This week’s goings on at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) mark yet another dismal episode in a seemingly endless series. What is, to a significant extent, a rogues’ gallery of murderous and corrupt regimes, congregated to “discuss” a report excoriating Israel and demanding an immediate withdrawal from the West Bank.
The outcome of an immediate unilateral withdrawal would almost certainly be bloodshed, possibly involving the takeover of the West Bank by Hamas after a civil war between the Palestinians. Remember Gaza? That is not the kind of outcome favoured by anyone interested in the wellbeing of the Palestinian people.
But, then again, there is no convincing evidence that the interests of the Palestinians are uppermost in the minds of the governments that use the UNHRC as a platform to bash Israel. In so far as the assault on Israel is not just pure bigotry, it also serves the purpose of diverting attention from the practices of the regimes issuing the condemnation. In other words, it is cover.
Apart from the question of the Palestinians, there is also the broader, overarching, matter of how to bring about a lasting peace. As Lord Trimble, Nobel laureate and former first minister of Northern Ireland, remarked in a statement to the UNHRC on behalf of the NGO UN Watch: “Negotiations can only be by the Israelis and the Palestinians… outside bodies purporting to make authoritative pronouncements on major issues over the heads of the parties can only undermine and subvert the peace process.”
Quite so. They don’t care about the Palestinians, or peace either.
Seen in the round, the big picture issue here is that the post-Second World War institutions of the international community are, in many respects, not only unfit for purpose but actually harmful to global peace and stability, let alone questions of justice. The corruption of the human rights agenda, as exemplified by the UNHRC, is symptomatic of a wider problem.
Consider the Security Council, which was established to prevent war and forestall serious threats. It appears completely unable to deal with the Iranian nuclear question since one of its members, Russia, is building the very facilities that Iran will use to give its weapons potency.
The truth at the heart of this matter is that multilateralism only, ultimately, works for democracies if the whole world is democratic and committed to upholding democratic values. Since much of the world is not democratic, and many of its regimes do not support democratic values, the kind of compromises necessary to keep the show on the road become corrosive of the values and purposes for which the UN, the quintessential multilateral institution, was created in the first place.
How desperately poignant that once again, and whether it concerns international peace or human rights, the Jewish people should be right in the front line of such a tragic conundrum.