Since its founding conference in San Francisco, B'nai B'rith has full-time representation at United Nations agencies around the world. Able to present its concerns at every level of the United Nations, B'nai B'rith has representatives at the U.N. in New York, Geneva and Paris, and participates in several non-governmental organisations (NGO) committees. We are also one of the few Jewish NGOs accredited by several U.N. bodies − the Economic and Social Council; the Department of Public Information and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
The Office of United Nations Affairs conducts three annual programs: an event that parallels to the United Nations international day of Holocaust remembrance in January; leadership delegations to the Human Rights Council in Geneva; and a leadership conference at the U.N. in New York.
B'nai B'rith Europe was represented this year by its President, Daniel Citone and the following European members also attended: Senior Vice President Eric Engelmayer, from Luxembourg; Director for EU Affairs Ben Naegele, Brussels, Stéphane Teicher, Paris, Zary Acher, Geneva, Nurit Braun,Geneva, Klaus Netter, Geneva, Ada Sadoun, Geneva, Richard Sadoune, Geneva, and Anita Winter, Zurich.
In this article we would like to share with you four points of view on the latest Human Right Council, from four B'nai B'rith members.
The first statement we are presenting was given by Anita Winter, official representative of BBI, founder and president of the Gamaraal foundation whose goal is to support and help survivors of the Holocaust among many things.
Human Rights Council 31st session item 4
Joint statement read on behalf of B'nai B'rith International and the Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations on 15 March 2016
by Anita Winter
My name is Anita Winter. I am the daughter of two Holocaust survivors. Had the so-called final solution of Nazi Germany been successful, I would not be standing here. After many millions of Jews were murdered during the Second World War, the United Nations was created in the hope that such a thing could never happen again. But as Elie Wiesel put it so clearly: (quote) "We hoped hatred among nations and among people perished in Auschwitz. It did not. The victims died, but the haters are still here. New ones."
Their numbers are rising rapidly. Anti-Semitism has seen a stunning resurgence, often taking the form of a fanatical hatred of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East and the homeland of the Jewish people. Jews throughout the world are targeted again simply because they are Jews. It hurts me, that young Jewish boys like my three sons are afraid to wear a skullcap on the streets of Paris, Budapest and London lest they be physically attacked. In France, for instance, there was an 84 percent increase in verbal and physical attacks against Jews during the first six months of 2015 as compared to the same period of the previous year. Let it be clear: anti-Semitism is not only a problem for Jews, but for society as a whole. Many who stood aside when Jews were being victimized by the Nazis found themselves to be the next victims.
Every government has a responsibility to combat intolerance. Many governments have waited too long before realizing the full scope of the hatred . It is absolutely necessary to act quickly to protect minorities against racism and anti-Semitism. They must use the full force of education and law enforcement to fight radicalisation, particularly among young people.
Mr/Madam President, this Council must do its share so that the cry "Never Again" resonates globally and is translated into reality.
The video of this statement can be viewed on the UN website: chose chapter 45
The second statement is from Richard Sadoune:
Conseil des Droits de l'Homme – 31ème session - point N° 7
Déclaration prononcée au nom de B'nai B'rith International
Le 21 mars 2016 par M. Richard Sadoune
Mr/Madame le/la Président(e),
Dans le sillage des condamnations de routine adressées au Gouvernement d'Israël dans cette chambre sous le point 7 unilatéral, permettez-moi de me référer aux violentes agressions en cours contre des innocents civils israéliens depuis la dernière session de ce Conseil en Septembre 2015 à Jérusalem, la Cisjordanie et Israël sis derrière la soi-disant «ligne verte».
Entre la mi-Septembre 2015 et la mi-février 2016, un total de 30 personnes ont été tuées et 351 ont été blessées. Les attaques comprenaient 175 agressions au couteau, 70 par armes à feu et 38 par voitures bélier.
Bien que cette vague de violence peut ne pas avoir été organisée de manière centralisée, il résulte toutefois qu'une campagne de propagande sans aucun fondement prétendait que le statuquo qui a été en vigueur jusqu'à présent et qui a maintenu la paix sur le Mont du Temple pendant des décennies était sur le point d'être modifié permettant les prières juives sur ce site.
Bien que l'Autorité palestinienne ait été pleinement consciente que les réactions engendrées par ces rumeurs ne pouvaient que dégénérer dans la violence par des membres de la population palestinienne, non seulement elle n'a rien fait pour désavouer ces fausses rumeurs, mais plutôt les auteurs de la violence ont été couverts de louanges.
Madame / Monsieur le Président, dans une période où le monde entier assiste avec horreur à la violence qui force des millions de Syriens à fuir pour sauver leur vie, il incombe à ce Conseil d'adopter un sens de la mesure dans la façon dont il réagit au massacre massif qui déchire la Syrie par rapport à la situation totalement différente des Palestiniens, qui ont à plusieurs reprises repoussé des occasions pour une coexistence pacifique afin de maintenir le conflit avec Israël.
Merci Mr/Madame le/la Président(e).
The English version of this statement is available on video, on the UN website under chapter 64.
If you want you want more on the latest Human Right Council of the UN, we are happy to reproduce here two very interesting reports, one by Dan Mariaschin, International Executive Vice President of B'nai B'rith International, and the other by David Matas, the senior legal counsel of B'nai Brith Canada.
Business as Usual at the U.N. Human Rights Council
March 18, 2016 for the Time of Israel
Daniel S. Mariaschin
It has been business as usual at the U.N. Human Rights Council, meeting in Geneva this month.
Here's why it matters.
Notwithstanding the need for urgent attention to such serial abusers as Syria's Assad regime, which continues to barrel-bomb its own citizens in the midst of a destructive civil war, and Iran, which most certainly vies for the lead in any number of human rights abuses, including the execution of juvenile offenders, Israel is still singled out for special opprobrium.
