UN body panned for unprecedented anti-Israel resolution

ADL says item, which warns of ‘criminal liability’ for doing business with settlements, goes beyond most countries’ policies

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

A UN Human Rights Council Meeting in Geneva in May 2013. (photo credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré)
A UN Human Rights Council Meeting in Geneva in May 2013. (photo credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré)

The Anti-Defamation League said Wednesday that a resolution expected to be passed by the United Nations Human Rights Council later this week goes beyond the international community’s ordinary criticism of the settlements, is akin to a call for boycotts against Israel, and jeopardizes the current peace talks.

Other Jewish and pro-Israel groups joined the organization in attacking the council’s alleged anti-Israel bias, calling on it to remove from its agenda a fixed item dedicated exclusively to criticizing the Jewish state.

“Once again, a UN body makes it its business to inappropriately delegitimize and isolate Israel,” Abraham Foxman, the national director of the New York-based ADL, said.

The ADL called on the member states of the Human Rights Council to oppose a resolution entitled “Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.” The resolution, which warns the international community against entertaining business ties with settlements beyond the pre-1967 lines, is expected to come to a vote on Friday, at the closure of the Human Rights Council’s 25th session.

In the resolution, the Geneva-based council “urges” all states to “ensure that they are not taking actions that assist in any way the expansion of settlements or construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, either directly or indirectly.” Furthermore, the draft “notes the probability of liability, including international criminal liability, for corporate complicity in breaches of international law related to illegal settlements” and applauds businesses that have already withdrawn from settlements because of these risks.

“This resolution attempts to advance a very similar position to elements of the vehemently anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and at the same time, it puts a serious damper on the current peace talks taking place,” Foxman said in a statement.

The resolution was an attack on Israel taken “further than any previous sessions,” Foxman wrote in a letter sent to members of the Human Rights Council.

The ADL's Abe Foxman. (photo credit: Courtesy Shilo Productions)
The ADL’s Abe Foxman. (photo credit: Courtesy Shilo Productions)

“Its language goes beyond the current policies of most countries with respect to the issue of Israeli settlements,” Foxman wrote. “Respectfully, we believe no country should cast its lot in favor of this egregious resolution. By voting against the resolution, your government can encourage the UNHRC and its member states to forgo prejudicial measures in favor of constructive steps promoting the two-state solution through a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Earlier this week, the Geneva-based watchdog group UN Watch warned that the Human Rights Council “is planning to launch a massive attack on the Jewish state next week in a series of five resolutions that — expressly citing controversial UN official Richard Falk — include new accusations of racism.”

The resolutions, drafted by Syria and the Palestinian Authority, are “replete with inflammatory and one-sided language including new BDS-themed provisions,” the group wrote on its website.

The five resolutions, which include condemnations of alleged Israeli human rights violations in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, are being discussed this week under the infamous Agenda item 7. Since 2007, Israel has been the only country whose alleged human rights abuses are discussed in the framework of a single permanent item on the council’s agenda.

On Monday, the council held a general debate on item 7, called “Human Rights Situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab Territories.” During the debate, countries like Yemen, Lebanon, Algeria, Indonesia and Venezuela spoke out on behalf of item 7, expressing worry about efforts to undermine it. Agenda item 7 is an “integral part” of the council’s program of work, Pakistan said on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, “and should remain a fixed item” on the UN’s agenda.

Several Jewish and pro-Israel groups attacked Agenda item 7, with UN Watch saying it had been criticized by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon when it was first introduced.

A representative of the European Union of Jewish Students lamented that this discussion remains the only permanent agenda item solely dedicated to discussing the affairs of one country. “Did the young Afghan girls denied the right to education because of their gender not warrant attention?” the representative said, according to a transcript of the discussion. The item should be removed from the agenda because it “caused offense to the many silent victims across the globe who continued to suffer human rights abuses.”

Speaking on the behalf of the World Jewish Congress’s Jewish Diplomatic Corps, Rome-based Andrea Tobia Zevi lamented that the Human Rights Council has so far passed more than 45 anti-Israel resolutions, which amounts to one-third of all country-specific resolutions. “We all know which situations go ignored as a cost of this obsession,” he said in Geneva. “For the sake of peace in the Middle East, we respectfully call on this council to heed the importance of words. To ensure that the council plays a productive role in fostering peace. And that it works to rescind item 7 of its agenda.”

Israeli diplomats did not participate in the discussion because they were on strike this week. Jerusalem had quit the Human Rights Council in 2012 to protest its alleged anti-Israel bias. Late last year, Israel rejoined the body, after Western member states promised to admit the country into the Western European and Others Group (WEOG), which significantly increases Jerusalem’s ability to advance its interests at the body. In addition, the WEOG states agreed not to participate in discussions over Agenda item 7 for two years.

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