Israel apologists want to reform the UNHRC by silencing it

The overwhelming majority of the work from the U.N. Watch is to challenge anyone or any agency at the U.N. who dares to criticize Israel

Chris Doyle

Published: Updated:

Candidates beware! Those on the shortlist to become the next U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Palestine at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) better have six-inch thick skin.

They should put on a suit of armour and invest in Kevlar. Expect your career to be scrutinized in minute detail, every word uttered on the Middle East picked over, twisted and abused.

You will be termed ‘anti-Semitic’ by some until proven otherwise. If you criticize the blockade of Gaza, which indeed you must on any human rights basis, you will be pro-Hamas.

Israeli supporters claim that the UNHRC overly focuses on Israeli crimes. This is a very fair criticism.

A large amount of effort and time has been looking at Israeli crimes whilst other countries records are ignored or do not receive as much examination. The UNHRC is not fit for purpose. Worst of all it makes little impact on the ground. Israel just ignores it.

Scrutinized, but for a reason

However, Israeli crimes are not fiction. They are happening, they are extensively documented and there are victims. The reports of successive U.N. Special Rapporteurs reflect the findings of Israeli, Palestinian, and international human rights groups.

Israel takes land, resources, uses torture and overwhelming and indiscriminate force, implements collective punishment against civilian populations, demolishes homes and has denied freedom to millions of Palestinians for decades. Areas of historic Palestine have been ethnically cleansed with over 500 Palestinian villages simply destroyed.

The Jordan Valley is suffering this fate right now. Over 70 percent of the Palestinian population are refugees. Gaza is collectively punished with restrictions on basic supplies with its population suffering from a seven-year blockade.

Most Israeli apologists do not address these issues. Just check out the work of U.N. Watch, the overwhelming majority of whose work is to challenge anyone or any agency at the U.N. who dares to criticize Israel. For many years, the American Jewish Committee funded it.

What these apologists want is for the U.N. to leave Israel alone so it can continue or even accelerate what is has been doing for over 60 years. Many are effectively saying that they wished that the world would care as little for these Palestinian victims as they do for others.

A case in point is an article by Avi Jorisch. He informs us how awful all the other conflicts are, many worse than the Arab-Israeli one.

But at no point does he highlight what Israel has done and by doing so, he underplays its appalling record and acts as an apologist for serious violations of international law.

For sure, Syria and North Korea have appalling records, but also they do not get billions of U.S. dollars in aid, invites to the White House and a protective U.S. diplomatic and military shield. Israel is still welcomed in much of the international community as if it was a progressive force.

Chris Doyle

Jorish makes the ludicrous argument that the U.N. rapporteur on Palestine has to compare Israeli human rights abuses with those of other states as if he has the time to tour the world’s trouble spots to do this. Just because there are states that have behaved worse does not excuse Israel its crimes.

Israel’s special case

For sure, Syria and North Korea have appalling records, but also they do not get billions of U.S. dollars in aid, invites to the White House and a protective U.S. diplomatic and military shield. Israel is still welcomed in much of the international community as if it was a progressive force.

Once again Israel apologists like Jorish tout Israel’s democratic credentials ignoring the glaring inequalities within Israel itself or that a 47-year-old occupation that denies millions of Palestinians their democratic rights is anti-democratic itself.

Those who commit the human rights abuses get less attention and less criticism than their critics. Jorish also twists many of outgoing incumbent special rapporteur, Richard Falk’s words and arguments. Falk’s predecessor, John Duggard was maliciously labelled as “the U.N.’s Spokesperson for Suicide Bombers."

The U.S. Ambassador to the UNHRC, Eileen Donahoe said about Falk: “His views and behaviour, both official and unofficial, are offensive and provocative and do nothing to advance peace in the Middle East or to further the protection and promotion of human rights. We again call for his resignation. ”

How many American politicians and diplomats have gone even half as far to condemn Avigdor Liberman, Naftali Bennett and Uri Ariel who have violated international law and have actually blocked the peace process with their actions?

Human rights violations cannot be denied

Jorish chastises Falk for his accusation that Israel has adopted a policy of apartheid as if there was no possibility that there was merit in the case. He shoots the messenger without engaging the issue. In 2010 Falk outlined why he believed it was an apartheid situation, citing the factual reality on the ground of how Israel treats Palestinians and Israeli settlers differently in their laws.

"Among the salient apartheid features of the Israeli occupation are the following: preferential citizenship, visitation and residence laws and practices that prevent Palestinians who reside in the West Bank or Gaza from reclaiming their property or from acquiring Israeli citizenship, as contrasted to a Jewish right of return that entitles Jews anywhere in the world with no prior tie to Israel to visit, reside and become Israeli citizens; differential laws in the West Bank and East Jerusalem favouring Jewish settlers who are subject to Israeli civilian law and constitutional protection, as opposed to Palestinian residents, who are governed by military administration; dual and discriminatory arrangements for movement in the West Bank and to and from Jerusalem; discriminatory policies on land ownership, tenure and use; extensive burdening of Palestinian movement, including checkpoints applying differential limitations on Palestinians and on Israeli settlers, and onerous permit and identification requirements imposed only on Palestinians; punitive house demolitions, expulsions and restrictions on entry and exit from all three parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories."

Whether you call it apartheid or not, it is completely unacceptable.

Human rights abusers the world over hide behind Israel’s record. They know that until the U.S. requires Israel to adhere to international law, they have the perfect card to play to deflect criticism. How can you slam us when you say and do nothing about your closest ally, Israel and what it is doing?

The answer is of course not to silence the criticism of Israel’s systematic human rights abuses but to be more vocal about others. It is wonderful that Israel and its supporters express so much concern about the suffering of oppressed peoples across the world but they will have no moral authority to help them until they addresses Israel’s own shortcomings. By doing so they will not only improve Israel’s security, but its standing in the world.

The counterpoint to this article can be found here.


Chris Doyle is the director of CAABU (the London-based Council for Arab-British Understanding). He has worked with the Council since 1993 after graduating with a first class honors degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Exeter University. As the lead spokesperson for Caabu and as an acknowledged expert on the region, Chris is a frequent commentator on TV and Radio, having given over 148 interviews on the Arab world in in 2012 alone. He gives numerous talks around the country on issues such as the Arab Spring, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Islamophobia and the Arabs in Britain. He has had numerous articles and letters published in the British and international media. He has travelled to nearly every country in the Middle East. He has organized and accompanied numerous British Parliamentary delegations to Arab countries. Most recently he took Parliamentary delegations to the West Bank in April, November, December 2013 and January 2014 including with former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

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