US envoy to Germany leads pro-Israel protest at UN Human Rights Council
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US envoy to Germany leads pro-Israel protest at UN Human Rights Council

‘This is not just a form of bigotry. It is a sign of intellectual and moral decay,’ says Richard Grenell, as council meets to condemn Jewish state

A picture taken on June 18, 2018, in Geneva, Switzerland, shows a general view during the opening of the 38th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. (AFP/Alain Grosclaude)
A picture taken on June 18, 2018, in Geneva, Switzerland, shows a general view during the opening of the 38th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. (AFP/Alain Grosclaude)

The US ambassador to Germany led protests outside the UN Monday in Geneva over what he said was the bigotry faced by Israel at the Human Rights Council, as nations weighed condemnations of the Jewish state under a permanent agenda item dedicated to it.

Several hundred people joined the protests, which were largely focused on the council’s so-called Agenda Item 7, a fixture on the council’s schedule exclusively devoted to resolutions condemning Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

Israel is the only country with a dedicated agenda item, which is one of the main factors that prompted the United States to leave the rights council last year.

“This is not just a form of bigotry. It is a sign of intellectual and moral decay,” US envoy Richard Grenell told the crowd.

“Like a drug addiction, anti-Semitism is both a disease and a source of comfort” for states that habitually condemn Israel at the UN, said Grenell, who stirred controversy in Germany last year over his stated ambition to promote conservatives throughout Europe.

The protests were organized by the Geneva-based NGO UN Watch, which seeks to flag anti-Israel bias within the UN, among other issues.

As the protest took place, council members attending the Item 7 session were debating the results of a probe which found that Israeli troops may have committed crimes against humanity in their response to weekly Gaza protests and riots last year.

The report commissioned by the council alleges that Israeli soldiers intentionally fired on civilians. It acknowledged significant violence linked to the demonstrations, but said it did not amount to combat campaigns, essentially rejecting Israel’s assertion of “terror activities” by Hamas.

Israeli officials have rejected the probe’s findings and accused investigators of bias.

Santiago Canton, who headed the commission of inquiry, told reporters he also does not “personally agree” with Agenda Item 7.

But even though the probe was initiated by the arguably flawed Human Rights Council, “that doesn’t mean the work of the independent commission cannot be objective,” he said.

“If (critics) want to discredit our report they should discredit (it) on the facts and the law.”

Israeli officials have said the commission ignored the violent threat posed by Gaza protesters and downplayed the role of Hamas in orchestrating the unrest.

Since last March, the Gaza border has seen large-scale weekly clashes on Fridays, smaller protests along the northern Gaza border on Tuesdays, and periodic flare-ups between the Israeli military and Palestinian terror organizations. Protesters have been gathering along the frontier in often-violent protests calling for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to be allowed to return to former homes now inside Israel.

A Palestinian uses a slingshot to fling back a tear gas canister thrown by Israeli forces during clashes at the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on March 8, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

During the violence, protesters have hurled explosives at troops, set tires alight and launched many explosive and incendiary balloons carried by the wind into Israel.

Israel accuses the Gaza Strip’s terrorist rulers Hamas — who openly seek Israel’s destruction — of instigating the protests.

At least 255 Palestinians — including many members of terror groups — have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since March 30, the majority during border protests, but also by tank fire and airstrikes.

Two Israeli soldiers have been killed during the same period, including one during a secretive operation within the Strip.

Israel says its actions are necessary to defend the border and stop mass incursions into its territory.

It accuses the Hamas terror group, with which it has fought three wars since 2008, of seeking to use the protests as cover to carry out violence.

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