THE BLOG

The "Objective" UN Human Rights Council

Late last month, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released its report on the May 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla incident, concluding that the Israeli commandos involved engaged in "extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions" of peace activists bringing supplies and humanitarian aid to the besieged territory. Gareth Porter, writing on this site shortly after the report was released, said that it "will certainly be the most objective, thorough and in-depth inquiry into the events on board the Mavi Marmara." Of course it will, Mr. Porter, because it was issued by that impeccable, crown jewel of objectivity, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC).

For those not in the know, the HRC was created in May 2006 to replace its predecessor, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, which had been repeatedly criticized for allowing member states with dreadful human rights records (note: current members include China, Saudi Arabia, and Kyrgyzstan). At its first meeting in June 2006, the HRC voted to make a review of Israel's human rights abuses a permanent feature of each council session, the only country in the world to enjoy that distinct honor. To date, it has passed 61 resolutions, 30 of which have been directed at Israel. For comparison, Sudan, where nearly half a million people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced due to the genocide in Darfur, has been the target of 7 resolutions, or about one quarter of Israel's total. China, where political dissent is silenced through torture and pregnant mothers are forced to submit to mandatory abortions and sterilizations, has been the target of exactly zero. Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed to receive an education or drive on the roads and limbs (including heads) are removed for the crime of homosexuality: zero. In fact, the HRC's almost fanatical obsession with Israel has led UN Secretaries General Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon to denounce its "disproportionate focus" on the country "given the range and scope of allegations of human rights violations throughout the world."

As for the flotilla report, it was based on interviews with 112 eyewitnesses who mostly sympathized with the alleged victims and were therefore predisposed to place the blame on Israel. The Israeli government declined to cooperate with the investigation (understandable considering that it had to know it would never get a fair shake), meaning that the information it garnered was necessarily one-sided. The final product is about as objective as the council's 2006 report on the Lebanon conflict and its 2009 report on the Gaza War (the Goldstone report), both of which shockingly concluded that Israel, and Israel alone, was to blame.

I want to be clear: I'm not arguing that Israel has an unblemished human rights record, nor that its abuses should be swept under the rug or ignored because of its strategic alliance with the United States or any other reason. Every nation should be condemned and accordingly punished for the abuse of human rights. But that's not how the HRC sees it. According to the HRC, Israel has committed 50% of resolution-worthy human rights violations worldwide, while China and Saudi Arabia have committed none. That's patently absurd, and that's why until the HRC stops turning a blind eye to the myriad abuses occurring elsewhere, focusing nearly all of its time and resources on attacking one nation again and again, it will continue to be impossible to take seriously.