The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted five resolutions critical of Israel on Friday, despite opposition from the US and an unprecedented critique from the UK.
Britain supported two of the five resolutions, but threatened to vote against any future such motions against the Jewish state because of the “bias” by the UN body.
“We are putting the Human Rights Council on notice,” Britain warned in a statement. “If things do not change, in the future we will adopt a policy of voting against all resolutions concerning Israel’s conduct in the Occupied Syrian and Palestinian Territories.”
The 47-member council passed five resolutions on alleged Israeli human rights abuses: 1) a vote on “Human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan” passed with 26 in favor, 3 against and 18 abstentions; 2) a resolution called “Ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of International law in the Occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem” garnered 30 votes in favor, 2 against and 15 abstentions; 3) 43 members voted for a resolution called “Right of the Palestinian people to self-determination,” while 2 voted against and 2 abstained; 4) the resolution “Human Rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem garnered 41 votes in favor, 2 against and 4 abstentions; 5) a resolution condemning Israeli had 36 in favor, 2 against and 9 abstentions.
The Unites States and Togo consistently voted against the five resolutions.
The UK broke with the other European countries, voting “no” on the resolution condemning alleged human rights abuses in the Golan Heights. It voted in favor of two of the resolutions “according to long-standing policy” and “serious concerns” about Israeli settlement activity, demolitions and the use of administrative detention, and abstained on two others.
The UK mission to the UN issued a statement saying that while it voted “no” on the Syria resolution, this did not signal a recognition of Israel’s annexation of the territory in 1981.
The British mission also blasted the UN body as biased and overly focused on Israel.
“Nowhere is the disproportionate focus on Israel starker and more absurd than in the case of today’s resolution on the occupation of Syria’s Golan,” the UK statement read.
“Syria’s regime butchers and murders its people on a daily basis. But it is not Syria that is a permanent standing item on the Council’s agenda; it is Israel.
“We cannot accept the perverse message sent out by a Syria Golan resolution that singles out Israel, as Assad continues to slaughter the Syrian people,” it said.
“Israel is a population of eight million in a world of seven billion,” the statement said. “Yet since its foundation, the Human Rights Council has adopted 135 country-specific resolutions; 68 of which against Israel.
“Justice is blind and impartial. This selective focus on Israel is neither.”
The UK also reminded the Council that it must “recognize the continuing terrorism, incitement and violence that Israel faces. According to the Quartet’s report last year, there were 250 terrorist attacks, leading to the deaths of at least 30 Israelis. Renewed Hamas efforts to rebuild their tunnels are a grave concern. The scourge of anti-Semitic incitement and glorification of terrorism continue. And for as long as terrorists are treated as martyrs, peace will prove distant.”
“Israel is the only country permanently on the Human Rights Council’s agenda,” the UK added in reference to Agenda Item Seven, a permanent fixture requiring the Council to discuss three times each year any alleged abuses of human rights committed by Israel against Palestinians.
Israel is the only country-specific issue that has a permanent place on the Council’s agenda, an opening for discussion about the Jewish state that often sees anti-Israel invective delivered at Council meetings from Arab and Muslim states.
Israeli ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said the UNHRC “has become the most notorious branch of the BDS movement. It’s time to put an end to this anti-Israel campaign,” in reference to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, and said the body’s resolution on Syria was “ridiculous.”
UNHRC blamed Israeli sovereignty in the Golan for the suffering in Syria. Ridiculous.
— Ambassador Danon (@dannydanon) March 24, 2017
This Council has become the most notorious branch of the BDS movement. It’s time to put an end to this anti-Israel campaign.
— Ambassador Danon (@dannydanon) March 24, 2017
Ahead of the votes, the US on Monday issued a strong rebuke of the UNHRC and boycotted a discussion about the alleged human rights abuses committed by Israel. The US has also threatened to withdraw entirely from the UN body over its focus on Israel.
“The United States strongly and unequivocally opposes the existence of the UN Human Rights Council’s Agenda Item Seven: ‘Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories,'” acting spokesperson Mark Toner said in a statement.
Toner said that the item threatens the credibility of the Council.
“Today’s actions in the Council are yet another reminder of that body’s longstanding bias against Israel,” he said. “No other nation has an entire agenda item dedicated to it at the Council. The continued existence of this agenda item is among the largest threats to the credibility of the Council. It does not serve the interests of the Council to single out one country in an unbalanced matter.”
Last month, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley called out the Human Rights Council for “breathtaking double standards” and “outrageously biased resolutions” against Israel, during a press conference after her first meeting with the UN Security Council.
Last week Tillerson sent a letter to nine nonprofit groups in which he explained that the United States may quit the Human Rights Council unless it makes reforms, Foreign Policy reported.
In the meantime, Tillerson said, the US would reiterate its “strong principled objection to the Human Rights Council’s biased agenda against Israel.”
Tillerson wrote that the US was concerned as well about membership in the council of countries accused of human rights violations, such as China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Should US President Donald Trump’s administration opt out of the UNHRC, it wouldn’t be the first to shun the body.
When the UNHRC was created out of the discredited UN Human Rights Commission in 2006, then-US president George W. Bush refused to join the new group, believing that it would lack credibility and that, like its predecessor, it would allow human right violators to become members.
In 2009, president Barack Obama reversed that decision, hoping to improve the UNHRC.