image Photo: Reuters

US to rejoin UNHRC, shield Israel

The United States is seeking to re-join the controversial United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), where the administration of US President Joe Biden says it will press to eliminate a “disproportionate focus” on ally Israel.

Former President Donald Trump resigned from the council in 2018 over what then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said was its “protection of human rights abusers and a clear bias against Israel.”

“For too long the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias,” stated then-US  Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, underscoring that the 47-member group made “a mockery of human rights” for “obsessively condemning Israel.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Office released a statement at the time, thanking the US for its “courageous decision against the hypocrisy and the lies of the so-called UN Human Rights Council.”

The council, set up in 2006, has a stand-alone permanent item on the Palestinian territories on its agenda at each and every session. Both Democratic and Republican US administrations have opposed the discriminatory designation. The Geneva-based bodyUNHRC routinely adopts resolutions condemning alleged violations by Israel in Gaza and the West Bank.

At the time of the US withdrawal, Haley said “You know something is seriously wrong when the Council passes more than 70 resolutions against Israel – which has a strong human rights record, and just 7 resolutions against Iran” – whose history is what she described as “abysmal.” She also warned that if the UNHRC refused to shift policy, it would risk becoming a “showcase for dictatorships” and “a cover for some of the worst atrocities” being perpetrated by offenders worldwide.

Despite this troubled history, the Biden government has already returned to the UNHRC as an observer. Current Secretary of State Antony Blinken informed the council via video that he was “pleased to announce the United States will seek election to the Human Rights Council for the 2022-24 term,” and that “We humbly ask for the support of all UN member states in our bid to return to a seat in this body.”

Election for three-year membership at the council will be held by the UN General Assembly in October.

Secretary Blinken did acknowledge that “Those with the worst human rights records should not be members of this Council.” Current states include the Philippines and Venezuela who are under formal scrutiny by UNHRC, as well as  China and Russia.

“We will continue to call out abuses in places like Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Iran,” added the top US diplomat.

With reference to the Jewish State, he said that “As the United States re-engages, we urge the Human Rights Council to look at how it conducts its business. That includes its disproportionate focus on Israel.”

In a written statement issued later by the State Department obtained by TV7, Blinken said: “We acknowledge challenges at the Council as well, including unacceptable bias against Israel and membership rules that allow countries with atrocious human rights records to occupy seats they do not merit. However, improving the Council and advancing its critical work is best done with a seat at the table.”