recommendations that “did not enjoy the support” of Syria were “immediately end attacks on peaceful protesters and bring violators to account,” “put an end to secret detentions” and “allow journalists to freely exercise their profession.” At the end of this stage of the UPR, the President of the Council turned to Syria and signed off with “I thank both you and your delegation for your participation in the UPR.”
At the time, there were 2,600 dead Syrian citizens at the hands of their own government. And Assad got the message about the human rights bona fides of the UN.
The next and final stage of the UPR took place in Geneva on March 15, 2012 – by which time there were 11,000 dead.
There are now over 60,000 dead in Syria.
And yet, incredibly, the enormous pressure now descending on Israel to play by these rules has been mounted for the sake of the credibility of the UPR. It is the Jewish state that poses the threat to the UN’s house of cards.
This is what modern anti-Semitism in the world of international affairs is really all about. Israel’s willingness to expose the lack of universal application of standards, its refusal to play with a stacked deck, its stubborn insistence that it will not go quietly into that good night, is itself an affront – a violation of the rules of a club from which Jews have been excluded throughout history.
[…]The official UN document entitled “summary of stakeholder submissions,” which is intended to drive Israel’s UPR, includes allegations from NGOs that object to “the Jewish character of the state,” and demand that “five million Palestinians” should “return” to Israel to seal the deal.
And then there all the fabricated, hate-filled investigations and reports the Council regularly produces after every Israeli effort at self-defense, from the infamous “Goldstone” report – later recanted by its namesake – to the flotilla report claiming Turkish terrorists were humanitarians.
After another Council investigation on settlements was initiated last year, Israel said enough; it would not cooperate with the Council, which entailed not attending the UPR session today. Its absence at Tuesday’s UPR is the first time that anybody has cared that the hatemongering might take place in the country’s absence. The worry? Somebody might notice that the UN Human Rights Council is really not about the universal application of human rights after all.
So far, everything about the UN Human Rights Commission fact-finding mission on the settlements has gone according to script.
The report slammed Israel for violating human rights and international law, called for a withdrawal from the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and called for private business to terminate their business interests in the settlements.
Right on script, nothing new there.
Everyone knew that the wildly biased Human Rights Commission was going to issue a blistering report against Israel, just as everyone knew that Israel would summarily dismiss it.
But just because the conclusions were pre-ordained, does not make the entire exercise unimportant. From Israel’s point of view this is just another step in the Palestinian strategy – increasingly successful – for confronting Israel in the international diplomatic arena, making things increasingly tough for Jerusalem in the world, keeping it on the defensive, trying to isolate it and keeping the world’s pressure on.
The UNHRC report by itself has little meaning, it becomes important – and problematic for Israel – within the context of this overall Palestinian strategy of keeping up a constant drumbeat of diplomatic confrontation.
Senior diplomatic officials in Jerusalem are increasingly expressing concern that the country’s standing in friendly capitals in Europe and even in Washington is sliding, and that the continuous condemnations and defeats in the international arena are taking a toll.
Parallel to the UNHRC’s UPR, UN’s fact-finding mission into the Israeli settlements appears to have backed a boycott of settlement products for the first time:
The mission, which conducted its probe from Jordan since Israel did not let its members enter Israel or the Palestinian territories, issued a scathing report Thursday, lambasting Israel for intentionally breaking international law and systematically violating human rights of Palestinian men, women and children in order to drive them away from their lands.
“Private companies must assess the human rights impact of their activities and take all necessary steps — including by terminating their business interests in the settlements — to ensure they are not adversely impacting the human rights of the Palestinian People in conformity with international law,” the report states.
Headed by French-born human rights lawyer Christine Chanet, the mission calls upon the UN’s 193 member states to “ensure that business enterprises domiciled in their territory and/or under their jurisdiction, including those owned or controlled by them, that conduct activities in or related to the settlements respect human rights throughout their operations.”
Israel reacted angrily at the report’s not-so-tacit encouragement of a boycott.
“The report is so utterly misguided that it steps widely out of line in recommending a boycott that would harm Palestinians and Israelis alike,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told The Times of Israel. “The authors seem so enraged that they forget they have no authority on such issues, and their hubris leads them to decree as states, rather than opine as individuals.”
In a first response, Israel’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the report as biased and unhelpful.
“The only way to resolve all pending issues between Israel and the Palestinians, including the settlements issue, is through direct negotiations without pre-conditions,” a statement released Thursday read. “Counterproductive measures — such as the report before us — will only hamper efforts to find a sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
The UNHRC has “sadly distinguished itself by its systematically
one-sided and biased approach towards Israel,” the statement continued. “This latest report is yet another unfortunate reminder of that.”
