“With great power comes great responsibility.” These were the words spoken by Sir Winston Churchill in 1906 and still ring true today. One would expect the United Nations, a deliberative body dedicated to upholding peace, security and human rights, established in the shadow of the Second World War, where 60 million people lost their lives to epitomise this principle.
Sadly, this is not the case. As Academic Director of Reichman University’s Model United Nations (MUN) society, I cannot stand behind the 125 UN resolutions from the General Assembly since 2015, disproportionately condemning the world’s only Jewish State. While I believe in the core mission of the UN, the flagrant perversion of international law and the double standards present in its judgment is deeply concerning to me. How can we trust the UN to be a credible voice for human rights, peace, and security when it gets the topic of Israel so very wrong?
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is at the centre of this controversy. Since its inception, the UNHRC has maintained an irrational obsession with the State of Israel. The majority of the council is composed of undemocratic states. Current members include regimes accused of severe human rights violations, such as Libya, Venezuela and China.
Last May, when Israel responded defensively to over 4,000 rockets launched by the terrorist organisation Hamas, the UNHRC issued a resolution titled Ensuring Respect for International Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and in Israel.
This resolution established a Commission of Inquiry (COI), an investigative body led by Navi Pillay, a former UN Human Rights chief, with a precedent of bias against Israel. Pillay has a history of characterising Israel as “ever-expanding”, discriminatory, and a “systematic” oppressor. Other proofs of bias include the dismissal of Jewish concerns over the infamously antisemitic Durban “Anti-Racism” Conferences as “criticism by certain lobby groups focused on single issues”.
Noting this conflict of interest, UN watchdog organisation UN Watch called for the resignation of Pillay from the commission in a 30-page complaint letter to the UNHRC detailing Pillay’s extensive track record of bias against the world’s only Jewish state. Unfortunately, Pillay and her hate-mongering commission continue to lead their crusade against the State of Israel.
One of the obvious signs of bias is that the resolution establishing the Commission fails to acknowledge the actions of the terrorist organisation Hamas, which fired over 4,000 rockets indiscriminately into Israel. These actions were serious violations of international humanitarian law. UN Watch, a non-governmental organisation, determined that Hamas’ actions constitute double war crimes. “Hamas not only deliberately attacks Israeli civilians, but ” It profoundly concerns that Pillay’s commission and the UNHRC chose to blatantly ignore Hamas’ double war crimes, that not only attack Israeli civilians but also “intentionally exposes its own civilians to the deadly consequences of the hostilities it provokes itself.”
The resolution calls upon all states “and encourages civil society, the media and other relevant stakeholders to cooperate fully with the commission of inquiry”. However, the COI will turn to biased media outlets and NGOs that validate its’ efforts to antagonise the State of Israel.
Earlier this year, NGO Amnesty International falsely categorised Israel as an apartheid state. Experts quickly debunked their claims, including CAMERA’s Dr Alex Safian, who explained in his systematic refutation that “what Amnesty can’t admit – no definition of apartheid can possibly include Israel. And because they are determined to denigrate and delegitimize Israel with the apartheid label, their only choice is to misrepresent facts, laws and definitions.” Human Rights Watch, another international NGO, attempted to draw similar conclusions in their report, which was also handily debunked by CAMERA. These two reports are just a drop in the ocean of Israel bias; they are riddled with errors and false claims. The COI will inevitably exploit these bias drenched reports to justify its own erroneous and bigoted claims.
If the commission relies on such external and third party information, misinformation and bias will be present in their findings. This is also true for media outlets notorious for reporting inaccurate information about the conflict, particularly casualty figures.
A prime example of such is the New York Times, in their article “They Were Just Children”, reporting that Israel’s Operation Guardian of the Wall led to the deaths of dozens of Palestinian children. The Times omitted crucial context; however, some of the children were killed by Hamas’own rockets; others were operating as military combatants for the terrorist organisation. The use of child soldiers is not surprising, as Hamas hosts terrorist summer camps for children in Gaza and has frequently put them in harm’s way.
As one of the thousands of students that participate in Model United Nations, when the United Nations, especially the UNHRC, publishes these unprofessional and deeply flawed reports and adopts one-sided, politicised resolutions, it becomes harder to treat what we are doing in the club seriously.
Hopefully, the UNHRC can be converted into a body with a sense of purpose that is not fuelled by hatred and prejudice against Israel. The potential for greatness and influence of this UN body is significant. If the tectonic plates of the UNHRC were ever to be shifted in Israel’s favour, the benefit for everyone would be maximised, and the accountable perpetrators of human rights violations would be justly criminalised and convicted.
Joelle Scheinin is a 2021-22 CAMERA Fellow studying at Reichmann University in Herzliya, Israel. This article was originally published in The Times of Israel.