The first stupid decision was the much-decried release by Israel of 26 Palestinian murderers in exchange for … not much at all; ostensibly in order to bolster Mahmoud Abbas so that he will deign to come to the negotiation table, but in practice bolstering Palestinian terrorists and encouraging even more incitement to murder Israelis.
The second stupid decision by our misguided government was to rescind the boycott of the UN Human Rights Council instituted last year by former Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.
After a year-and-a-half in the cold, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday decided that Israel would end its boycott of the UN Human Rights Council and attend a hearing scheduled for Tuesday.
Then-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman ordered the severing of Israeli ties with the council in March 2012 after the international organization said it would probe how Israeli settlements may be infringing on the rights of Palestinians.
“We will attend” the Universal Periodic Review held in Geneva, an Israeli official told AFP. Another Israeli diplomat tweeted the news, adding that “it’ll still be an unfair Council (see item 7) but we’ll do our part.”
Item 7 is the dedicated agenda issue of Israel’s human rights record debated at every council meeting. Israel has repeatedly contended that the UNHCR exhibits anti-Israel bias in its focus on the Jewish state’s human rights record, and the US has called on the council to cease said bias.
Would someone please explain what on earth is the point in attending an unfair hearing? Would a person agree to a court hearing where the judge and jury have been paid off by the other side and have already reached their guilty verdict before hearing a word?
Adding insult to injury:
Haaretz on Sunday reported on a missive from German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle’s to Netanyahu, saying failure to appear in Geneva would have diplomatic repercussions that its allies could do little to mitigate. According to the paper, Australia, Canada, the US, Spain, France and Germany have all urged Israel to rejoin the council, claiming that it set a poor precedent for dictatorships such as Syria, Iran and North Korea.
Well of course! Because Israel is so completely comparable and equivalent to those murderous regimes. In the eyes of the UNHRC I suppose it is.
Israel Hayom has a report of what transpired at the UNHRC when Israel presented its case:
Israel appeared before the main United Nations human rights body on Tuesday, ending a 20-month boycott of the Geneva forum which it accuses of bias against the Jewish state.
Eviatar Manor, Israel’s ambassador in Geneva, led its delegation to the session, held as part of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s examination of U.N. member states every four years.
“It was not an easy decision to make,” Manor said in an opening statement to the talks.
“Our record is before you. It is not a perfect record,” Manor told the council.
He should not have said that. There’s no need to feed the ravening wolves. They’ll come to their own pre-conceived conclusions anyway.
“Ensuring human rights is an ongoing process and Israel’s appearance here is testimony to our daily effort to uphold the highest standards of human rights,” he said.
Manor said Israel’s fellow council members should remember the “difficult and complex security situation” it had faced since its foundation in 1948.
Such challenges strain the delicate balance between the effective steps necessary to overcome the various threats to a state’s security and the protection of human rights,” he said.
He said that Israel had decided to attend the session despite “strong reservations”, given what he described as the council’s “one-sided” focus on his country in the past.
“But Israel’s unfair treatment must come to an end. I hope our appearance here today will go a long way to restore equality and fairness regarding Israel in Geneva, and I am confident our continued diplomatic engagement will eventually allow our return to full activity within the Council.”
I think that’s diplo-speak for “I think you are the most biased and bigoted forum in the history of the world”. And if it isn’t, it should be.
And of course, here comes the backlash from those saintly human-rights preservers:
Some 76 countries signed up to speak during the half-day debate, with Palestinian ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi among the first. He thanked diplomats whose behind-the-scenes negotiations brought Israel back.
“I think Israel only understands the language of pressure,” Khraishi said.
He called for Israel to withdraw from East Jerusalem and the West Bank, “as these are occupied Palestinian territories recognized as such by 33 states in the world last year.”
“We would also like to see Israel release all Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons, because Israel has no justification for keeping them in Israeli prisons.”
Switzerland said Israeli settlement-building continued in the West Bank including East Jerusalem “in spite of the fact it is illegal under international humanitarian law and has a grave impact on the… rights of the Palestinian population”.
Hmm. And Switzerland’s ban on building minarets is not a violation of Muslim human rights? Imagine the reaction if Israel did that.
The only small light in that medieval Jew-baiting circus came from the Americans:
But Peter Mulrean of the United States, Israel’s main ally, praised Israel for its “strong commitment and track record in upholding human rights, political freedoms and civil liberties”.
UN Watch’s latest dispatch details the HRC’s consistent, persistent, pernicious and institutional hatred of Israel (anti-Israel bias is much too mild a term in my humble opinion).
Ruthie Blum slams Israel’s boycott backtrack:
n fact, in the Orwellian universe we all currently occupy, the very term “human rights” means the exact opposite. When embedded in a title of an organization, it is a clear indicator of that body’s bias towards the forces that would bring down Western values. The fact that even U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his predecessor, Kofi Annan, accused the UNHRC of disproportionate focus on Israeli violations of human rights shows just how pernicious and pointless it is.
Indeed, according to U.N. Watch — a non-governmental organization whose mission is “to monitor the performance of the U.N. by the yardstick of its own charter” — the Human Rights Council “has criticized Israel on 27 separate occasions, in resolutions that grant effective impunity to Hamas, Hezbollah and their state sponsors.”
In addition, its “fixation with Israel is not limited to resolutions. Israel is the only country listed on the council’s permanent agenda. Moreover, Israel is the only country subjected to an investigatory mandate that examines the actions of only one side, presumes those actions to be violations, and which is not subject to regular review.”
It is this sorry state of affairs that prompted the U.S., under George W. Bush, to boycott the council. Naturally, President Barack Obama brought the U.S. back into its bosom.
Nor should it come as a surprise that Saudi Arabia and China are being vetted in Geneva this week for seats on the council.
Objections to these two repressive regimes sitting on a council charged with monitoring and safeguarding the world’s freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of belief and religion, women’s rights, LGBT rights and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities were expressed by delegates from the U.S., Britain, Canada and Germany. Tibetan activists held protests outside.
Among the countries backing the bids of Saudi Arabia and China were Turkey, Somalia, Pakistan and Egypt. True colors make for strange bedfellows, that’s for sure.
Meanwhile, other paragons of virtue planning to run in November to fill 14 seats on the council for the term that begins in 2014 include Algeria, Chad, Cuba, Russia and Vietnam.
It is beyond unfathomable, then, that Israel reversed its decision to stay away. No good can come of its subjecting itself, yet again, to the hypocritical judgment of its detractors. Worse still, ahead of Tuesday’s Universal Periodic Review, Israel had to submit a report defending its human rights activities and progress, particularly in light of “information” provided to the council by left-wing NGOs about its ostensibly poor track record on this score.
The Jerusalem Post’s editorial also derides this decision to rejoin the HRC:
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 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.
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.
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.
Allowing ourselves to undergo public humiliation and become a punching bag for the world’s self-declared human rights watchers does not help the real victims of massive human rights abuses; nor does it help our international standing. Similarly, releasing terrorist murderers will not bring peace or make the other side more conciliatory.
On the contrary, our self-abasement only invites more antagonism, more hostility and more mockery. Why do we invite such troubles upon our own heads? Does anyone have an honest answer?