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Why the UN Human Rights Council Has Outlived Its Usefulness

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The UN Human Rights Council has added another arrow in its anti-Israel quiver. It is already committed, by its Agenda Item #7, to consider at every session the “human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.” Now it has established a Commission of Inquiry (COI), to engage in an open-ended probe into Israeli “war crimes”; the three-man commission is to be headed by the notoriously anti-Israel Navi Pillay, who once accused Israel of deliberately mowing down Palestinian children; it will have a staff of 24 to investigate the putative misdeeds of the tiny Jewish state, larger than the number of staffers – 20 – that the UNHRC now assigns to cover all of Asia, Pacific, and the Middle East. “Let’s resolve to abolish the UN Human Rights Council,” by Melanie Phillips, Israel Hayom, December 31, 2021:

The UNHRC vote [authorizing the formation of the COI] took place within weeks of a report by the Human Rights Watch NGO which accused Israel of “apartheid.”

This accusation is of course ludicrous. Israeli Arabs demonstrably enjoy equal civic and religious rights, while the Arabs living in the disputed territories aren’t Israeli citizens at all. Those who accuse Israel of apartheid not only defame Israel but belittle the real evil of apartheid in South Africa.

Yet with the three members of the commission each having a record of extreme hostility towards Israel, there are plausible fears that the inquiry is a stitch-up designed to produce a kind of Human Rights Watch report on steroids – and with the imprimatur of the UN.

Moreover, the commission has no expiry date but is to issue reports in perpetuity. In other words, it’s an institutionalized engine of demonization and delegitimization of Israel.

This three-man commission, all of them known to be hostile to the Jewish state – with a staff of 24 – is meant to issue quarterly reports on the “human rights” and “war crimes” situation in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, not merely for a year or two, but presumably forever, for nothing was said either by the UNHRC or by the General Assembly, which authorized the financing of the COI, about its ever coming to an end. It’s an open-ended probe of “war crimes” supposedly committed by those endlessly wicked Israelis.

There are particular fears that the inquiry’s criminal charge sheet may result in Israelis being hauled before the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has previously displayed bias against Israel. However, the ICC’s new prosecutor, the British lawyer Karim Khan QC, may not be the pushover [by the anti-Israeli crowd] that might be assumed from the court’s previous record.

At his first news conference in The Hague earlier this month, he said he would be reviewing his over-heavy caseload – which currently includes a deeply contentious investigation into accusations against Israel made by the “State of Palestine.”  

Karim Khan, QC, the new prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, sounds as though he thinks the ICC’s docket has been overburdened with cases, and that he will therefore be decreasing his caseload, pruning it of the least meritorious and least convincing cases of putative misdeeds. He has still not endorse the charges brought against Israel by the “State of Palestine,” as he might have — a good sign. More importantly, he added that he would only proceed in cases that had a “realistic prospect of conviction.” Another good sign.

So even if the Pillay commission’s toxic ball lands at Khan’s feet, it doesn’t follow that he will necessarily pick it up and run with it.

Karim Khan’s remarks about are evidence that he is not to be counted as automatically anti-Israel. The Palestinians who have been overloaded the ICC docket with accusations against Israel, will no doubt assume that a prosecutor named Karim Khan will be on their side; I suspect from his statement that they will be most disappointed.

Nevertheless, the real menace of this inquiry lies in its potential to demonize Israel in the eyes of the world regardless of any court proceedings. Such delegitimization not only makes people indifferent to attempts by Israel’s enemies to wage war against it, but also causes leading nations to seek to thwart its attempts at self-defense.

