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June 19, 2017 4:26 pm

World’s Democracies Snub Annual Israel-Bashing ‘Item 7’ Debate at UN Human Rights Council Geneva Gathering

avatar by Ben Cohen

The UN Human Rights Council meets in Geneva. Photo: UN official

The world’s democracies collectively snubbed the UN Human Rights Council’s annual condemnation of Israel in Geneva on Monday, when none of their representatives attended the council’s presentation and debate on  “Item 7” — a permanent agenda item focused on the “Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.”

As was the case last year, the seats of all the democratic nations represented on the council were empty for the duration of the discussion, sparking protests from Arab countries.

The United States has never attended an Item 7 debate since the council was established in 2006 as a successor to the Commission on Human Rights. In an address to the council on June 6, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley charged that “Item 7 is a scandalous provision that must be removed.”

Hillel Neuer — executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch NGO — told The Algemeiner that the non-attendance at Monday’s session signaled a “significant stand by the Western democracies against prejudice.”

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Neuer added that he himself had taken part in the debate primarily to point out why the democratic countries were absent. “Hopefully, one day Item 7 will be removed,” he said.

In his speech before the council, Neuer observed that “the US, Canada, Australia, all European Union member states, Japan, and other established democracies have boycotted this debate.”

Neuer continued: “The democracies are absent to protest prejudice — because this is the only agenda item that singles out one specific state, the Jewish state, for differential and discriminatory treatment. Not Syria, Sudan or North Korea is treated this way.”

Nonetheless, the absence of these countries did not prevent routine denunciations of Israel, with serial human rights abusers like Syria, Lebanon and Venezuela attacking Israel’s human rights record and depicting it as the “greatest threat to peace in the Middle East.”

This year’s Item 7 debate began with a report from the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Jordanian diplomat Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, that slammed Israel for its record in implementing the recommendations of various UN bodies and officials since 2009.

“The overall rate of ‘full implementation’ by Israel is 0.4 percent,” the report said, noting that Israel had accepted only two of more than 500 recommendations. “The lack of implementation correlates with Israel’s continued rejection of the applicable legal framework and of its obligations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

Despite having implemented 1.3 percent of the recommendations directed at them — only one out of 75 — the Palestinians were praised in the report for their “commitment to protecting human rights.”

Excoriating Israel for what he described as its “repeated failure to comply with the calls for accountability made by the entire human rights system,” al-Hussein warned that the Jewish state could face another negative advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) if it did not begin implementing UN recommendations. In 2004, the ICJ ruled that Israel’s West Bank security barrier was a violation of international law.

Nearly all of the recommendations that Israel is expected to implement are based on an assumption of full Israeli responsibility for any given situation, as well as the determination that Israel illegally “occupies” the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, while blockading the Gaza Strip. Additionally, many of the recommendations come from reports or individuals engaged in open demonization of Israel — such as the UN special rapporteur for Palestinian human rights, a position held until recently by the American professor Richard Falk, who accused Israel of imposing “apartheid” on  the West Bank, and the Goldstone Report, which charged Israel with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during Operation Cast Lead in December 2008-January 2009.

Neuer observed that al-Hussein’s report was “oblivious to the fact that (South African Judge Richard) Goldstone himself retracted the core charges of that report.”

Should the UN Human Rights Council decide to pursue a new international legal campaign against Israel, its next step will be to issue a recommendation to the UN General Assembly to refer the matter to the ICJ.

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