Stop Enabling the UN Human Rights Council
A line that I’m often reminded of when following the United Nations is the idea that it is an institution built on the ashes of the Holocaust. This expresses the idea that the UN was meant to learn from the lessons of World War II and the Shoah.
It’s increasingly clear, however, that the UN learned the wrong lessons. Rather than “never again,” the UN has instead embraced the idea that “the Jews are our misfortune.”
No reality illustrates this better than the Human Rights Council.
Last week, the Council held yet another special session, adopted yet another resolution, and created yet another commission to label the Jewish State as the greatest contemporary evil. This new commission comes with an extra-long leash to investigate Israel’s actions even inside the so-called 1967 borders, a transparent and unprecedented effort to label Israel as uniquely racist and undeserving of legitimacy on any plot of land.
As with all things UN, it’s a foregone conclusion that Israel will be “guilty.” They’ll just decide exactly how later.
To get a sense of the UN’s obsession with the world’s only Jewish state, consider what the Council, in its short 15-year existence, has created to single out Israel:
- Agenda Item 7, the only agenda item devoted entirely to a single country;
- 94 condemnatory resolutions, more than all other countries combined;
- 9 special sessions called to attack Israel, more than a third of all country-specific special sessions held by the Council;
- The antisemitic blacklist of companies doing business with Jews in Judea and Samaria;
- The only UN country-specific special procedure, called a “Special Rapporteur,” with an indefinite mandate, which also happens to be focused exclusively on alleged Israeli wrongs, to the detriment of any victims of Palestinian wrongs;
- The Goldstone Commission in 2009;
- The Tomuschat Committee in 2010;
- The McGowan-Davis Committee in 2010-11;
- The Gaza flotilla fact-finding mission in 2010;
- The fact-finding mission on Israeli settlements in 2013;
- The Schabas/McGowan-Davis commission of inquiry in 2014-15; and
- The 2018 Gaza border riots commission of inquiry.
I won’t even bother trying to count the number of anti-Israel statements and other reports issued by the Council and the various human rights officials of the UN. “Too many” would be an understatement.
Bear in mind, this is the same Council that has never once adopted a single resolution on China’s mass internment, cultural repression, and systematic discrimination against the Uyghur Muslims. It has never created a commission to investigate modern-day slavery in Mauritania or Libya. I recall no special initiative to address Turkey’s ethnic cleansing of Kurds and Yazidis in Afrin.
All this reminds me of another line, that of former UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, who once said: “The United Nations was not created in order to bring us to heaven, but in order to save us from hell.” With the Council’s laser focus on Israel, I’m sure the many victims elsewhere might have a few customer service complaints in that regard.
The Council has shamelessly chosen to continue the anti-Israel tradition of its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the body that the Council is supposed to be a better, reformed version of.
However, I can’t recall a period when the CHR was as disproportionately obsessed with Israel as the Council is today. Sure, the Commission expressly justified terrorism against Israeli civilians a few times. But is the Council’s incessant condemnation of Israeli self-defense, juxtaposed with its silence over the actions of Hamas, really any different?
All this brings me to another lesson that the world should have learned after World War II: the danger of complacency with failed international institutions. I appreciate President Biden’s desire to engage with the world. However, the Human Rights Council is not the place to do so if one wishes to make the world a better place.
Like dealing with a relapsed alcoholic, rejoining the Council only risks becoming an enabler again for its obsessive hatred. We already tried to fix the UN’s human rights body in 2006, and the reform from the CHR to the Human Rights Council only made it worse. It’s time for the United States to cut the Council off for good — or, at the very least, go in with a serious plan, beyond good intentions, to actually fix the issues underlying its addiction to vilifying Israel.
Anything less would simply lend legitimacy to the absurd, antisemitic idea that the Jewish State is somehow uniquely evil and a misfortune to the world. It would also ensure that millions of human rights victims elsewhere will continue to be left behind.
David M. Litman is a lawyer who advocates for Israel and human rights.