The US withdrawal from the UNHRC is not about advancing a pro-Israel agenda.
Reflecting on members participating in the UNHRC, it seems as if the international community has permitted some of the most notorious human rights violators to pass judgment unto nations around the globe.
Saudi Arabia, Rwanda, El Salvador, and Kuwait are just some of the few that have apparently earned a seat on this UN council. Earlier this week, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley announced the withdrawal from the UNHRC. The Washington Post used the term “perceived” when describing Haley’s accusation of the institutional bias towards Israel in the United Nations, and the New York Times put forward the notion that the withdrawal was Trump strategically advancing the “Israel” agenda.
With other mainstream media making similar claims, there is a clear failure to understand the recent move by the incumbent US administration. Many critics have adopted the argument that the US is unable to actually influence the institutional bias against Israel, with this withdrawal benefitting human right violators.
In the past year, 5 resolutions were directed at condemning and singling out Israel in the international community while South Sudan, North Korea, and Iran only received one each. Syria came in second place with two resolutions despite the millions of refugees created by the Alawite regime and thousands more dying each month as a result of the near decade-long civil war. Apparently, many of these critics have forgotten Nikki Haley’s threats to withdraw the malfunctioning council back in June 2017 and the refusal by its members to heed and adopt any institutional reforms.
What these critics do not understand or purposely choose to ignore, is that this goes beyond a “pro-Israel” agenda. It concerns the liberalistic values adopted by modern governments in order to preserve the pillars of individualistic freedoms across the globe.
It is not a coincidence that the worst human rights violators have all “earned” a seat in the council. Deflection has, throughout history, been one of the main strategic columns which have allowed totalitarian states to exist and even flourish. In the early ages of exploration and colonization, human right violations were easier to hide, even throughout the rise of fascist Germany and Spain in the 1930s. The existence of Hitler’s concentration camps during WWII was unknown to most Americans until 1942. Even American soldiers had their worlds turned upside down when they liberated these camps.
Rulers and authoritarian governments were primarily concerned with diverting the general attention of their own citizens. Times have changed, and the world has become much smaller. It is not realistic to shift public attention from these institutionalized crimes with the respective population, but efforts are now based at deflecting the attention of the international community. The UNHRC has facilitated this for the major human rights violators.
By successfully flooding the council with human right violators, countries like South Sudan and the Republic of the Congo can elude any serious repercussions by the international community so long as they scapegoat the only democracy in the Middle East. As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated during his statement regarding the US withdrawal from the UNHRC:
“The Human Rights Council has become an exercise in shameless hypocrisy, with many of the world’s worst human-rights abuses going ignored and some of the world’s most serious offenders sitting on the council itself,” The only thing worse than a council that does almost nothing to protect human rights is a council that covers for human-rights abuses — and is, therefore, an obstacle to progress and an impediment to change.”
“The Human Rights Council has become an exercise in shameless hypocrisy…”
It is clear that the United States has not withdrawn from the UNHRC to pursue a pro-Israel agenda or advance a foreign policy strategy of “America first.” The withdrawal from the council demonstrates the commitment to stop supplying the UNHRC with legitimacy and truly address the tragedies unfolding in Venezuela, the mass graves being discovered throughout the Congo, and the international terror structure being built by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
In order to move forward sometimes a step backward needs to be taken. All nations that adhere to the Wilsonian principle, which advocates for promoting international cooperation to improve individual lives, and that are truly concerned with the horrific human rights violations happening globally must follow in the footsteps of the United States.
All nations… that are truly concerned with the horrific human rights violations happening globally must follow in the footsteps of the United States.
If you would not invite a Saudi prince to speak for women’s rights and you would not host a Syrian soldier to discuss moral values in combat, do not embrace an international council led by horrific human rights violators who pass judgment onto the international community. It is time for a change. Who will withdraw next?
Contributed by West Coast Campus Coordinator Yoni Michanie.