The UNHRC’s decision to establish this permanent Commission of Inquiry to look into misdeeds, including “war crimes,“ of Israel alone, coming on top of the Agenda Item #7 that commits the UN Human Rights Council, at every session, to report on the “human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories,” the world’s unwary — which is most of us — are likely to assume that there must surely be something terribly wrong with Israel, for so many investigations to be interminably launched into its conduct. This is what the author, Melanie Phillips, means by the potential of the COI to “demonize” Israel in the eyes of the world. Even If the ICC’s prosecutor, Karim Khan, decides not to bring charges against Israel before the International Criminal Court because of a lack of convincing evidence, the damage to Israel’s image will still have been done. The Jewish state’s enemies – especially the terror groups Hamas, PIJ, and Hezbollah — will be heartened, and “leading nations” may try to dissuade Israel from its perfectly legitimate attempts at self-defense. Because the terror groups deliberately hide themselves, their weapons, and their rocket launchers in civilian buildings – schools, hospitals, apartment buildings, it is not possible for the IDF to avoid all civilian casualties, though it makes heroic efforts to minimize them. And because of those unavoidable civilian casualties, there are countries that try to prevent Israel from defending itself. They demand of the Jewish state an impossible purity of arms that they demand of no other country, including themselves.

Accordingly, the Pillay inquiry constitutes an existential attack against Israel – the latest product of an obscene and exterminatory UNHRC obsession.

The council and its predecessor body the Commission on Human Rights – whose members have included such human rights abusers as Saudi Arabia, China, Cuba, Pakistan and Russia – have passed more resolutions condemning Israel than every other country in the world combined, while adopting no resolutions on human rights abuses committed in China, Cuba and Russia….

This obsessive focus by the UN Council on Human Rights on Israel as a “violator” of human rights is accompanied by an equally disturbing unconcern with such abusers of human rights as Saudi Arabia, China, Cuba, North Korea, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, and Russia.

These visionaries failed to grasp that, since the world was dominated by states and regimes that were both repressive and deeply imbued with Jew-hatred and hostility to Israel, any world body or supra-national system of law would itself become an accomplice to tyranny and antisemitism.

I’m not sure that Melanie Phillips is correct in stating that the world has been dominated by states that are “deeply imbued with Jew-hatred and hostility to Israel”; this strikes me as a more recent phenomenon, one that is linked to two things: the vast increase in wealth and political influence of the Sunni Arab states of the Gulf, and the enormous increase in the Muslim population in Europe and North America, which has spread antisemitic and anti-Israel views.

That’s why “lawfare,” or the weaponization of international law to wage war with better PR, has become a prime weapon against Israel, singling out the Jewish people alone for such unhinged attack….

Along with terror attacks on Israeli Jews, and the attacks on Israel’s economic wellbeing promoted by the army of BDSers, the Palestinians have used the UN to attack Israel as a “violator of human rights” when, at every session of the UN Human Rights Council, Agenda Item #7 is brought up. Now they will have still another lawfare weapon, that to be found in the open-ended investigation of “Israeli war crimes” that will be conducted by the UNHRC Commission of Inquiry.

If the decent nations of the world, led by the United States, and including most European nations, as well as Canada and Australia, were to halt their funding of the UN unless and until the UNHRC were shut down as “a malignant promoter of antisemitism in its singling out of Israel for criticism,” it just might come to pass. The US alone provides more than $11 billion a year to the UN, between one-fifth and one-quarter of the UN’s total budget. China, with an economy close in size to that of the US, contributes far less – only $1.7 billion a year. America’s withdrawal of its support to the UN would require the organization to pull in its horns. If in addition, the other Western nations were to join the US in withholding funds, this would amount to a 70% decrease in the organization’s budget. This would cripple the UN. Or, if a wholesale shutting-down of the UN Human Rights Council seems inadvisable to some of its critics, then another tack might be taken. In order for the UN to retain the financial support of the US and its allies, the Human Rights Council could continue to exist, but would be required to get rid of both Agenda Item #7 (that requires the UNHRC to take up Israeli “violations of the human rights of Palestinians” at every session) and of the newly-formed Commission of Inquiry, with its open-ended investigation of Israeli “war crimes.”

Sounds like a plan.

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