If this sounds like a broken record, it is. Each year, all countries up for discussion are lumped together into one agenda item, while Israel is always separated out from the rest for individual scrutiny under Item "7" which applies solely to the Jewish state, the only democracy in the Middle East. Subsumed under that item this year are a basket of separate resolutions, as well as six reports. The resolutions, which make no pretence at being objective, hammer Israel for "the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory," settlements, human rights abuses in the Golan Heights and a call for Palestinian self-determination.
The special reports include updates on the infamous Goldstone Commission Report, which was written in the wake of the 2009 Gaza war, and which suggested Israel might be guilty of war crimes. Judge Richard Goldstone, who chaired the group which wrote the report, ultimately backed away from its one-sided findings. In the U.N. system, however, vituperation against Israel has a life of its own, so the report lives on.
What does all of this have to do with the real world in 2016? The Middle East is not only in chaos, it is in meltdown mode in Iraq and Syria. Libya has now become the new ISIS target of opportunity. Iran, soon to be flush with cash from the nuclear deal with the P5+1, sends its Revolutionary Guards to Syria, along with its wholly-owned subsidiary Hezbollah, the terrorist organization that has taken over control of Lebanon, to back the Assad regime. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost in this conflict, Christians and Yazidis have been massacred and subject to humiliation, eviction and dispersal, with millions becoming part of the biggest refugee migration in decades.
This situation has received scant attention from a U.N. body "re-formed and reformed" 10 years ago to address real human rights crises. Its 47 members have really done no such thing. It is dominated by countries from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement, and something called the Like-Minded Group of Developing Countries, said to represent 50 percent of the world's population, whose worldview includes protecting many of those countries who are in the first line of human rights abusers.
This session, as a result of membership rotation, the United States is not on the Council. Nevertheless, it has spoken out strongly against the double standard Israel receives at the hands of the members of the body. Neither is Canada, which has been a staunch defender of Israel over the past decade. The EU countries choose not to participate in the debate on Item 7, though several of its member states, critical of Israel, find a way to do so. The EU could act more forcefully against this on-going diplomatic charade, but it refrains from doing that—another example of how its actions often don't measure up to the values it claims to uphold.
As for the Palestinians it once again proves that, though largely crowded out of the news because of events in the region, their ability to manipulate the U.N. system continues. Whether it was attaining full membership at UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), non-member state status at the General Assembly, or getting its flag flown in front of the U.N. in New York and other U.N. venues (including Geneva), they continue to plug away, not feeling any pressure to return to the negotiating table with Israel. And why should they? The Palestinians feel they have the international community's blindly supportive wind at their back—even at a time when the Middle East neighborhood in which the Palestinians are based, is imploding.
One European diplomat I met in Geneva, after a spirited discussion about how annual denunciations of Israel only embolden the Palestinians and discourage the Israelis, told me point blank that if they were to say "no' to Item 7, "the Palestinian door would be closed to us." My rejoinder was that if the EU—which has often been the Palestinians' friend in court and which has for years funded the salaries of Palestinian Authority (PA) civil servants—really sought to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue, they would spend their time urging the PA to move to the negotiating table, rather than allow this yearly lacerating of Israel to continue.
So as the Middle East burns, Nero—in this case—the Human Rights Council, fiddles. An aversion to doubling down on real abusers of human rights, and a propensity to let the anti-Israel rhetoric flow in Item 7 and its accompanying reports, speaks to the hypocrisy and emptiness of the Council and the system that has produced it.
Living in a time where, from our smart phone screens we can learn, real time, about the abuses of human rights everywhere, a global conscience is AWOL. Each day it stays that way, real opportunities to help those who suffer, pass. Instead, at the Human Rights Council and elsewhere, there is always time to unfairly castigate Israel.
What a terrible waste.
The United Nations Human Rights Council: March 2016
by David Matas
The obsession of the United Nations Human Rights Council with Israel is plain. There is one agenda item for Israel, item seven, and one for the all other countries in the world, item four.
Item seven is titled "Human Rights Situation in Palestine and other Arab occupied territories" which implies that all of Israel is, arguably, Arab occupied territory. Item four is titled "Human rights situations which require the Council's attention" which implies that the human rights situation in Palestine and other Arab occupied territories does not require the Council's attention, but they are going to discuss it anyways.
The mandate of the special rapporteur on Israel is the only mandate, out of fourteen current country mandates, which is indefinite. The title of the mandate, "the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967", asserts conclusions against Israel, assuming that territories in dispute belong to Palestine and that these territories are occupied by Israel. The title moreover leaves open the position that there are other Palestinian territories occupied prior 1967, that is to say, all of Israel.
The mandate holders have had a personal history of bias against Israel. The current mandate holder resigned in January 2016, creating a vacancy.
A Consultative Group short listed as candidates to fill the vacancy two individuals with a history of bias against Israel as pronounced as their predecessors. They had for instance both signed on to a publicly posted anti Israel diatribe. One of these two, Michael Lynk, was chosen by the Council.
None of the other candidates to fill the 2016 vacancy had signed on to this diatribe. So, the Consultative Group short listed obviously biased candidates for the job and only those candidates.
It is not as though all the other candidates are perfectly ok. Some of them have manifested bias in other ways. Others are unqualified for reasons other than bias. One candidate, Christina Cerna, was sidelined because she was neutral and did not have a history of hostility to Israel.
The previous mandate holder resigned because Israel had not replied to his request for access to the territories to which he wanted to have access. The resignation, as far as the Consultative Group was concerned, was pointless. They made no effort to shortlist a candidate who Israel might potentially see as objective, to whom Israel might grant access.
At the March session in Geneva, there were five resolutions on Israel - on settlements, human rights in the occupied territories, self-determination, the Golan Heights and implementation of the reports on the 2008 2009 and 2014 Gaza conflicts - and only one on any other country. That was one more resolution on Israel than in the previous March session. There were seven reports on Israel - the reports of the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, of the Secretary General on settlements, of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on settlements, of the Secretary General on the implementation on the report of the 2007 08 Gaza conflict, of the Secretary General on the implementation of the report of the 2014 Gaza conflict, of the Secretary General on human rights in the occupied territories, and of the Secretary General on the Golan - and only one report on any other country.
The attempts at implementation of the reports on the Gaza conflicts are striking because of their history. The Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict of 2008 9, chaired by Richard Goldstone, produced a report which was a cut and paste job of false, and exaggerated and one sided submissions from anti Zionist and biassed NGOs. Goldstone eventually realized he had been bamboozled and publicly rejected the Report.
The Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Gaza Conflict of 2014, created by Council resolution of July 23, 2014, had originally been chaired by William Schabas. Because his history of bias against Israel had been so pronounced and had become so public, he felt compelled on February 2, 2105 to resign from this position, but not before a substantial portion of the work on the report had been done. Mary McGowan Davis replaced him. The Report was released 24 June 2015.
One would have thought that these reports with these histories would have just been shelved. The UN nonetheless is promoting their implementation.
Most of the anti Israel resolutions and reports are carried over from one year to another. There have been seven United Nations Human Rights Council special sessions on Israel, out of twenty four, four special sessions on Syria and one only on all other countries.
The United States at the High Level segment of the Council session stated that the work of the Council:
"is undermined by its persistent bias against Israel. No other nation has a stand alone item on this Council's agenda. So long as the Council persists in its efforts to delegitimize and isolate Israel, it will be profoundly limited in the good that it can accomplish."
Israel made a similar statement. But they were alone.
It is also plain why this obsession with Israel is happening. The Asian and African blocs form a majority of the Council - thirteen each or in total twenty six states out of a Council membership of 47. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation member states since the inception of the Council have constituted a majority or close to majority of each of these blocs. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation member states defer to the Palestinian Authority, which is controlled by Fatah, on all matters relating to Israel.
The effect of this structure is that a political faction, Fatah, as a practical reality, controls the Human Rights Council. The reason the UN Human Rights Council is obsessed with Israel is that Fatah is obsessed with Israel.
The Human Rights Commission in 2006 had replaced the old Human Rights Commission, whose creation was mandated by the Charter of the United Nations. The General Assembly resolution justified the change by reference to the need to eliminate the "double standards and politicization" of the Commission.
Objectively, the double standards and politicization to which the resolution referred were the persistent ganging up on Israel at the Commission, while other, real human rights violators, were ignored or only minimally considered. The resolution passed not out of overwhelming concern about the fixation on Israel but rather because every country the target of criticism no matter how faint and polite, and all its friends, considered that the phrase "double standards and politicization" applied to them.
With the Council, matters went from bad to worse. For the Commission, Israel was the world's worst human rights violator. For the Council, at least at the beginning, Israel was the world's only human rights violator. Eventually the Council reverted to looking something like the Commission, adding a few other countries to its attention, but with nothing near the venom or time of that focussed on Israel.
At the time of the creation of the Council, there were active proponents for ending all country resolutions, rapporteurs and special sessions. That is to some extent what drives the Council focus on Israel. Council members understandably are more concerned about criticism directed against themselves than criticism directed against others. The worst human rights violators are those least likely to want the Council to address country human rights violations.
Right now every member of the Council which is also a member state of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and many others besides, merits the attention of the Council far more than Israel and some may well get it. For states targets of criticism the next best thing to no criticism is criticism which is ignored.
The trivialization of the Council through its obsessive fixation on Israel means that anyone who takes human rights seriously can not take the Council seriously. For violators, that is not a regrettable result; it is an objective. If they cannot prevent criticism against themselves, they will do their best to make it look ridiculous through ridiculous criticism of Israel.
The Council has a vehicle for consideration of country human rights violations something the Commission did not have, a Universal Periodic Review. As the name indicates, the review is both universal, that is to say considering every country, and periodic, every four years. This review treats all countries equally. Yet, the fact that at one procedure of the Council Israel is treated equally does not change the fact that it is treated unequally elsewhere.
The General Assembly resolution creating the Council mandated a review of the working methods five years after its creation. That five year review, in 2011, came and went without any change in the anti Israel focus of the Council.
The General Assembly Council review resolution of July 2011 agreed to look at the Council again in ten years. In theory, this belated, 2021 general oversight would allow the Council in the interim on its own to change its working methods. However, there nothing is afoot. There is no organized effort amongst states for change.
The notion that the Council will end its anti Israel focus before 2021, in 2021, or ever is something akin to the notion that antisemitism will end. Antisemitism is the world's oldest and most virulent hatred. If it can survive the Holocaust, it can survive anything. Antisemitism will last as long as humanity. All we can hope for is mitigation and containment.
Anti Zionism is the multilateral counterpart of antisemitism. With the advent of the Jewish state, Israel has become the Jew amongst nations. Anti Zionism will be a persistent feature of the United Nations as long as the United Nations itself exists.
In early years, many said that ending the Palestinian/Israeli conflict would bring peace to the Middle East. The civil wars of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen and Syria, all of which have nothing to do with the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, put paid to that notion. Yet, the fixation on Israel continues.
The official Iranian position, stated by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1981, and reiterated in other forms by subsequent Iranian leaders is this:
"Muslims should use faith dependent machine guns and the power of Islam and keep away from political games which reek of compromise ... Muslim nations, especially the Palestinian and Lebanese nations, should punish those who waste time indulging in political manoeuvers."
In other words, they don't care whether there is a peace agreement between Palestinians and Israel. They would still reject the existence of the State of Israel.
It as moreover plain the harm to human rights this obsession of the Council with Israel causes. The distorted focus on Israel undermines the credibility of the Council to the point of irrelevance.
The distortion inflames the Israeli Palestinian conflict by supporting one side against the other. The Human Rights Council unconditional support of the positions of the anti Zionist leadership of the Palestinians pushes that leadership away from negotiations at which these positions would have to be compromised or abandoned.
The deformation of the Human Rights Council harms respect for human rights not just in Israel but around the world by diverting time and attention from real human rights crises. Every minute and expense the Council spends on Israel is a minute and expense not spent on real human rights violations.
The endorsement the Human Rights Council gives to anti Zionist propaganda victimizes the Palestinians through incitement. The incitement leads to attacks against Israelis against which the Government of Israel inevitably defends. The attackers, as well those attacked, suffer.
The Human Rights Council delegitimization and demonization of Israel fans antisemitic hatred around the world. Anti Zionism is today the leading form of antisemitism. And antisemitism is today the leading global form of bigotry. This antisemitism is not primarily an Israeli problem, since Israelis in Israel suffer far less from antisemitism than Jews elsewhere.
Antisemites outside of Geneva may not throw around United Nations Human Rights Council resolution or agenda item numbers. But the fact that the United Nations backs their cause vindicates and reinforces their hatred.
The obliviousness of the Human Rights Council members to the antisemitic impact of the work of the Council was evident at every meeting with UN country missions in which the B'nai Brith International delegation participated. UN mission staff almost always referred to Israel as our country and engaged in a discussion with us as if we were defending the Government of Israel. Yet, except for one student, none of us came from Israel.
We came to the UN in Geneva because of the mandate of B'nai Brith International to combat antisemitism and the effect that the work of the Council has on amplification of antisemitism world wide and, in particular, outside of Israel. Why we were there was lost on our interlocutors.
Asking what should be done for the best in these circumstances may seem idle. The game has been fixed against Israel at the UN for so long and with such fervour that it would seem that the most one could hope for would be a lessening of the degree of venom and invective. Having the UN Human Rights Council end its incitement to commit human rights violations against Israel and Israelis would be a miracle. Expecting the UN Human Rights Council to do something positive to promote respect for human rights in Israel and the territories descends to the level of delusional fantasy.
Nonetheless, it is a fantasy in which we should engage. The pursuit of respect for human rights is, after all, the pursuit of an ideal. We should engage in that pursuit.
I have twelve recommendations, addressed to individual states which are not embedded in an anti Zionist ideology. Only member states of the Council can vote in the Council. All states can speak in the Council, whether members or not. Non member as well as member states which object to the anti Israel bigotry of the Council should say so. One should not dismiss the power of the single still, small voice.
In summary, states at the Council, members and non members alike, should
1) Focus on violations that are worthy of international concern;
2) Address real violations of human rights committed in Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan;
3) Condemn incitement to terrorism, hate speech and war propaganda;
4) Acknowledge the differential response of Israel and the Palestinians to incitement;
5) Endorse the link between abstention from incitement and peace;
6) Drop the label of occupation;
7) Back off criticism of the settlements;
8) Acknowledge violations of humanitarian law by Hezbollah and Hamas;
9) Hold Israel up as an example worthy of emulation; and
10) Speak truth to power.
11) Raise concerns about human rights violations in Israel and the territories under agenda item four.
12) Recognize the State of Israel as the realization of the right to self determination of the Jewish people
1) Focus on violations that are worthy of international concern
The Council needs to distinguish between degrees of violation of human rights. The Council should be concerned with those violations which rise to the level of international concern both because of their gravity and because of either the inability or the unwillingness of the state in which the violations occur to provide a remedy.
With Israel, the exact opposite occurs. Not only are the allegations of violations by Israel on which the Council and its mechanisms focus mostly of insufficient gravity to justify international concern; they are also, in every case, allegations of violations for which Israel is, if the allegations were established, able and willing to provide a remedy.
Israel is a country subject to rule of law with a free press and an independent judiciary. The Israeli legal system is far better able to determine the accuracy of allegations of human rights violations and to provide justice to the victims than the legal systems of most state members of the United Nations Human Rights Council and certainly the Human Rights Council itself.
2) Address real violations of human rights committed in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza
The Council should be addressing the real human rights violations related to Israel rather than giving credence to phoney allegations manufactured for political purposes. At the time the Council was sitting in Geneva in March 2016, there was a grave human rights crisis in Israel which merited the Council's attention. But virtually no attention was given.
Between 13 September 2015 and March 9, 2016, 34 people have been killed in terrorist attacks and 394 people injured. There have been 201 stabbings and attempted stabbing attacks, 81 shootings, and 41 vehicular ramming attacks.
To all of these attacks, the United Nations Human Rights Council has said nothing. There is no resolution, no report, no special session, no special meeting.
Israel, alone of all members of the United Nations, expressed appropriate concern about the violence in the appropriate place, during the debate on agenda item four, "Human rights situations which require the Council's attention". United Nations members other than Israel need to show real concern for violations when Jews in Israel or the territories or bystanders near Jews are the victims.
3) Condemn incitement to terrorism, hate speech and war propaganda
The Council needs to address incitement to terrorism, the war propaganda and, the hate propaganda directed against Israel and Jewish Israelis. The battle cry of the attackers in Israel since September 2015 is that "Al Aqsa mosque is in danger." Yet, there is no change in the status of the mosque or proposal for change. There is no specific incident to which one can point with precipitated the attacks.
Some of the media reports attribute the attacks to views expressed by some religious Jews to change the status quo on Temple Mount. Yet, Israel is a democratic country with a wide variety of views which are expressed all the time. Views about Temple Mount are standard fodder in Israeli public debate. There is nothing new about minority views in Israel on the subject of Temple Mount.
Moreover, under the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, Jordan became the custodian of the Al Aqsa mosque. Israel can not unilaterally change the status quo of Temple Mount. The status quo can be changed only by Jordan, in agreement with Israel.
Since Jordan has primary responsibility for the Al Aqsa mosque, in logic attacks generated by change or fear of change of the Al Aqsa mosque status quo should be directed at Jordan and not Israel or at Jordan and Israel both and not Israel alone. Yet, only Israel and Israelis are attacked.
The recent spate of attacks has nothing to do with reality and everything to do with incitement to hatred and terror; there is lots now revolving around the Al Aqsa mosque. Insofar as the United Nations has focused on this phenomenon, it has fanned rather than opposed the incitement.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) passed a resolution in October 2015 condemning
"aggression and illegal measures taken against the freedom of worship and access of Muslims to Al Aqsa mosque and Israel's attempts to break the status quo since 1967".
Yet, all of that is imaginary. There has been no aggression and illegal measures taken against the freedom of worship and access of Muslims to Al Aqsa mosque. Israel has not attempted to break the status quo since 1967.
It is phoney allegations of aggression and illegal measures taken against the freedom of worship and access of Muslims to Al Aqsa mosque, the pretence that Israel has attempted to break the status quo since 1967 when it has done nothing of the sort which are the root causes of the current violence. A resolution with a true human rights sensibility would not be giving credence to this incitement, but rather rejecting and condemning it.
At least the resolution did not pass by consensus, something we see all too often with anti Israel resolutions at the United Nations Human Rights Council. At UNESCO, the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Netherlands, Czech Republic and Estonia voted against.
4) Acknowledge the differential response of Israel and the Palestinians to incitement
The Council needs to acknowledge the differential response of Israel and the Palestinians to incitement. The recent incitement against Israel and Israelis takes two forms: one is a falsely propagated rumours about the Al Aqsa mosque. The second is applause for the attacks prompted by the rumours. Statements by Fatah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad spokespersons have described the attacks as "heroic actions" and "the natural response to Israel's crimes". The Palestinian Authority refers to the terrorists killed in the attacks as martyrs.
The United Nations Human Rights Council has from time to time addressed the issue of incitement in relation to Israel, but, as one might expect, by turning the matter completely on its head. Rather than condemning anti Zionist incitement against Israel, they have condemned Jewish incitement only.
The United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on settlement in 2016 expressed grave concern
"at all acts of violence, destruction, harassment, provocation and incitement by extremist Israeli settlers and groups of armed settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, against Palestinian civilians, including children, and their properties, including homes, agricultural lands and historic and religious sites, and the acts of terror carried out by several extremist Israeli settlers, which are a long-standing phenomenon aimed at, inter alia, displacing the occupied population and facilitating the expansion of settlements",
Nothing is said about the incidents of violence, destruction, harassment, provocation and incitement by Palestinians against Israeli civilians, including children, and their properties, including historic and religious sites.
I would not suggest that within the West Bank, there have been absolutely no incitement or terrorist attacks by Israelis. But the difference in scale and reaction is dramatic.
In the West Bank, there have been price tag attacks, assaults against innocent Palestinians as a supposed price that innocent Palestinians have to pay for Palestinian terrorist attacks against innocent Israeli Jews. Most of these price tag attacks have targeted property only, but some of have targeted persons.
The Israeli police have established a special unit to address price tag assaults. In July 2013, the Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon announced that price tag attacks would be treated in the same way as acts of terror. The Israeli Ministry of Education and the General Security Services has launched an educational program, called Hebrew Shepard, to work with youth from illegally established outposts in the West Bank with the purpose of dissuading them from carrying out price tag attacks.
The Government of Israel has prosecuted and the courts have convicted and sentenced to jail in 2014 and 2015 a number of Jewish extremists who carried out price tag attacks. The Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein in August 2015 approved the use of administrative detention against Jewish extremists. Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon has since authorized the arrest and holding of several price tag attack suspects.
Many top Israeli leaders have condemned the price tag phenomenon. So have religious leaders and members of civil society. The difference between the Israeli response the price tag assaults and the Palestinian Authority response to Palestinian terrorist attacks is night and day. The Palestinian Authority response to the Al Aqsa mosque related terrorist attacks is almost a mirror image of the Israeli response to the price tag attacks. What Israel condemns, prosecutes, convicts, sentences, detains and educates against, the Palestinian Authority endorses, embraces and encourages.
There is one small glimmer in the current gloom. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, at a special meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council called in October 2015 to hear an address from Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, stated "stressed the need to stop the knifings, incitement and car attacks". He did not say who was committing the knifings, incitement and car attacks. He did not say what the incitement was. But at least he acknowledged an Israeli reality, a far cry from everything else about Israel that goes on at the UN. That glimmer should be a model, an inspiration.
5) Endorse the link between abstention from incitement and peace
The Council needs to endorse the link between abstention from incitement and peace. The 1995 Israeli Palestinian agreement on the West Bank and Gaza provided that both Israel and the Palestinian Authority would "abstain from incitement, including hostile propaganda, against each other". The agreement further committed the parties to "refrain from the introduction of any motifs (in their respective educational systems) that could adversely affect the process of reconciliation."
Yet just the opposite happened. Those who were not free to preach hatred and plan violence from the West Bank and Gaza before the Oslo accords used the post Oslo new found freedom to envenom the population, especially the children, against Israel, and to use the territories as staging grounds for attacks against Israel.
There were as many Israeli victims of terrorism two and a half years after Oslo Accords as there had been during the ten years before the Accords. Five years after the Accords, the terrorist toll exceeded that from the twelve years worst years of the pre Oslo Accords period, 1970 82.
In various resolutions from 2010 to 2013, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed resolutions urging
"the parties to give renewed impetus to the peace process ... with the aim of reaching a comprehensive political settlement in accordance with ... the Oslo Accords ... which will allow two States, Israel and Palestine, to live in peace and security."
That oblique reference is a close to addressing Palestinian incitement against Israel as the Council came. At more recent sessions, the Council has not gone even that far.
6) Drop the label of occupation
Seventh the Council should drop the charge against Israel of occupation. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, in January 2016, blamed the recent spate of anti Israel attacks, perversely, not on the form of incitement which had actually generated them, but on something else, what he called
"Palestinian frustration ... under the weight of a half century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process."
Secretary General Ban referred to this analysis of the attacks as an "indisputable truth". Yet, it is an analysis which even the attackers reject. Arab propagandists blame the attacks, as noted, on "aggression and illegal measures taken against the freedom of worship and access of Muslims to Al Aqsa mosque and Israel's attempts to break the status quo since 1967" and not on frustration with a "half century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process".
As an analysis of violence, it is belied by the facts. If there truly were a link between the Israel presence on the West Bank and current violence, then the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon in May 2000 and Gaza in August 2005 would have led to a cessation of violence. Yet, just the opposite has happened. Since the withdrawals, there has been a marked increase in terrorist violence directed against Israel from those regions, leading to three wars, one with Hezbollah in Lebanon in July 2006, and two with Hamas in Gaza, one in December 2008 and January 2009 and a second in July and August 2014.
The notion that frustration with paralysis of the peace process somehow explains attacks against innocent Israelis means buying into the notion that Israel is solely responsible for paralysis in the peace process. I would say just the opposite that it is the Palestinian and Arab leadership which are solely responsible for the paralysis in the peace process because of their unwillingness to accept the existence of Israel. Be that as it may, the fact that the Secretary General of the United Nations would attribute paralysis in the peace process solely to Israel shows the institutional bias of the United Nations against Israel.
What Secretary General Ban refers to as occupation is itself inaccurate. If one looks at the day to day reality, Gaza is not occupied. The Israeli military is not present in Gaza.
The West Bank is jointly controlled by the Palestinian Authority and Israel. The Palestinian Authority has virtually exclusive authority over all West Bank governance except security, where governance is shared. This shared security arrangement is not either in fact or law an occupation. Jordan, which had a good deal more effective control of the West Bank before 1967 than Israel has now, was never considered at international law an occupying power. The only reason Israel is considered an occupier now and Jordan was not then is bigotry, the fact that Jordan is Arab and Israel is predominantly Jewish.
Secretary General Ban is not just mistaken both about the fact of occupation and the cause of the terrorist attacks. His perspective is topsy turvy. The terrorist attacks spurred by the Al Aqsa incitement have not happened because of the presence of Israeli military in the West Bank. They have happened despite that presence.
In the long list of terrorist attacks since September 2015, several have been perpetrated in Israel by terrorists living in the West Bank or in the West Bank itself. The notion that these attacks would cease if Israeli protection against terrorism stationed in the West Bank were lifted is misconceived.
On the contrary, the danger to Israel and Israelis from terrorism without protection against the threat of terrorism would be far worse. The attacks motivated by the Al Aqsa incitement, rather than being an argument against continued Israeli military presence in the West Bank, is an argument for the continuation of that presence. A pre condition for the removal of Israeli military presence in the West Bank is removal of the threat which requires that protection, that is to say an end to the incitement based attacks against Israel.
Yet, the United Nations Human Rights Council inflames that incitement with its misbehaviour towards Israel. The Council can not expect peace at the same time as it inflames war.
7) Back off criticism of the settlements
An equal affront to facts, law and peace are the accusations against Israel about settlements. The Council should abandon these accusations.
Secretary General Ban in January of 2016 went on to say:
"Continued settlement activities are an affront to the Palestinian people and to the international community. They rightly raise fundamental questions about Israel's commitment to a two state solution."
Yet, here too, just the opposite is the case. The very label "settlements" beclouds the reality of the situation. They would be better and more accurately described as Jewish neighbours. The objection to the settlements is an objection to having Jewish Israeli neighbours.
It is the objection to the settlements, not the settlements themselves, which are an obstacle to peace. The objection to the settlements is an objection, in another form, to the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East. Anti-Zionists do not want the state. And they do not want the nationals of such a state in their midst.
As of end of 2015, Israel's population stood at a little less than eight and one half million. The Israeli Jewish population is about 6.3 million or about 75%. The Arab population is about 1.8 million or about 21%.
As of 2014, the West Bank consisted of about 2.8 million people. The estimate of what is labelled as the settler population, for 2013, is about 321,000. The settler population is about 11.5% of the, West Bank.
So the Jewish population in the West Bank both in absolute and percentage terms is considerably less than the Arab population of Israel. In principle, there is no reason, other than Palestinian intolerance of Jewish neighbours, why the presence of Jews in the West Bank should be a problem.
The existence of the settlements is a litmus test for peace, but not in the way Secretary General Ban described. We will not get to peace when the settlements are frozen or gone. Even if that should happen, it would amount to appeasement, emboldening the anti-Zionists.
We will get to peace only when the settlements are accepted, even welcomed. Only when Palestinians are ready to accept Jews as their neighbours will there be peace between Palestinians and Israelis.
8) Acknowledge violations of humanitarian law by Hezbollah and Hamas
There are voluminous misleading, inaccurate condemnations, through the Goldstone and Davis reports on the Gaza wars of 2008 09 and 2014, of Israel compliance with humanitarian law, the laws of war. The Council passed a resolution calling for implementation of those reports. What instead should happen is acknowledgement of the violations of the war by Hezbollah and Gaza.
Now, I certainly do not endorse everything that Amnesty International has done in relation to Israel, but I point out one at least half decent report, "Unlawful and deadly: Rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian armed groups during the 2014 Gaza/Israel conflict". The report, as its title, indicates is a report of rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian armed groups during the 2014 Gaza/Israel conflict. The conclusion, as the title also indicates, is that these attacks are unlawful and deadly. The very fact that Amnesty International has been a good deal more sympathetic to the Palestinian than the Israeli narrative and yet has managed to produce this report suggests that United Nations Human Rights Council could easily adopt a similar stance in relation to both Hezbollah and Hamas.
