Testimony by UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer in U.S. Congress
Delivered today, November 8, 2023, before the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Global Human Rights and International Organizations, U.S. House of Representatives, Hearing on United Nations’ Bigotry Towards Israel
Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Wild, members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to testify at this important hearing. I have come here from Geneva, from the headquarters of the United Nations Human Rights Council, to report to you on how that and other key UN bodies, as well as high UN officials, are engaged in the systematic demonization of Israel, even in the aftermath of last month’s massacre by Hamas.
Mr. Chairman, the United Nations was founded in wake of the Nazi atrocities. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was created in response to “barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind.”
One month ago, on October 7th, Hamas sent thousands of terrorists to infiltrate into Israel. They broke into more than a dozen residential communities, and massacred entire families, committing horrific and sadistic acts. They slaughtered 260 young people at a music festival. In total, Hamas on that day murdered more than 1,400 people.
“There are moments in this life,” said President Joe Biden, “when pure, unadulterated evil is unleashed on this world. The people of Israel lived through one such moment this weekend. This was an act of sheer evil.”
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that “the attacks in Israel…shocked the world. Over 1,400 people murdered, one by one. The elderly men, women, children, babies in arms—murdered, mutilated, burned alive. We should call it by its name: it was a pogrom.”
Mr. Chairman, one would expect the United Nations to likewise speak clearly and denounce barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind.
Yet this is not what has been happening.
Instead, over the past month, despite some condemnations of Hamas, the overwhelming majority of statements by UN bodies and officials have been pointing the finger at Israel, expressly or by implication. The most excited and emotive declarations by the UN’s highest officials, describing suffering in Gaza, are directed at Israel. Never does the UN blame Hamas launching the war, and for embedding themselves inside hospitals, homes, mosques and schools.
There are almost no such posts about the massacre of October 7th, about millions of Israelis subjected now to rocket attacks, about hundreds of thousands of Israelis displaced, about the more than 200 hostages — they are not being championed in the UN’s dramatic social media. The target is always Israel.
Often this is done by misrepresenting basic facts, such as by falsely accusing Israel of bombing a hospital where the culprit was the Islamic Jihad; falsely characterizing Israel’s legitimate self-defence, actions aimed at targeting terrorists, as “collective punishment”; creating false moral equivalence between such self-defence and the terrorism; misusing numbers of Gaza dead: not telling us the source of the data is Hamas, not telling us how many are terrorists, including those killed in Israel; and pretending that proportionality is about comparing death tolls when it is about using proportional means to achieve a military objective.
The UN Charter guarantees “the equal rights of nations large and small.” Yet nowhere is this principle more violated at the world body than when it comes to its treatment of Israel.
At the General Assembly last year, there was one resolution on Iran, one on Syria, and one on North Korea — and 15 on Israel. Zero resolutions were adopted on China, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, and 180 other countries.
At the UN General Assembly, any resolution targeting Israel is passed by an automatic majority, which includes the world’s worst dictatorships.
This was on display two weeks ago, when the GA adopted an Arab-drafted resolution calling for a ceasefire, after it outrageously rejected a Canadian amendment that would have condemned Hamas for its massacre and demanded the immediate release of over 200 Israeli hostages, including children, babies, and elderly grandmothers.
So the text adopted by the UNGA failed to even mention the word Hamas, and failed to recognize Israel’s right and duty to defend its citizens against terrorism.
At the World Health Organization, every year its annual assembly deviates from global public health for a special debate singling out Israel.
There is no such focus on Syria, where hospitals are repeatedly bombed by Syrian and Russian forces; nor on North Korea, one of the worst health systems in the world. On the contrary, the WHO recently elected North Korea to its Executive Board.
Since the Hamas massacre, the vast majority of statements by the WHO and its director, Dr. Tedros, have targeted Israel. Hamas is seldom mentioned.
Dr. Tedros has posted numerous statements falsely implying that Israel targets hospitals. He fails to say that Israel’s military abides by the law of armed conflict, and expends enormous efforts to avoid harming civilians, while Hamas’ strategy is to embed itself inside hospitals, homes, mosques and schools, to use Gaza civilians as human shields.
On October 17th, Dr. Tedros rushed to “strongly condemn the attack on Al Ahli Arab Hospital in north Gaza….Early reports indicate hundreds of deaths and injuries.” He called for Israel’s evacuation order of the area to be reversed, and ended with the hashtag, “#NotATarget.”
In truth, Israel never “targeted” or attacked that hospital, and there were no hundreds killed. The US, France, Britain and Canada all confirmed Israel’s analysis showing that the explosion was caused by a failed rocket launch by Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Dr. Tedros never corrected his false accusation, and never deleted his tweet.
Likewise, two days ago, Dr. Tedros posted a call for a ceasefire, in a joint statement with heads of other UN agencies such as OCHA, WFP, OHCHR and UN Women, without any mention of the word Hamas. Israel’s right to self-defence, to stop Hamas from carrying out their stated intentions to repeat the massacre of October 7, was nowhere mentioned.
At the UN’s Human Rights Council, most of the world’s serial abusers get a free pass. Many sit on the Council, including Qatar, Kazakhstan and Pakistan. Last month, they re-elected the regimes of China and Cuba. None has ever been censured.
