Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has revealed the government will oppose all UN Human Rights Council (HRC) items devoted to discussing rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza due to their “disproportionate and discriminatory” focus on Israel.
Writing exclusively for the JC, Mr Hunt said the so-called Item 7 resolutions devoted solely to condemning Israel - heard at every session of the HRC - “undermine the credibility of the world’s leading human rights forum”.
He added that Britain would begin by voting against all four Item 7 texts put forward for the 40th session of the 47 member council in Geneva on Friday.
Mr Hunt writes: “Item 7 strengthens the hard and trampled road of self-righteousness, a narrative that one side alone holds a monopoly of fault.
“Two years ago, the United Kingdom said that unless the situation changed, we would vote against all texts proposed under Item 7.
“Sadly, our concerns have not been heeded. So I have decided that we will do exactly what we said: Britain will now oppose every Item 7 resolution. On Friday we will vote against all four texts proposed in this way.”
The Foreign Secretary stressed that opposing Item 7 did not mean that the government would “hold back from voicing concerns about Israel’s actions” — particularly over the treatment of protesters in Gaza and on the question of illegal settlements in West Bank.
But he added: “We will continue to press for the abolition of Item 7, which only undermines the credibility of the world’s leading human rights forum.”
On Monday, ahead of the vote, the council discussed seven separate reports alleging Israeli war crimes and other human rights offenses — the most on any country.
Chief among them was one which claimed that Israel had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Gaza border protests last year.
The Foreign Secretary said: “For too long, a permanent item on the Human Rights Council has been dedicated solely to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
“Instead of promoting reconciliation and compromise, Item 7 strengthens the narrative that one side alone holds a monopoly on fault.
“I believe that this disproportionate and discriminatory focus on Israel undermines the credibility of the world’s leading human rights forum and obstructs the quest for peace in the Middle East. That is why the UK will be opposing every Item 7 resolution at the HRC.”
Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl said: "We congratulate the UK on its new and principled stance on announcing that it will fulfil its promise to vote against all resolutions tabled under the UN Human Rights Council’s discriminatory Item 7.
"We would particularly like to thank the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt for their leadership on this issue. All supporters of human rights should applaud this move, which could in time lead to the UN ceasing to be discredited through its overt partisanship and becoming trusted once again as the arbiter of universal human rights that we all want it to be.
"We call on other states who genuinely support the advancement of human rights to follow the UK’s moral stand."
Last year, the US dropped out of the HRC, citing its treatment of Israel. Israel joined the US in leaving.
On Wednesday, Mr Hunt met the Jewish Leadership Council, which included a discussion of the UN's "longstanding and ongoing bias" against Israel, the JLC said.
The JLC thanked Mr Hunt for his apology for how the British Government capped Jewish immigration to the British Mandate of Palestine in 1939 and the Government's recent proscription of terror group Hezbolllah in full.
JLC Chief Executive Simon Johnson said: “At a time when the Jewish community feels vulnerable, we are extremely grateful and reassured that senior members of the Government are so willing to meet with us to discuss our community’s needs and interests.”