US slams ‘one-sided’ UN probe blaming Israel for perpetuating the conflict

Member of open-ended Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry says ‘ending occupation’ will break cycle of violence; Israel calls report ‘waste of money’

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Illustrative: Palestinian women cross the Qalandiya checkpoint, outside of the West Bank city of Ramallah, on April 15, 2022. (Flash90)
Illustrative: Palestinian women cross the Qalandiya checkpoint, outside of the West Bank city of Ramallah, on April 15, 2022. (Flash90)

The United States blasted a UN report released Tuesday into Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, saying it did not alleviate concerns that the panel behind it “represents a one-sided, biased approach” against the Jewish state.

The report — the first submitted to the Commission of Inquiry (COI) established last year by the UN Human Rights Council — blamed Israel’s “persistent discrimination against Palestinians” for violence between the two sides.

Hours after its release, State Department spokesman Ned Price issued a statement saying that “while the US believes the Human Rights Council (HRC) plays a crucial role in promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms globally, this COI and report do not advance this goal.”

The Biden administration brought the US back into the HRC last year after former president Donald Trump withdrew its membership in 2018. While the US has acknowledged the council’s previous bias against Israel, Washington argues it’s better for it to have a seat at the table where it can influence HRC decisions.

The council voted to establish the COI shortly after the May 2021 Gaza war. The US condemned the move as well, saying its “open-ended and vaguely defined nature… represents a one-sided, biased approach that does nothing to advance the prospects for peace.”

“The report of the commission, released today, does nothing to alleviate our concerns,” Price said Tuesday.

A general view of the room hosting a special session of the UN Human Rights Council on Ukraine, in Geneva, on May 12, 2022. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)

“Israel is the only country subject to a standing agenda item at the HRC and has received disproportionate focus at the HRC compared to human rights situations elsewhere in the world,” the State Department spokesman said, maintaining the criticism voiced by Trump and previous American administrations.

“While no country is above scrutiny, the existence of this COI in its current form is a continuation of a longstanding pattern of unfairly singling out Israel. We reengaged with and later re-joined the HRC in part to be in a better position to address its flaws, including this one, and we will continue to seek reforms.”

“The US remains deeply committed to helping achieve peace for both Israelis and Palestinians and will support actions in the UN that bring the parties together to advance prospects for peace,” Price added.

Tuesday’s report identified “forced displacement, threats of forced displacement, demolitions, settlement construction and expansion, settler violence, and the blockade of Gaza” by Israel as “contributing factors to recurring cycles of violence.”

The 18-page report focuses on root causes of the conflict. The commission took two trips to research the report, one to Geneva and the other to Jordan.

Israel has refused to cooperate with the commission and has not granted it entry into Israel or access to Palestinian-controlled areas in the West Bank and Gaza.

Israeli security forces keep watch as Palestinians wait to have their IDs checked to reach the city of Jerusalem to attend Ramadan prayers in the al-Aqsa mosque on April 8, 2022, at a checkpoint in Bethlehem in the West Bank. (Hazem Bader/AFP).

The report reaffirmed that the UN sees Israeli settlements as illegal, including in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

It also blasted Israel for restrictions on Palestinian movement, and for settler violence. Israel destroys Palestinian water infrastructure, alleged the commission, and tries to silence critical voices in Palestinian civil society.

“Ending Israel’s occupation, in full conformity with Security Council resolutions, remains essential in stopping the persistent cycle of violence,” said Commissioner Miloon Kothari in a statement released by the UN Human Rights Council. “It is only with the ending of occupation that the world can begin to reverse historical injustices and move towards self-determination of the Palestinian peoples.”

Though the report placed the lion’s share of blame on Israel, it also pointed a finger at the Palestinian Authority for its own human rights violations and failure to hold elections, and at Hamas for showing little regard for human rights.

The Foreign Ministry dismissed the findings as “nothing more than a waste of money and effort of the United Nations’ systems, part and parcel of the witch hunt being carried out by the Human Rights Council against Israel.”

The report will be officially presented to the Human Rights Council session on June 13.

Lazar Berman contributed to this report

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