The Trump administration said Monday that it is boycotting a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, amid growing concerns by the administration over the U.N.’s anti-Israel stance.
The boycott, first reported by The Washington Free Beacon, comes as the council was expected to adopt a number of anti-Israel resolutions Monday. The council has long been criticized as one of the U.N.’s most anti-Israel bodies.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that one particular agenda item -- "Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories” – was “yet another reminder of that body's long-standing bias against Israel.”
“As an expression of our deeply-held conviction that this bias must be addressed in order for the Council to realize its legitimate purpose, the United States decided not to attend the Council's Item Seven General Debate session,” Toner said, adding that the U.S. will vote against every resolution under the agenda item, and encourage other countries to do the same.
“The so-called ‘Agenda Item 7’ discredits the standing of the only UN body specifically designed to address the state of global human rights by allowing nations to distract from their own abuses back home by churning out anti-Israel propaganda," said U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley in a statement,
The council was set up in 2006 as a successor to the Human Rights Commission -- which was also criticized for its anti-Israel stance. The Bush administration refused to join the new body, but the Obama administration applied for membership, arguing it could better influence the council from the inside.
Another concern for the U.S. is the makeup of the 47-member council – which includes countries with poor human rights records, such as China, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrote to human rights groups last week, saying that it remains skeptical about the body’s effectiveness given its membership.
“While it may be the only such organization devoted to human rights, the Human Rights Council requires considerable reform in order for us to continue to participate,” Tillerson said, in the letter obtained by Foreign Policy.
In an interview with Fox News' "America's Newsroom" Friday, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley reiterated that the administration intends to take a hard stance with the U.N. against anti-Israel bias.
"The U.N. has been Israel-bashing for decades and what we are trying to do is make sure they understand that there's a new administration in town and we're not going to put up with it," she said.
The U.S. decision to boycott the council comes just days after the U.N. withdrew a report written by controversial scholar Richard Falk, calling Israel an “apartheid state.” Falk, a former U.N. special rapporteur to the Palestinian territories, is known for outlandish criticisms of both America and Israel, and has questioned what he calls “the official version of 9/11.”
Haley branded the report, published Wednesday by the U.N Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), as “anti-Israel propaganda” and demanded the U.N. withdraw it. Secretary General António Guterres, after initially distancing himself from the report, later told ESCWA to withdraw it – a demand that caused Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf to resign in protest. The report was pulled from the commission’s website Friday afternoon.
Fox News’ Ben Evansky contributed to this report.