Once again, the redoubtable Elder of Ziyon has an very well-researched article on the legality – or lack of it – of boycotting the settlements: Isn’t it a crime to ethnically cleanse Jews from Judea and Samaria?
But what is interesting is what they demand be done:
Israel must, in compliance with article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, cease all settlement activities without preconditions. In addition it must immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers from the OPT.
Let’s look at the Rome Statute:
Article 7: Crimes against humanity
1. For the purpose of this Statute, “crime against humanity” means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack:
(d) Deportation or forcible transfer of population;
How is the forcible transfer of Jews away from Judea and Samaria not a crime against humanity?
Even if you say that the Israeli government is guilty of the heinous crime of allowing people to voluntarily move to the land of their forefathers, why are the residents being punished? Isn’t this collective punishment? Did they do anything illegal? Geneva only prohibits the “occupying power” to transfer people, it doesn’t prohibit the people from doing so voluntarily (more on this below.)
Here is a relevant portion of an article in Opinio Juris by Eugene Kontorovich about some of these points:
Nothing in the text or history of Art. 49 suggests that it becomes illegal for nationals of the occupying power to reside in the occupied territory. People want to read Art. 49 as saying “the occupied territory shall be prohibited to nationals of the occupying power for residence.” This is a far cry from what it says. It goes against the GC’s humanitarian principles to read it as a restrictive covenant. The precise meaning of transfer – how much government action is required – is undefined by any source I know of, though the Rome Statute’s addition of an “indirect transfer” prohibition only underlines how absent such language is from Art. 49(6).The relevant Security Council resolutions only condemn “the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements” (S.C. 446). This seems to support my view.
He is more concise in this more recent article:
When one reads discussions of Israel and 49(6), the only precedents cited are various statements about 49(6) – in the context of Israel. One might conclude that Israel has been the only significant alleged violator in the post-War period. If there were no other arguable 49(6) cases, then this limitation would be natural.
Read the whole thing and bookmark it for use against those who constantly and persistently claim that Israel is illegally occupying its own territory.
To finish off this sad saga, I bring you some bad behaviour on the part of British diplomats who seem to think that the Mandate is not yet over.
The British Foreign Office included Israel on a list of 28 countries whose human rights records arouse concern:
Israel has been featured in a quarterly report on Human Rights and Democracy released by the British Foreign Office on Thursday, alongside serial human rights offenders Iran, Bahrain and Belarus. The foreign office identified the Jewish State as a “country of concern,” making a special mention of the recent Gaza escalation, Israeli settlement policy and the Israel government’s withholding of Palestinian custom revenues.
You can read the entire Foreign Office report here.
Hadar Sela at The Commentator writes about this report in British diplomats behaving badly:
Although the report does not cite the sources for many of its highly contentious claims, anyone familiar with the situation on the ground will recognise in this report the fingerprints of some of the many politically-motivated NGOs posing as human rights organisations which operate in the region.
The report makes a cursory reference to human rights abuses perpetrated by Palestinians on other Palestinians, but fails to make any serious attempt to tackle the well-documented abuses against women, religious minorities, homosexuals, trade unions and the press in areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority or Hamas.
Most significantly, this report turns a willfully blind eye to the human rights of Israelis. In 2011 alone 676 rockets or mortars were launched by terror factions in Gaza at the one million Israeli civilians living in southern Israel. A further one million Israelis live under the threat of Hizballah rockets stashed under the noses of UNIFIL peacekeepers in Lebanon.
Dozens of Israeli motorists have had rocks or fire-bombs thrown at their vehicles in almost daily incidents during the past year, sometimes with tragic results. Israeli civilians also suffered a variety of other terror attacks in 2011 and numerous attempts were made by Palestinian terror factions to kidnap Israeli soldiers.
However, none of the above apparently merits even so much as a mention as far as the Foreign Office is concerned. Wondering why that would be the case, I called the UK embassy in Tel Aviv and was told that it was the result of “a glitch”. Unfortunately, that “glitch” did not prevent the dissemination of the report all over the internet and social media networks.
Read the whole article for a typical example of foreign diplomatic bias against Israel.
Many commentators seem to think that Israel should do more to mend relations with the Palestinians in order to counter the onslaught of lawfare against it. However it doesn’t seem as if there is anything Israel can do short of national suicide until the Palestinians accept not only that Israel exists, but that it exists as the homeland for the Jews and that it is here to stay.