The UN’s top human rights body ended its latest session in Geneva on Friday by dealing a body blow to one of President Obama’s signature foreign policy moves. The extreme anti-Israel extravaganza has prompted Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to cut ties with the body intimating Americans should also withdraw support, while administration officials have hit the airwaves to make the case that the demonization of Israel is troubling but tolerable. The message communicated: the President has the UN’s back, not Israel’s.
The Bush administration refused to lend the UN “Human Rights” Council the credibility offered by U.S. membership and withheld taxpayer dollars accordingly.
In 2009 President Obama, signed on, paid the dues, and is currently seeking a second three-year term for the United States on the Council.
The only trouble is, in just six short years the body created in 2006 as a reform of the discredited UN Human Rights Commission, has gone from very bad to even worse.
As of this past Friday, 42% of all the resolutions and decisions critical of the human rights records of specific states ever adopted by the Council have been directed at Israel. The scorecard was 44 resolutions against Israel and 61 resolutions directed at all of the other 192 UN members combined. And Council resolutions never even mention “Hamas.”
The Council has a permanent agenda governing every regular session composed of ten items, one reserved for criticizing Israel and one for “human rights situations that require the Council’s attention” anywhere else.
192 of 193 UN members meet in five regional groups before the Council’s public sessions to strategize and share information – Israel is the only UN state excluded.
The Council has commissioned thirty reports condemning Israel alone. That’s compared to five specific reports on Syria’s executioners, three on Iran’s genocidal regime, and none on Council members like Saudi Arabia – which tyrannizes its entire female population, or China – which denies more than a billion people elementary freedoms.
The reports damning Israel all follow the same pattern. Israel’s actions to defend itself – combating rocket attacks from Gaza, preventing a Gaza port for Iranian arms, establishing checkpoints to deny terrorists a way in to Israel, targeting the rocket launchers and terrorist masterminds – all become violations of Palestinian rights. Like the infamous Goldstone report, Israel is the villain and Palestinians are the victims from the outset.
The reports aren’t made for dusty library shelves. They are terrorist manifestos and manuals in what can best be described as Anti-Semitism 101.
UN “expert” John Dugard’s 2008 Council report read: “a distinction must be drawn between acts of mindless terror...and acts committed in the course of a war of national liberation.” Palestinian violence, he claimed, was the second kind and analogous to “the German occupation resisted by European countries in the Second World War.”
It is in this context that on March 22, the Council commissioned yet another report on Israel, this time on settlements. The “fact-finding” mission begins with the conclusion, namely, “the illegality of the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.” Forget the “roadmap” approved even by the UN Security Council. It called for Palestinians “immediately to undertake an unconditional cessation of violence…” in Phase I, and placed a “final permanent status resolution” of the issue of settlements squarely in “Phase III.” Today’s UN just skips over demands made of Palestinians, jettisons promised negotiations on the very subject, and goes directly to an imposed solution of a "Judenrein" apartheid Palestine.
UN demonization is not idle bureaucratese. Last March Palestinian terrorists stabbed and killed members of the Fogel family, three children and their parents, including a 3-month old baby “settler.” But a year later, the only reference to “violence” in this perverse UN “human rights” resolution was trumped-up “violence by Israeli settlers.”
So where was the Obama administration? Its UN Geneva Ambassador Eileen Donahoe ducked out, and a political counselor and a first secretary were sent in to cast and explain America’s vote against the slew of new anti-Israel resolutions.
Team Obama decided to use this moment to criticize Israel – “we do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity” – and to reinforce the Council’s bona fides by depicting Americans as a member of a like-minded club. “As members of the Human Rights Council, we all share a responsibility to promote and protect human rights.”
Everyone listening understood the code language. President Obama cares more about propping up the credibility of the Council than he does about protecting Israel from UN-driven harm.
In case anyone missed it, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland was asked at a Friday briefing: “the council keeps doing these things that you say are unwise and biased and one-sided. Why are you a member?” Her response: “the Human Rights Council…generally provides a good moral bellwether.”
Billions of real human rights victims the world over would beg to disagree, as would the Jewish minority now learning the back of the bus is an acceptable value to an American president.
To be clear, Nuland was not speaking out of turn. US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told a Congressional sub-committee on March 20: “Let me start by underscoring the importance of the United Nations to…upholding the universal values we hold dear.” She then argued for a reversal of Congressional restrictions on funding UNESCO despite the organization circumventing a negotiated solution and embracing Palestine the state.
UN documents indicate the new settlements' “Independent International Fact-finding Mission” will cost $290,000 among other things for “travel and accommodation of three commissioners and four support staff and other staff members to Geneva, Cairo and Lebanon.”
The Obama administration will insist Americans pay for that too. As Rice explained to Congress: “withholding U.S. funding only harms U.S. interests.”
What about when U.S. interests have degenerated beyond recognition?
Anne Bayefsky is director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust.