Singled out routinely as the UN Human Rights Council’s all-time favorite scapegoat, Israel has finally had enough and has refused to show up for its Universal Periodic Review last Tuesday. To dodge a confrontation, the council postponed Israel’s UPR to November.
This review is conducted to evaluate human rights conditions in each of the 193 UN member-states. In Israel’s case, however, any UNHRC hearing is likely to descend into a kangaroo court, where some of the worst repressive regimes pass judgment on a sterling democracy and where the damning verdict had been composed long before any proceedings had begun.
Last week it was Israel’s turn again to have its record examined by UNHRC adjudicators. But Israel didn’t facilitate that particular show by participating. Thus it became the first state to boycott the UPR procedure, in what could well constitute a precedent for other countries down the line.
Thereby Israel avoided yet another round of mock investigations and appraisals (such as those that culminated in the Goldstone Report and the scathing condemnation of Israel for the 2010 Mavi Marmara raid), where the principles of law and of elementary impartiality are perverted and where the ruling is a foregone conclusion well in advance of the sham trial.
But it was not the UPR process that triggered Israel’s boycott. Israel in effect severed its working connections with the council last March, after the UNHRC had decided to inspect supposed human rights violations inflicted on Palestinians by Israeli settlement activity.
The guilty verdict was already implied in the probe’s terms of reference.
This is hardly surprising. The council is noxiously anti- Israel. The special rapporteur on the question of Palestine to the UNHRC until 2008, John Dugard, described his mandate as scrutinizing Israeli human rights infractions and not those of the Palestinians. His successor Richard Falk likened Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to the Nazis’ treatment of Jews during the Holocaust.
Israel has been censured by the UNHRC more than any state and the council has made sure that all its sessions are compelled to focus disproportionate attention on Israel. This has been guaranteed by the adoption of Agenda Item 7 that turns Israel into a permanent subject of debate. No other country has an obligatory agenda item reserved for it.
Formally, UNHRC was born only in 2006, but in actual fact it started out as the much-discredited UN Human Rights Commission. Then-UN secretary-general Kofi Annan took the extraordinary step of abolishing it because of unabashed politicization that mostly manifested itself in its fixated demonization of Israel – slated for vilification on any occasion and under any pretext.
The unlamented commission was replaced by the council amid promises for sincere introspection, contrition and most of all cleaning up of the commission’s avowedly shameful record. Nonetheless, the commission’s preposterous patterns reasserted themselves in full from the get-go. The council consistently discerns nothing more urgent to occupy itself with than Israel’s so-called human rights offenses.
The council is the commission’s carbon copy, with one exception. The commission held a single yearly session. The council treats us to multiple annual extravaganzas.
The majority of its 47 seats are held by Third World nations, which not only guarantees massive anti-Israel bias but makes mockery of human rights. Thus, before its upheaval, Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya was among the UNHRC’s movers and shakers.
The Obama administration pointedly reversed an earlier Bush administration decision not to seek a seat on the council due to its lack of credibility, obsessive preoccupation with Israel and failure to confront the world’s real serial rights-abusers.
Admitting that the council betrays “strong bias against Israel,” US Ambassador to the UNHRC Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe nevertheless argued that by staying away Israel is forgoing the opportunity to “present its own narrative.”
The trouble, though, is that nobody in the UNHRC is listening.
Not showing up was hardly ideal, but better this than more spectacles of the sort staged invariably by the UNHRC. For the same cogent reasons Israel is also likely will not play along with a brand new “investigation” – this time into its alleged deployment of drones against Palestinian targets.