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World Health Organization passes motion alleging Israel violating health rights

UN body’s ‘cynical politicization’ slammed after it approves lone region-specific resolution on West Bank, Gaza and Golan in its annual session

The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus waits for the Swiss interior and health minister for a bilateral meeting on the sideline of the opening of the 74th World Health Assembly  at the WHO headquarters, in Geneva, on May 24, 2021. (Photo by LAURENT GILLIERON / POOL / AFP)
The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus waits for the Swiss interior and health minister for a bilateral meeting on the sideline of the opening of the 74th World Health Assembly at the WHO headquarters, in Geneva, on May 24, 2021. (Photo by LAURENT GILLIERON / POOL / AFP)

The UN’s World Health Organization held a session Tuesday singling out Israel as a violator of Palestinians’ health rights and passed a resolution on the matter, in the only country-specific discussion during its annual assembly, which was largely devoted to the coronavirus pandemic.

The delegations of some 25 countries held speeches accusing Israel of violating the health rights of Palestinians and the Druze population in the Golan Heights.

The agenda item was slammed by UN Watch, a nonprofit that tracks alleged incidents of anti-Israel bias in the United Nations and its bodies, where pro-Israel critics say there is an automatic majority against the Jewish state. Similar resolutions have been passed in previous years.

The resolution required the WHO to hold the same debate at next year’s assembly, and to prepare another report on the “Health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.”

The motion passed with 82 countries supporting it, 14 opposing, 40 abstaining and 38 absent.

It was submitted by the Palestinian delegation and co-sponsored by 26 countries, including Cuba, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, Venezuela and Yemen, as well as three countries that recently normalized ties with Israel: The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco.

A health worker holds empty vials of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in East Jerusalem on February 3, 2021. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

It called for “non-discriminatory, affordable and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines” for Palestinians and for Syrians in the Golan.

In an apparent reference to the recent 11-day military conflict between Israel and the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza, the motion urged an assessment of “the extent and nature of psychiatric morbidity, and other forms of mental health problems, resulting from protracted aerial and other forms of bombing among the population.”

The resolution did not include comparative data explaining the sole focus on the status of health care in the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan.

UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer condemned the “cynical politicization of the world’s top health agency at the expense of focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic and other vital global health priorities and emergencies.”

“Out of 34 items on the current world health assembly’s Agenda, only one, Item 25 targeting Israel, focused on a specific country,” Neuer said in a statement.

Hillel Neuer of UN Watch (photo credit: Michal Fattal/Flash 90)
Hillel Neuer (Michal Fattal/Flash 90)

“There was no agenda item or resolution on any other country, conflict, civil war or political impasse — not on Syria, where hospitals and other medical infrastructure are repeatedly and deliberately bombed by Syrian and Russian forces; not on war-torn Yemen, where 18 million are in dire need of health assistance; and not on Venezuela, where the health system is in a state of collapse and 7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance,” said Neuer.

UN Watch said Austria, Colombia and the Netherlands had shifted their position from abstaining last year to voting against the motion this year. Other countries that opposed it were the United States, Britain, Australia, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Honduras and Hungary.

Poland, Malta and Monaco were said to have shifted their position from supporting the resolution last year to abstaining this year.

“However, amid a global pandemic, the minority of EU member states and other democracies who voted for the resolution should be ashamed, including France, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, Portugal, Japan, India, Ireland, New Zealand and Luxembourg,” said Neuer.

“These countries have now encouraged the continued hijacking of the world’s health priorities, and the diversion of precious time, money, and resources to fight global disease, in order to wage a political prosecution of Israel.”

The Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry welcomed the decision in a series of tweets, saying that “the resolution affirms the unassailable international community’s support for the Palestinian people’s fundamental right to health, especially during this deadly pandemic and Israel’s systematic attacks on health facilities and personnel.”

“Those who politicize this humanitarian resolution aim at depriving the Palestinian people of their basic fundamental right,” it added.

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