9) Hold Israel up as an example worthy of emulation
I would go even further. Instead of condemning Israel, or even being silent about Israel and condemning its attackers, states participating in the Council should identify Israel as worthy of emulation.
Many countries are faced with a terrorist threat of the sort which confronts Israel. Combatting terrorism, like fighting war, has to be done in conformity with respect for international human rights and humanitarian principles.
The failure of multilateral institutions to realize the general nature of the terrorist threat Israel has been facing for decades has forestalled the international community in mobilizing against this general threat. Here as elsewhere, what begins with attacks against the Jews does not end with attacks against the Jews.
The international law of war, the right of combatants to defend themselves while at the same time respecting basic humanitarian principles as against their opponents, is relatively well developed. We can look to the Hague Conventions and the Geneva Conventions on the Laws of war to see where the balance between the right of self defence and the duty to respect humanitarian principles lies.
There is no similarly developed corpus of law in the battle against terrorism. When combatting terrorism too, states have a right to self defence, but also a duty to respect human rights and humanitarian law.
The reason for this relative underdevelopment is the insistence of elements of the international community, driven by anti Zionists in the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation member states, on a definition of terrorism that allows for terrorist attacks against Israel and Israelis. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation endorses a definition of terrorism which excludes from the definition a common form of terrorism, targeted attacks on innocents where the attacks were committed in "people's struggle including armed struggle against foreign occupation, aggression, colonialism and hegemony aimed at liberation and self determination". In practical terms, what this means is targeted attacks on innocent Jewish civilians in Israel is permissible. Though this definition of terrorism is highly politicized, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation justifies it by relying on Islam. The Charter of the Organization asserts that the organization bases its stances on Islamic values.
While the states not members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation have not endorsed such a politicized version of terrorism, the stance of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation prevents an international consensus on where to draw the line in the combat against terrorism. The international legal community is adrift. The primary guide for the international community in the storm of terrorism has become the experience of Israel.
Israel, because it is a democratic country which has, since its inception, had to combat terrorism, has developed a finely tuned, highly sophisticated response. If you want to know where and how best to draw the line between respect for human rights and humanitarian principles on the one hand and the need to combat terrorism effectively on the other, look at the Israeli experience.
The High Level Military Group released a report in October 2015 about the second Gaza war. The Group is made up of 11 former military and intelligence leaders from five continents . The study was compiled the summer of 2015 during six fact finding and research trips. The military leaders reported that they had enjoyed "a level of access" to military information which was "undoubtedly in excess of what their own countries would afford in similar circumstances."
The report stated that in the investigators' view
"in the overall conduct of its campaign, the IDF [Israeli Defence Forces] not only met its obligations under the Law of Armed Conflict, but often exceeded them, both on the battlefield and in the humanitarian relief efforts that accompanied its operation. In many cases where the fighting was concerned, this came at significant tactical cost to the IDF. It fought under restrictive Rules of Engagement and it is obvious that instances existed throughout the conflict where the IDF did not attack lawful military objectives on account of a deliberate policy of restraint."
The report said that Israel operated "within the parameters of the Law of Armed Conflict" and had even "in some respects exceeded the highest standards we set for our own nations' militaries." The Group unanimously agreed that Israel's military response was reasonable, justified, appropriately conceived and lawfully carried out, and necessary in the defence of that country's national security. The United Nations Human Rights Council should be saying the same.
10) Speak truth to power
Promoting respect for human rights means speaking truth to power. Members of United Nations Human Rights Council who want to promote human rights should not forget that.
The result we see at the Council, nonsensical anti Israel resolutions passed one after the other year after year and often by consensus are generated by a false logic. Rights promoting states reason that the imbalance against Israel is the result of the structure of Human Rights Council, with its Organization of Islamic Cooperation member states and consequently Palestinian Authority and therefore Fatah control. States opposed to this imbalance cannot change the result. All we can do, so they say, is mitigate the damage. Negotiating damage limitation requires offering something in return, support for the negotiated result.
This is a polite way of saying, "We have no choice". Yet, there is always a choice. States who oppose the imbalance can always say no.
Resolutions against Israel without negotiations would admittedly be far worse than resolutions trading off moderating language for support. We need only to look at the recent the UNESCO resolution on the Al Aqsa mosque for an example.
All the same, my general advice to anyone invited to play a game where the result is fixed in advance is not to play rather than to join in to see how little you can lose. For those who decide to play anyways this particular game, my view is that they are giving up too much, without an adequate realization of what is at stake.
The support of democratic states for repugnant resolutions, reports, sessions and mandates is a high price to pay for making all these devices marginally less awful. Democratic support gives these devices a credibility they do not deserve. The cost these devices impose in fuelling antisemitism and anti Zionism worldwide, the loss to peace and credibility of the UN human rights system, and the victimization of the Palestinians themselves by keeping them tethered to the yoke of anti Zionism are now insufficiently factored into the support democratic states give the Human Rights Council result. If we consider what is being given up and what is lost by the support the democratic states give, it is hard to believe that the current result is the best they can do.
This year at the Council, the resolution on the Golan Heights passed with 16 votes against. The resolution on self determination passed by consensus. The resolution on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had five abstentions. The resolution on the settlements and the implementation of the Goldstone and Davis reports each had fifteen abstentions.
There was a substantial shift in numbers in the settlements resolution. The settlements resolution had in 2015 one vote against and one abstention. This appears to be the result not so much of a shift in view by the abstaining states about the settlements as the introduction by Fatah, the Palestinian Authority and the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation of new and stronger language in the resolution promoting boycotts, divestment and sanctions, which met with push back. The even more extreme resolution, of course, passed handily.
