Israel severs ties with UN council

By Robin Shepherd, March 29, 2012
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The Human Rights Council in session at the UN office in Geneva earlier this year

The Human Rights Council in session at the UN office in Geneva earlier this year

Reading through the seemingly endless list of resolutions adopted against Israel on March 22 at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the first impression was the same as it always is. The Americans vote against, the Europeans dither and divide between support and abstention, and then the usual suspects - human rights champions as China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia - vote in favour.

And then there is usually a nugget that tells you you are not just witnessing the proceedings of a den of scoundrels but that the people in attendance need their heads examining. This time around, it was the turn of the Palestinian delegation to announce: "In 2010, the Palestinian people celebrated 10,000 years since the creation of the first Palestinian town of Jericho…"

Since there was no observable sense of Palestinian identity until well into the 20th century that is delusional even by Palestinian standards.

But that is not what has caused so much excitement. What has got everyone - even Leftist groups such as Peace Now - hopping mad is the decision by the UNHRC to "dispatch an independent international fact-finding mission [à la Goldstone] to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem".

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman called it an act of "diplomatic terror" and some are speculating this might be the precursor to another bid for statehood by the Palestinians at the UN.

That might go some way to explaining the strength of the Israeli response. But it is also the flagrant hypocrisy: "One only had to listen to the Syrian representative speak about human rights at the council on Thursday to understand how detached from reality it is," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying. He also noted that an activist from Hamas was given a platform in the same building at a side event.

It is tempting to recommend that Israel simply ignore such resolutions. Indeed, the Israel's UN ambassador Ron Prosor has been instructed not to answer the telephone if any of the UNHRC's officials ring.

Who, after all, can truly believe that the so called "fact-finding mission" will be "independent"? Of course not. Its purpose will be to conceal facts, not find them.

But even though it is all a farce if you take it at face value, it matters because it is part of a broader strategy to isolate and deligitimise Israel in international institutions. First they tried war, then they tried terror and now they have invested their hopes in the UN. Israel must therefore respond. Obviously it shouldn't co-operate - not letting the envoys into the country would be a start. There's talk of suspending economic transfers to the Palestinian Authority too.

Whatever happens, the Palestinians must be seen to lose something for this move. They are either interested in peace or they are not. If they are, they should return to the negotiating table and stop playing diversionary games in the most shameful UN body in the world.

The author is Director of International Affairs at the Henry Jackson Society

Last updated: 1:31pm, March 29 2012