Does the United Nations have a bias against Israel? Israel seems to think so despite the fact that it has never been held accountable for the crimes it is accused of.
The knives are out again as the United Nations Human Rights Council will sit to discuss Palestine under UNHRC Resolution 5/1: “Human rights violations and implications of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.”
Israel believes – and has succeeded in convincing some of its allies – that its treatment by the UNHRC is biased. There are two reasons for this. One is that it is singled out, as no other state has the distinction of having an agenda item dedicated to its breaches of human rights, and the other is that some of the states that sit on the council are themselves in breach of human rights.
The current members of the UNHRC include countries with at least a suspect human rights record including China, whose appalling treatment of the Uighur Muslims is but one aspect of its poor human rights record. However, it also includes countries like the United Kingdom and European countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark that like to pride themselves on their respect for human rights a core value of their democracies.
In its current 46th session, the resolution requesting “the High Commissioner to report on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the obligation to ensure accountability & justice” had been adopted.
The United Kingdom abstained, while the Kingdom of Bahrain absented itself from the vote, possibly as a result of its normalisation agreement with Israel. In the European Union, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands all voted for the resolution while Austria and Bulgaria voted against it with the Czech Republic abstaining.
It is worth mentioning here that the European Union’s “EU-Israel Association Agreement” has respect for human rights as a value for the continuation of the agreement. This states clearly that “Article 2 Relations between the Parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement.”
Well, ‘democratic principles’ are denied to non-Israeli citizens in territories which Israel rules over and even when it comes to allowing elections in the OPTs, Israel interferes in the democratic process by harassing candidates and in particular restricting, if not working to ban, elections in occupied East Jerusalem.
A quick Google search using the terms ‘Israel’ and ‘human right violations’ produces millions of hits confirming that Israel is a serial violator of international law and human rights law in relation to its treatment of the Palestinian people. It is obviously more useful to read the weekly and periodic reports by UN OCHA for genuine, independent, data on Israel’s daily violations. These include 7,527 structures belonging to Palestinians that Israel demolished between 2009 and 2021. During the same period 11,379 Palestinians were displaced from their homes.
The same source shows Palestinian fatalities between 2008 and 2021 as 5,561 and injuries as 115,000. I do not wish to compare Israeli and Palestinian casualties for the sake of the comparison but the difference between these is clear for all to see. The data includes the excessive and painful casualties inflicted on Palestinians in Gaza during 3 wars between 2008 and 2014 which left utter devastation on the tiny strip.
Amnesty International listed further human rights abuses including, unlawful killings, denial of freedom of movement, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and mistreatment in custody which included deaths in custody, freedom of expression and association, the right to housing, evictions, gender-based violence, conscientious objections and discrimination against refugees, asylum-seekers and migrant workers.
It is also worth remembering that it is now 73 years since Israel was created by force, resulting in 1948 in the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians to neighbouring countries.
Israel refused to allow them to return despite UN resolution 194, which in article 11, “Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”
Friends in high places
Israel’s repeated denial of the right to return is contrary to international law.
It is also a fact that Israel rules over the whole of historic Palestine, when it occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, the Sinai desert and the Golan heights as well as Lebanese land. While the Sinai desert was returned to Egypt as part of the peace deal with Egypt, Israel continues to illegally occupy the remaining areas and has gone further by illegally annexing East Jerusalem in 1980 and the Golan Heights in 1981. The only country that recognises these annexations is the United States of America, which it did recently under the Trump presidency.
In its Nation State Law, which the Israeli Knesset passed in 2018, Israel denied Palestinians the right to self-determination by singling out only Jews as having that right. All non-Jews were denied that right in the ‘land of Israel’. Israel’s discrimination against its own non-Jewish citizens extends to 60 laws passed by the Knesset and ‘Admissions Committees’ which can decide if or which non-Jewish citizens can move into a mainly ‘Jewish community’.
All of the above demonstrates Israel’s continued human rights violations which extend back to its creation in 1948. It is therefore left to others to challenge its violations in arenas in which neither Israel nor its main ally, the US have a veto.
The UN Security Council is perhaps the only major body in which Israel can rely on a veto by the US as if it holds that card itself. Neither Israel, nor the US have a veto at the International Criminal Court (ICC) which recently moved to open investigations into crimes committed by Israel since 2014, but not before. Neither has a veto at the UNHRC.
However, the US left the UNHRC in 2018 in protest at ‘biased treatment’ of Isrel and the UK has threatened to do the same.
However, this a case of Western democracies siding with the perpetrator of crimes rather than the victim. Let us remember that far from refraining from further crimes, Israel announced last year that it was planning to (illegally) de jure annex vast swathes of the West Bank, and while it has temporarily paused that plan, it is de facto annexing, through settlement expansion, additional Palestinian areas.
It is Israel’s 73-year refusal to adhere to international law and international humanitarian law, which makes bringing it to account at least through passing resolutions at the UNHRC necessary.
Rather than defend its crimes, the international community should stand with the Palestinian people and act beyond words and resolutions to say enough is enough. It is time to impose sanctions on Israel and require it to end its violations which only serve to embolden other rogue entities around the world to assume they will also be let off the hook.
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