11) Raise concerns about human rights violations in Israel and the territories under agenda item four
Though the structure of the Council and its automatic majority in favour of whatever Fatah wants prevents the abolition of the anti Israel agenda item, (item 7) representatives of many states, to their credit, refuse to take part in that discussion. Their silence is regrettably not uniform.
In 2016, the European Union spoke on agenda item seven, but, to its credit, limited its intervention to stating that substantive concerns about human rights violations of Israel and Palestinians should be addressed elsewhere and expressing concern about the one sided mandate of the rapporteur. EU solidarity applies to country votes, but not to country statements. Five different EU states spoke on agenda item seven - Ireland, Malta, Slovenia, Luxembourg and Sweden. Ireland showed a level of obsession with Israel which was remarkable even by UN standards, speaking against Israel both during item four and item seven.
In 2016 several states did speak about Israel and the territories during agenda item four and not agenda item seven - Spain, Denmark, Iceland, France and, as one might expect, Israel. While the placement of the remarks was appropriate, the content was not. Denmark referred to the human rights of Palestinians but not Israelis; the statement urged that perpetrators of settler violence be held accountable but said nothing about Palestinian terrorists and their inciters. Spain also expressed concern about the settlements, the deterioration of the situation and increase in violence in the "Occupied Palestinian Territories" but said nothing about Palestinian terrorist attacks in Israel.
Iceland asserted that "all violence, whether from Palestinian elements or Israeli settlers is totally unacceptable", without noting the differential response of the Israeli government to settler violence and Palestinian Authority response to Palestinian violence. As well, the statement that "the Occupation continues to violate the most basic human rights of the Palestinians" as a result of which "new generations of Palestinians are losing hope", implicitly blaming Palestinian violence on Israelis for denying Palestinians hope through "the Occupation". France referred to a degradation of the situation, and a vicious circle. The representative called on all sides to respect human rights and to recreate a political horizon.
It is noteworthy that these statements all echoed the theme adopted by Secretary General Ban; they attributed the recent Palestinian violence, insofar as there is reference to it all, to occupation and settlements, rather than the incitement around the Al Aqsa mosque. This is an all too common phenomenon - people attributing whatever event they deplore to failure to endorse a cause they support. This form of analysis comes from ideology and not from facts. States attempt to give rationality to violence by attributing it to a cause they understand and even adopt. Yet, unless states focus on the real cause of violence - in this case, the anti Zionist hatred, incitement and propaganda - their words will have no impact.
12) Recognize the State of Israel as the realization of the right to self determination of the Jewish people
Of the five resolutions the March 2016 Human Rights Council session passed on Israel, only one passed by consensus, a resolution on the right to self determination of the Palestinian people. That resolution contains a lot of anti-Zionist rhetoric which should just be dropped. It also contains some elements which could be maintained, as long as they were balanced.
The resolution now reaffirms the right of the Palestinian people to self determination. It needs to reaffirm also the right of the Jewish people to self determination.
The resolution now reaffirms the right of the Palestinian people to their independent State of Palestine. It needs to reaffirm also the right of the Jewish people to their independent State of Israel.
The resolution now reaffirms right of the Palestinian people to live in freedom, justice and dignity in the State of Palestine. It needs to reaffirm also the right of the Jewish people to live in freedom, justice and dignity in the State of Israel.
The resolution now deplores "the plight of millions of Palestine refugees and displaced persons who have been uprooted from their homes". The figure of millions is a gross distortion. But there were certainly some Palestine refugees and displaced persons who had been uprooted from their homes.
Jewish refugees and displaced persons, uprooted from their homes by the conflict, were descendants of those who had lived in the Middle East for millennia, long before the advent of Islam. Their number was substantially greater than the number of Palestinian refugees and displaced persons. The resolution needs to deplore the plight of both refugee/displaced populations.
The resolution now refers to "Palestinian land" (claiming Israel is acquiring this land). It is preferable not to attribute ethnicity to land. People have ethnicity, not soil. Insofar as the resolution does attribute ethnicity to land, it should also refer to "Jewish land".
The resolution reaffirms its support for two states, Palestine and Israel, living side by side in peace and security. Yet, it is the refusal to tolerate Israel as the state of the Jewish people which drives the conflict. There is nothing more the Council could do to promote peace than recognizing, by consensus, the right to self determination of the Jewish people and the existence of Israel as the realization of that right.
States which do address the human rights situation in Israel and the territories under agenda item four should make the points made here. That is to say, they should
1) focus on only those human rights violations in Israel and the territories which are worthy of international concern;
2) address terrorist attacks committed in Israel and the territories;
3) condemn incitement to terrorism, hate speech and war propaganda which generate these attacks;
4) acknowledge the differential response of Israel and the Palestinians to incitement to terrorism;
5) endorse the link between abstention from incitement and peace between Palestinians and Israelis;
6) avoid condemnation of Israel for occupation;
7) stay away from criticism of Israel for the settlements;
8) acknowledge violations of humanitarian law in past conflicts by Hezbollah and Hamas;
9) hold Israel up as an example worthy of emulation for its efforts to respect human rights in the combat against terrorism; and
10) recognize the State of Israel as the realization of the right to self determination of the Jewish people.
Global acceptance of the principle of respect for human rights was born out of the ashes of the Holocaust. There is a direct link between universal human rights standards and mechanisms and reaction to the Holocaust. We should not abandon the legacy of the Holocaust because anti Zionists have distorted that legacy to their own ends.
There is a parallel with Christianity and Islam both, like adoption of secular human rights standards after them, coming out of the Jewish experience. We should no more give up hope in human rights standards and mechanisms because of their misappropriation by anti Zionists than we should abandon hope in Christianity or Islam because they have all too often been distorted by antisemites.
We can see how far from the ideal the United Nations Human Rights Council has strayed. That wandering should not lead us to give up hope for the ideal.