Israel has returned to the United Nations Human Rights Committee with faith that the longstanding bias against the country will decimate.
By Concordia University CAMERA Fellow Michelle Soicher. Michelle is also a member of Concordia Students for Israel. This article was originally published on Journalists for Human Rights – Concordia University.
The United Nations Human Rights Council was established in 2006 to replace the Commission for Human Rights. The UNCHR was condemned for its member states that had major human rights violations (e.g. Syria, the Republic of China) as well as its invasive, brutal and biased methods. One of the primary reasons that the Commission was dismantled was for the disproportionate focus on Israel. The United Nations Human Rights Committee was established in its place. This change was made to reaffirm the UN’s commitment to impartiality, fairness and justice. It promised an unbiased, productive future, presumably one that would not target Israel. In the council’s first year, Israel was condemned a total of ten times while the other 191 member countries were apparently void of human rights violations as their collective total of violations was zero. Since the establishment of the council, Israel has been condemned a total of 27 times for violations ranging from declaring settlements in the Gaza strip and an occupational siege and requesting the closing of border crossings (March 27, 2009) to demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners (March 24, 2010). The country removed itself from committee involvement last year after it became apparent that the supposedly unbiased commission was not unbiased at all.
Israel is up for The Universal Periodic Review (UNPR). This is the Human Rights Committee’s crowning feat. On paper, this process claims that every member state will be evaluated by the others. The council has not yet finished the most recent cycle of reviews but is returning to review Israel. In this review Syria has been praised for their health care and Saudi Arabia has been noted for giving men and women equal rights. The majority of the member states are not democracies. The review allows countries to praise or condemn the others, often based on their own political agendas or biases.
Israel was the only specific country on the agenda when the United Nations met on September 10, 2013. At this time the world was praying for the victims of chemical weaponry in Syria. The UN made no specific or emergency condemnation of Syria at the time. It took a backseat to the permanent agenda article against the Jewish State. The executive director of UN Watch, Hillel Neuer, noted that day that the same amount of time was allotted to Israel as was committed to the rest of the world. The remainder of the nations of the globe were to be addressed the following week. He continued that the UN’s consistent bias against Israel was hindering their ability to address global issues properly and protect the rest of the world.
Israel has been condemned at the UN for its treatment of Palestinians and their alleged denial of human rights. Taking the example of food, Israel makes sure to provide the minimum required food per person in order to prevent hunger. Egypt, which also shares a border with the Gaza Strip, has made no effort in taking similar actions. For the tax-paying, terror fearing citizens of Israel, this may be too much; for the Hamas-manipulated and neglected citizens of the Palestinian territories it is often not enough. Israel has also been criticized for attacks that kill children, women and other civilians. This is, of course, deplorable and regrettable, though it must be noted that Hamas often houses military centers in populated areas, such as schools and hospitals, increasing the probability of civilian deaths. It is a complex, multi-faceted issue, but the UN must look beyond that and see Israel within a broader context.
Israel is, in fact, a leader in human rights. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. Women, Arabs, homosexuals, and people of all religions have protected rights and sanctuary in Israel. Many of the neighboring countries follow Sharia (Islamic Religious) law, and would arrest or kill these people under Sharia Law. Israel is a leader in humanitarian aid; they were of the first countries on the ground in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, and Israeli hospitals are currently treating victims of Syria’s civil war. But all of these deeds are ignored by the UN, which is in favor of finding reasons to condemn Israel.
After what can only be described as a year-long breather, Israel is returning to the UNHRC, stating, “we are open to criticism”, which they will most likely receive in abundance because of the bias against Israel which has been present and strong since the country was established.
Despite the knowledge that the bias will prevail and returning to the UNHRC will likely not win Israel favor on the international stage, they are returning. Israel is a leader in human rights, but like all countries, it is also not perfect.
If the UNHRC were to drop the heavy bias, perhaps it would help Israel and the Palestinian Authority move forward with peace talks and find a way to improve life for all citizens in the region.
Israel’s decision to return to the United Nations Human Rights Committee proves the country’s willingness to participate in the UN and to continue to be a leader in human rights.