The newly "reformed" United Nations Human Rights Council held its first session from June 19-30, 2006. The Council failed to adopt a single statement for the victims of gross atrocities in Darfur. The Council passed only one country-specific resolution. Can you guess which country was specified?
Of course you can. The U.N. Human Rights Council placed the human rights violations of Israel on the agenda for the next session: Resolution A/HRC/1/L.15 (June 29, 2006). In Freedom House's annual rankings, on a scale of 1 as most free and 7 as least free, Israel received a ranking of 1 for political rights, and 2 for civil liberties, and was characterized as "free" on the freedom rating scale. By contrast, the sponsors of this resolution, with their respective scoring, included: Cuba (7-7-not free), Iran (6-6-not free), Libya (7-7-not free), and Syria (7-7-not free).
Additionally, on July 5, upon the request of the "Arab Group," the Council convened its first-ever special session to address "the human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory caused by the recent Israeli military operations against Palestinian civilians."
At the end of the special session, the Council passed a resolution by a vote of 29-11-5, which dispatched a fact-finding mission to the area, expressed grave concern at the human rights violations caused by the Israeli "occupation," including the current extensive Israeli military operations, and demanded that Israel "abide scrupulously by the provisions of international humanitarian law and human rights law."
The resolution makes no mention of other violations of human rights laws, such as the rockets Palestinian militants have been firing into Israeli cities or the incursion into sovereign Israeli territory by Palestinian militants for the express purpose of killing and/or abducting Israeli soldiers -- the acts which precipitated this most recent outbreak of hostilities.
In other words, the reformed Human Rights Council is acting exactly as did the unreformed UN Human Rights Commission. Anne Bayefsky, editor of www.EyeontheUN.org writes that "over a 40-year period, 30 percent of the resolutions [from the Commission] condemning human rights violations by specific states were directed at Israel."
She adds that organizations such as Human Rights Watch turn a blind eye to this anti-Israeli discrimination (as they often shrug at human rights violations against Americans; a column I wrote on this theme is here).
Human Rights Watch expressed "concern" about the renewed Israel-bashing but concluded "the first session of the new U.N. Human Rights Council was largely successful in laying a foundation for its future work."
Bayevsky adds: "The original mission of the U.N. was rooted in the legacy of the Holocaust, the shield of 'never again,' and the lance of human-rights protection. We are witnesses to the hijacking of the Organization to serve the purveyors of bigotry and hate. Continuing to pay for the travesty should no longer be an option."
More and more an international body that gives all nation states equal voice is proving to be a fallacy. I am by most any stretch a liberal internationalist. But that said, my internationalism privileges certain nations. Liberal democracies warrant our attention and support more than authoritarian regimes. A willful group of totalitarian states continues to hijack the UN with its obsession on Israel at the expense of promoting real change and embracing serious human rights reform. The U.N.'s fecklessness on these points is so depressing precisely because there is such need for it to be able to do its job. Whatever Israel's flaws, the focus of the United Nations on it as a whipping boy is transcendentally absurd.