Last week, when the UN Human Rights Council opened its 2023 Social Forum, the Chair was the Islamic Republic of Iran.
While dictators are honored, a democracy is scapegoated. The only country in the world with a standing agenda item at the Council is not China, which denies basic human rights to 1.5 billion people, nor is it Iran which beats, blinds and poisons women and girls for protesting, and which sponsors Hamas. Instead, it is Israel.
From the Council’s creation in 2006 to today, it has adopted more resolutions on Israel, 104, than on any other country in the world. More than on Iran, Syria, and North Korea put together.
In May 2021, after Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired 4,000 rockets at Israeli civilian centers, the Council created a Commission of Inquiry targeting Israel. It is the first with no end date; it is mandated to report in perpetuity.
Its unprecedented scope includes a mandate to examine “root causes” of the conflict, including alleged “systematic discrimination” based on race.
As Chair of the Inquiry, the Council appointed Navi Pillay, who has signed petitions lobbying governments to “Sanction Apartheid Israel.” UN Watch documented her bias in a in a legal request to Ms. Pillay that she recuse herself. She has ignored it.
Another commissioner is Miloon Kothari. Last year, he gave an interview where he ranted about “the Jewish lobby” and questioned Israel’s right to be a member of the UN. He was condemned by numerous countries and UN officials for antisemitism, yet he remains in his post.
Not surprisingly, in their most recent press release on October 16th, the commissioners create a false moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas, refusing to treat Hamas as a terrorist organization, and refusing to affirm Israel’s right to self-defense.
In a recent Al Jazeera interview, Navi Pillay effectively explained Hamas’ terrorism as inevitable, making false comparisons to Nelson Mandela.
Other officials need to be examined. Last year, the Council named Francesca Albanese as its “Special Rapporteur on Palestine.” The mandate is to investigate only “Israel’s violations.”
UN experts are obliged to be objective. Before she was appointed, we informed the Council that Albanese had repeatedly equated Palestinian suffering with the Nazi Holocaust, and accused Israel of war crimes, apartheid, and genocide. In a 2014 Facebook post, she wrote that America is “subjugated by the Jewish lobby.” Still, the Council appointed her.
Ever since, Albanese has used her UN post to actually legitimize terrorism. Last November, she addressed a Hamas conference where she said, “you have a right to resist.” Yes, a UN human rights expert encouraged Hamas. Six days ago, she led six other so-called UN experts to accuse Israel of attempting “genocide.”
This insane charge was also made a few days prior by Craig Mokhiber, the outgoing head of the UN human rights office in New York, in a manifesto that he published as an open letter to the UN, where he implied that he was quitting as an act of conscience. This supposed moral protest was covered immediately by The Guardian and Al Jazeera.
What they did not report was that Craig Mokhiber actually had to leave his job now, and that he was under investigation since March, after we exposed his litany of social media posts describing Israel in terms of infinite evil.
Finally, we need to address UNRWA, which in 2022 alone, received $344 million in U.S. funding. Under the slogan “Peace Starts Here,” UNRWA tells donor states that they educate Palestinians about human rights and peace, that they promote stability.
Yet today we have released a new report: Hate Starts Here: How UNRWA Teachers Indoctrinate Palestinian Children and Incite Antisemitism.
Our last report documented how UNRWA staff regularly call to murder Jews, and create teaching materials that glorify terrorism, encourage martyrdom, demonize Israelis and incite antisemitism. We identified 133 UNRWA educators and staff who were found to promote hate and violence on social media.
Our new report examines how UNRWA staff reacted to the Hamas massacre. As soon as news of the slaughter broke, UNRWA staff immediately celebrated it on Facebook:
• “Allah is Great, Allah is Great, reality surpasses our wildest dreams,” posted UNRWA Gaza teacher Osama Ahmed.
• UNRWA principal Iman Hassan justified the massacre as “restoring rights” and “redressing grievances.”
• Rawia Helles, Director of UNRWA’s Khan Younis Training Center, and featured in an UNRWA video, glorified one of the terrorists as a “hero” and a “prince.”
• UNRWA English Teacher Asmaa Rafiq Kuheil excitedly called to “sculpture the date,” adding a heart emoji.
• UNRWA School Administrator Hmada Ahmed posted, “welcome the great October.”
Finally, there is UNRWA official Mohammed Al-Shaikh Ali. He recently posted the following: “Anyone who talks about taking refuge in Sinai is a traitor; anyone who tries to flee to the south, should be treated the way we ought to treat traitors.”
Mr. Chairman, in other words, we have someone who identifies himself on Facebook as an UNRWA official, with prominent photos of him receiving UNRWA awards, calling on Hamas to execute Gazans who want to go south to get away from them.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, on the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, key bodies and officials of the United Nations are exploiting and distorting the language of human rights, and the basic concepts of international law, in order to cast Israel as a racist and genocidal state, as the manifestation of infinite evil, even as it is trying to defend itself from one of the most horrific mass terrorist attacks of our time.
At a moment when the world need moral clarity and leadership, the United Nations has failed. Its actions only incentivize Hamas to continue their strategy of using Palestinians as human shields and maximizing casualties. The United Nations will never live up to its founding promise so long as this pathology endures.