Time and again the United Nations has been used as a forum to denigrate and demonize Israel. Recent events have continued this pattern against the beleaguered country.
At an emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Wednesday, Israel was again condemned for “gross violations of human rights,” as a resolution was passed 29 to 1 essentially holding Israel wholly responsible for the current conflict in Gaza. 17 countries abstained, while only the US was brave enough to reject the accusations leveled against Israel in the one-sided resolution.
The resolution, entitled “Ensuring respect for international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem,” briefly acknowledges that any civilian deaths are deplorable, but outlines only what it considers to be Israel’s faults in its current military operation in Gaza.
The resolution calls on Israel to end the operation immediately and open all Gaza borders. It establishes “an independent, international commission of inquiry, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014, whether before, during or after, to establish the facts and circumstances of such violations and of the crimes perpetrated and to identify those responsible, to make recommendations, in particular on accountability measures, all with a view to avoiding and ending impunity and ensuring that those responsible are held accountable, and on ways and means to protect civilians against any further assaults, and to report to the Council at its twenty-eighth session.”
During the session, UNHRC High Commissioner Navi Pillay expressed her belief in “a strong possibility that international humanitarian law has been violated in a manner that could amount to war crimes” committed by Israel.
Iran denounced Israel for “state terror”, while Syria accused Israel of having “a racist and criminal mentality”. Venezuela referred to Israel’s “attempts to exterminate the Palestinian people”, and Algeria and Sudan alleged Israel was engaged in “massacres and genocide” against Palestinians.
Speaking in Israel’s defense, Hillel Neuer of NGO UN Watch said, “Never before, in the history of Israel’s seven decades of existence, has its men, women and children come under such a massive aerial assault, forcing them, at the sound of air raid sirens day and night, to run for shelter.
“An entire nation—towns, villages and cities, from the Negev Desert up to the Galilee, from the Judean hills of Jerusalem to the Tel Aviv seashore—has been under brutal and relentless attack, from more than two thousand mortars, rockets and long-range missiles, fired from Gaza toward civilians in every part of the Holy Land,” he continued.
“And never before, in the modern history of nations, has a free and democratic society come under such sustained bombardment from a terrorist organization, one that openly strives for and celebrates the murder of civilians, and that, as its general worldview, glorifies death.”
Yet, Neuer points out, the UNHRC is pondering Israel’s perceived violations of human rights. “Mr. President, I turn now to the resolution upon which this Council will soon vote. The text before us denounces Israel, denies its right to self-defence, and disregards Hamas war crimes.
“We ask: why does this Council refuse to say that which was said only two weeks ago by the Palestinian ambassador himself?” Neuer asked, referring to comments made on television by Ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi that Israel acts in accordance with international law, while “each and every missile launched from Gaza against Israel constitutes a crime against humanity, whether it hits or misses.”
Neuer detailed life under siege from Hamas rockets, asking the committee, “How would your government react? How long would your nation wait before doing everything in its power to exercise its right, under international law and morality, to resist such aggression?”
Neuer asked point-blank: “Is it possible that the true purpose of this session is to silence the true victims and voices of human rights around the world by deflecting attention from the world’s worst abuses?”
UN emergency session on Gaza: Hillel Neuer speaks out
When he tried to detail those abuses, however, he was stymied by some of the worst offenders present. The representative from Egypt interrupted Neuer’s testimony to say, “Mr. President, I think we are meeting today for the special session to discuss the current crisis in Gaza and the violations committed within this crisis. So, I don’t see why we have a reason to discuss other issues relating to human rights situations on other countries.”
Iran “fully” supported Egypt’s point of order, as did Venezuela. The Palestinian representative said, “The speaker will continue along the same lines if the speaker is not stopped. I would ask you not to waste any time on this so we can conclude this meeting in good time,” while Cuba called it “inconceivable” that the NGO would try to “distract” the council from the discussion at hand.
Not entirely friendless, Neuer received support from Canada, the US and Israel, who all encouraged the council president to allow him to continue.
Nor was this session the only affront committed this week by the UN towards Israel. For the second time in less than a week, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) declared it had found Hamas rockets stored in an empty UN school.
The first time, “according to longstanding UN practice in UN humanitarian operations worldwide,” it handed the rockets over to local authorities, which, Israel says, answer to Hamas. Effectively, “UNRWA handed to Hamas rockets that could well be shot at Israel,” a senior Israeli official told The Times of Israel.
“Today, in the course of the regular inspection of its premises, UNRWA discovered rockets hidden in a vacant school in the Gaza Strip,” the organization said in a statement issued Tuesday. “As soon as the rockets were discovered, UNRWA staff were withdrawn from the premises, and so we are unable to confirm the precise number of rockets. The school is situated between two other UNRWA schools that currently each accommodate 1,500 internally displaced persons.”
All of this takes place during a regional visit by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. As the UNHRC emergency session convened, Ban met with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and United States Secretary of State John Kerry. He also spoke to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“First and foremost, I think the violence must stop now. We must immediately start dialogue and address all the root causes which have already been identified,” he said. “As Secretary-General of the United Nations, this is my third such urgent mission during the last five years. It really pains me to see such a violence still continuing periodically. That means we have to work even harder. That means we have collectively failed in bringing peace and security.”
The Secretary-General acknowledged the suffering of Israeli civilians, under siege from Hamas rockets, alongside that of Palestinians in Gaza, where Operation Protective Edge is now in its sixteenth day. He condemned the discovery of the rockets at the UNRWA facility, expressing “his outrage and regret at the placing of weapons in a UN-administered school.”
Ban was asked during his visit whether he saw a conflict of interest in the fact that his flight was funded by Qatar, a known supporter of Hamas. He responded, “No – ladies and gentlemen, this is the 15th day since the crisis began. We do not have much time to weigh the rules.”
He was also quick to decry what appears to have been an attack Thursday on another UN-run school, in which 15 civilians seeking shelter were killed. He added that the circumstances are as yet unclear, and Israeli officials insist the school was not a target. While indicating the likelihood that Hamas rockets may have been responsible, senior Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner conceded it was “possible” the site was inadvertently hit by the IDF.