Despite attempts at reform, the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights and the U.N. human rights bodies overseen by the High Commissioner continue to exhibit their historic bias against Israel.
In March 2006, the discredited U.N. Commission on Human Rights, known for its history of anti-Israel bias, was replaced by the new Human Rights Council (HRC) as part of Secretary-General Kofi Annan s program of reform. Israel and the United States, among many other member states, voted against the new council citing the ability of blatant human rights violators to be elected to the council and the failure to preempt continued institutional criticism of Israel.
During Israel's conflict with Hezbollah in July and August 2006, the HRC showed that the reorganization had done little to diminish the bias of its predecessor. The HRC adopted a resolution condemning Israel s military actions in Lebanon saying nothing of Hezbollah s unprovoked attacks on Israel, use of human shields, and blatant violation of Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls for the group s disarmament.
In November 2006, the HRC called its third special session, where once again the human rights body singled out Israel while ignoring the world s worst human rights violators. The Council passed Arab-backed resolutions condemning Israel for its occupation of the Golan Heights, the accidental deaths of Palestinians in Beit Hanoun in Gaza, and Israel s settlements in the West Bank. The General Assembly simultaneously passed its own resolution condemning Israel for Beit Hanoun. In the process of targeting Israel, the Council rejected a resolution that would have condemned the Khartoum regime for the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.
The Council continued to single out Israel for condemnation with Council President Luis Alfonso de Alba, Mexico’s Ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, proposing in June 2007 that Israel, and Israel alone, become part of the Council's permanent agenda. The proposal was adopted by consensus. As a result, and continuing a practice institutionalized in the discredited Commission on Human Rights, the Jewish State was singled out for alleged human rights violations on the permanent agenda of the HRC under Item 7, titled: Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories: Human rights violations and implications of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and other occupied Arab territories and the Right to self-determination of the Palestinian people. Israel is the only country in the world to appear on the HRC s permanent agenda, while countries such as China and Sudan, notorious for their human rights abuses, are included as part of the general debate.
In January 2008, the HRC held yet another special session which was specifically related to Israel. This sixth session was entitled Human rights violations emanating from Israeli military incursions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the recent ones in occupied Gaza and West Bank town of Nablus. The bias of the HRC is also evident from the partial reports produced by the Rapporteurs and the nine one-sided resolutions it passed. One especially outrageous report by Special Rapporteur John Dugard, entitled Human Rights Situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories dated January 21, 2008, went so far as to justify the violence of Palestinian terrorists, blaming Israel for their actions and comparing them to the Europeans who resisted Nazi occupation, asserting that acts of terror against military occupation must be seen in historical context.
In March 2008, as a result of the daily rocket attacks being fired from the Gaza Strip into Israeli cities, Israel tightened restrictions on imports into Gaza. In response, the High Commissioner of Human Rights at the time, Louise Arbour, chastised Israel and urged the international community to press Israel not to impose a humanitarian crisis on the Gaza Strip, while ignoring the suffering endured by Israelis who were faced with daily rocket barrages on their homes.
The 2008 appointment of Richard Falk as the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 constituted a new low for Israeli relations and indicated that the trend of the HRC s bias against Israel is far from over. Falk, a notorious critic of Israel, has compared Israeli treatment of Palestinians to the Nazis during the Holocaust.
In 2009, the High Commissioner of Human Rights, Navantham Pillay sponsored a Durban II Conference, meant to be a follow-up to the infamously anti-Semitic Durban Conference in 2001.
Pillay also follow her predecessors with her outspoken criticism of Israel. In November 2008, she harshly criticized Israeli policies in Gaza, giving scant acknowledgement to the daily and deadly rocket barrages Israeli civilians were faced with. Pillay continued to disparage Israel during the country s operations in Gaza, stating that she strongly condemned Israel's disproportionate use of force called on Israel's leaders to uphold international humanitarian law principles, especially those relating to proportionality in the use of military force and the prevention of collective punishment and the targeting of civilians.
The Council itself also issued a biased and statement during Israel‘s operation in Gaza, condemning "the Israeli ongoing military operation" and demanding Israel "stop the targeting of civilians and medical facilities.” Fortunately, the Council s biased approach toward Israel has been condemned by many international officials. Yet, despite this obvious bias, the Obama administration decided to join the council in March 2009. While many groups were dismayed by the US choice to participate in such a prejudiced forum, the administration assured the public that they would work to reform the Council from within.
The review of the Human Rights Council is to take place in 2010 and be done by an “Open-ended intergovernmental working group on the review of the work and functioning of the Human Rights Council.” This working group will meet twice for one week from October 25th to 29th, 2010 and from January 17th to 21st 2011 and report about its outcomes at the 17th session (June 2011).