US criticizes UN panel for hearing Palestinian race case against Israel
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US criticizes UN panel for hearing Palestinian race case against Israel

Washington envoy expresses ‘profound disappointment’ in anti-racism committee; 5 members of 18-person forum oppose continuing with probe

Illustrative: Israeli soldiers block the entrance to the industrial zone of the southern West Bank city of Hebron on June 15, 2014. (Hadas Parush/Flash90/File)
Illustrative: Israeli soldiers block the entrance to the industrial zone of the southern West Bank city of Hebron on June 15, 2014. (Hadas Parush/Flash90/File)

The Geneva-based United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) will hear a Palestinian complaint accusing Israel of racial discrimination, in a decision criticized by Washington on Monday.

The committee of independent experts, which has the power to name and shame members of the UN convention on racial discrimination who break the rules, decided it could handle a complaint filed by the Palestinians in 2018 — details of which have not been released. Hebrew media has reported the complaint is of alleged apartheid policies by Israel in the West Bank.

The United States expressed “profound disappointment,” arguing that Israel did not recognize Palestine as a state or as a party to the convention and that, as a result, the committee had no jurisdiction.

The Palestinians signed the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in 2014 as the State of Palestine.

“The Committee’s disregard for treaty law raises serious questions about the legitimacy of this process,” said Andrew Bremberg, US envoy to international organizations.

“The United States will continue to advocate for fair treatment for Israel in this and other international fora.”

Aviva Raz Shechter, Israel’s permanent representative in Geneva to the UN, at a special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council to discuss ‘the deteriorating human rights situation’ in the West Bank and Gaza, on May 18, 2018. (AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini)

Five of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s 18 experts made the unusual move of publicly disagreeing with the committee’s decision.

They published a statement arguing that Israel’s objection to entering treaty relations with the State of Palestine meant the committee had no jurisdiction.

The committee had engaged in a drawn-out debate over jurisdiction before deciding last month that it could hear the case — a decision not made public at the time.

Their conclusions, sent to AFP on Monday, showed that 10 experts voted in favor, three opposed and the others abstained or were absent.

In a statement published in December, Israeli Ambassador Aviva Raz Shechter said that “as far as Israel is concerned, the Committee has lost credibility, and the cause of the Convention has regrettably been gravely undermined by the very body entrusted with protecting it.

“While Israel is and will always be committed to the elimination of racial discrimination,” she said, “it no longer has any reason to believe that it can receive fair, equitable and non-discriminatory treatment from this Committee.”

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