Israel accuses UN of bias as it carries out human rights review

Israel representative says there are an 'unparalleled number of one-sided biased and political resolutions' against it

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Wednesday 24 January 2018 17:05 GMT
People sit next to a screen showing US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council on 6 June 2017 in Geneva.
People sit next to a screen showing US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council on 6 June 2017 in Geneva. (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

Israel has once again said a United Nations group has an anti-Israel bias ahead of a routine review of its overall human rights record.

Aviva Raz Shechter, Israel's ambassador to the Geneva-based, 47-member Human Rights Council that the “unparalleled number of one-sided biased and political resolutions adopted regularly by the automatic majority...testif[ies] not only to the unfair treatment of the State of Israel, but also to the deficiencies of the Council itself and its agenda.”

The Council have taken a strong position against Israel's continued occupation of territory seized in the 1967 Six-Day War, its treatment of Palestinians, and its building of Jewish settlements several times in the past.

Most countries in the UN system and international bodies have considered the Israeli settlements illegal since they are built in areas Palestinians consider part of an eventual independent state.

Ms Raz Shechter said her country has always stood up for human rights and “done so while facing serious threats to its security, and while needing to integrate diverse communities and religious groups.”

The latest review of the country’s overall record is the first since 2013 and is routine for all members, but the timing has appeared to increase tensions.

It is the first review of Israel since US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as an Israeli capital was declared “null and void” in the General Assembly by a vote of 128-9.

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The US subsequently said it was slashing humanitarian aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency, the organisation responsible for aid, housing, social services, and education programmes for millions of Palestinians.

In 2017, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley echoed Israel’s sentiment and said there was a “chronic anti-Israel bias….[it is the] only country permanently on the body’s calendar”.

Ms Haley used Venezuela's alleged human rights violations as an example of the alleged bias. She noted the council pursued five resolutions against Israel in its March 2017 session but none against the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

“If Venezuela cannot [address human rights issues], it should voluntarily step down from its seat on the Human Rights Council until it can get its own house in order. Being a member of this council is a privilege, and no country who is a human rights violator should be allowed a seat at the table," she said.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had been considering withdrawing the US completely from the Council. In a statement, spokesperson Mark Toner had called the permanent agenda item on Israel “among the largest threats to the credibility of the Council.”

The US already pulled out of the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) citing an ant-Israel bias.

Dima Asfour of Palestine's delegation also addressed the Council and called on Israel to "end the illegal blockade of Gaza, investigate all allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during its military aggressions in Gaza and provide full reparation".

Israel has imposed strict restrictions on goods that can enter the Gaza Strip, which has been ruled for a decade by the Islamist movement Hamas.

Palestinians say the restrictions, which bar a range of goods that Israel says could have military uses, have destroyed the economy of the enclave, home to 2 million people, and prevented rebuilding after a 2014 war.

Jason Mack of the US urged Israel to minimise the number and duration of administrative detention orders and ensure detainees have access to lawyers.

US Vice President Mike Pence just visited the country as part of a three-country tour that will include Jordan and Egypt.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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