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March 20, 2017 1:03 pm

US to Boycott Debates Conducted as Part of Permanent UN Human Rights Council Agenda Item That Singles Out Israel

avatar by Barney Breen-Portnoy

The meeting room at the UN Human Rights Council headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo: Ludovic Courtès via Wikimedia Commons.

The US will boycott deliberations conducted within the framework of a permanent UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) agenda item that singles out Israel, the Trump administration announced on Monday.

The news came as the UNHRC was set to weigh a slew of anti-Israel resolutions this week at its Geneva, Switzerland headquarters.

“While we are making some progress on reversing the anti-Israel bias at the UN in New York, regrettably, today in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council begins debate on the only country permanently on the body’s calendar,” American UN envoy Nikki Haley said in a statement on Monday. “It is not Syria, where the regime has systematically slaughtered and tortured its own people. It is not Iran, where public hangings are a regular occurrence. It is not North Korea, where the regime uses forced labor camps to crush its people into submission. It is Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.”

“The so-called ‘Agenda Item 7’ discredits the standing of the only UN body specifically designed to address the state of global human rights by allowing nations to distract from their own abuses back home by churning out anti-Israel propaganda,” Haley further noted. “As a result, the United States will not participate in discussions under Agenda Item 7 at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, other than to vote against the outrageous, one-sided, anti-Israel resolutions that so diminish what the Human Rights Council should be, and we encourage other council members who purport to be defenders of human rights to do the same.”

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A statement released by acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner earlier on Monday said, “The United States strongly and unequivocally opposes the existence of the UN Human Rights Council’s Agenda Item Seven: ‘Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.’ Today’s actions in the council are yet another reminder of that body’s long-standing bias against Israel. No other nation has an entire agenda item dedicated to it at the council. The continued existence of this agenda item is among the largest threats to the credibility of the council.”

“As an expression of our deeply-held conviction that this bias must be addressed in order for the council to realize its legitimate purpose, the United States decided not to attend the council’s Item Seven General Debate session,” the statement continued. “It does not serve the interests of the council to single out one country in an unbalanced matter. Later this week, the United States will vote against every resolution put forth under this agenda item and is encouraging other countries to do the same.”

“The US is dedicated to the pursuit of respect for international human rights by all countries in the world and we call on all UN member states and international partners who are committed to human rights to work with us to pursue much needed reforms in the UN Human Rights Council,” the statement concluded.

Last week, Elliott Abrams — a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former deputy national security adviser to President George W. Bush — told The Algemeiner, “The key reform [at the UNHRC] must be to bar from membership countries that are themselves great human rights violators.”

Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely tweeted at Haley on Monday, “I welcome US determined position against UNHRC’s bias towards Israel. Today’s decision is an important step to change this bias.”

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