WHO singles out Israel for probe into health rights abuses

UK, France and Germany among 107 countries voting for investigation into conditions in West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

A Palestinian woman from the Gaza Strip injured during an Israeli airstrike in Gaza is treated at the Saint Joseph hospital in East Jerusalem on July 30, 2014. (Sliman Khader/FLASH90)
A Palestinian woman from the Gaza Strip injured during an Israeli airstrike in Gaza is treated at the Saint Joseph hospital in East Jerusalem on July 30, 2014. (Sliman Khader/FLASH90)

The World Heath Organization called Tuesday for an investigation into alleged abuses of “mental, physical and environmental health” rights by Israel, the only country singled out during the annual assembly of the United Nations body.

The motion, co-sponsored by the Arab Group of States and the Palestinians, commissions a delegation to investigate and report on “the health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory” and in “the occupied Syrian Golan,” and to place it on the agenda at next year’s meeting.

The reports are to focus on “the impact of prolonged occupation and human rights violations on mental, physical and environmental health.”

The United Kingdom, France, Germany were among 107 countries that voted for the proposal during this week’s gathering in Geneva. Eight countries voted against the resolution and eight abstained, while 58 other countries taking part in the assembly were absent for the vote.

Israel was joined by only United States, Canada, Australia, Paraguay, Guatemala, Micronesia and Papua New Guinea in opposing the motion.

Speaking during the debate on the motion, Israel’s Health Minister Yaakov Litzman accused the Palestinian delegation of hijacking the conference for political purposes.

“The WHO is supposed to be a professional organization, and I am very disappointed that the Palestinian delegate chose to use this forum to attack Israel,” he said, according to the ultra-Orthodox newspaper Hamodia. “Israel provides health insurance for all residents. We guarantee a health insurance plan that is comprehensive and equitable. These services, which are embedded in the law, promise a high standard of care for all.”

According to UN Watch, a Geneva-based organization, the condemnation of Israel was the only country-specific resolution adopted among the 24 items that were debated and voted on at the assembly.

“The UN reached new heights of absurdity today,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer, “by enacting a resolution which accuses Israel of violating the health rights of Syrians in the Golan, even as in reality Israeli hospitals continue their life-saving treatment for Syrians fleeing to the Golan from the Assad regime’s barbaric attacks.”

The assembly did not address other alleged abuses in other Middle Eastern countries such as Syria, Saudi Arabia or Yemen.

“Shame on Britain, France and Germany for encouraging this hijacking of the annual world health assembly, and diverting precious time, money, and resources from global health priorities, in order to wage a political prosecution of Israel, especially when, in reality, anyone who has ever walked into an Israeli hospital or clinic knows that they are providing world-class health care to thousands of Palestinian Arabs, as well as to Syrians fleeing Assad,” Neuer added.

Responding to the decision, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid sent a letter to WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chan saying that in accepting the motion, the organization had “veered away from its mandate and waded into the campaign to delegitimize Israel.”

“This orchestrated campaign against the sole Jewish state in the world is a modern manifestation of antisemitism,” Lapid wrote, adding that mentioning the Golan Heights while omitting any reference to the Syrian conflict proves “the resolution is based not on facts but on a hatred of Jews and the Jewish state.”

Lapid called on Chan to repeal the resolution.

There was no immediate response to the WHO decision from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Last month the UN cultural body UNESCO also singled out Israel for condemnation, criticizing it for recent actions on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and declining to acknowledge Jewish ties to the site.

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