Below is Hillel Neuer’ testimony delivered before a hearing of the U.S. Congress on June 22, 2023. For Mr. Neuer’s full written testimony to the Congress, click here.
The House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Subcommittee on Global Health, Global Human
Rights, and International Organizations
Hearing: Responding to Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israel Bias in the UN,
Palestinian Authority, and NGO Community
Rep. Chris Smith, Chairman: Hillel Neuer, the Executive Director of UN Watch, has been a mighty force for good in exposing and fighting an unconscionable UN bias against Israel, including out of all places, the UN Human Rights Council. Mr. Neuer taught international human rights at the Geneva School of Diplomacy and served as vice-president of the NGO Special Committee on Human Rights in Geneva. I know that I frequently, and I told him this a moment ago, go to his website. He does an amazing job. Again, thank you for that leadership.
Hillel Neuer: Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Wild, members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify at this important hearing. I have come here directly from the Human Rights Council session now underway in Geneva, to report about the antisemitism and demonization of Israel that is taking place there, and in many other parts of the United Nations.
The UN Charter guarantees “the equal rights of nations large and small.” Yet if an alien from another planet visited the United Nations and listened to its debates, read its resolutions, and walked its halls, it could logically conclude that a principal purpose of the world body is to censure a tiny country called Israel.
At the General Assembly, as you indicated Mr. Chairman, in 2022 there was one resolution on Iran, one on Syria, and one on North Korea — and 15 on Israel.
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 just elected North Korea to its Executive Board.
At the UN’s Human Rights Council, most of the world’s worst abusers get a free pass. Worse, many abusers sit on the Council, including China, Cuba, Qatar and Pakistan. None of these has ever been censured. And last month, when it came time to appoint a Chair of the UNHRC Social Forum, they appointed the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Standing Agenda Item on Israel
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. It is Israel.
From the Council’s creation in 2006 to today, it has adopted 2 resolutions on Sudan, 3 on Venezuela, 12 on Eritrea, 14 on Iran, 16 on North Korea, 42 on Syria — and 103 on Israel. So more on Israel than on Iran, North Korea and Syria combined.
Commissioner Milloon Kothari Denounced Worldwide for Antisemitism
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 scope includes not only the war of that year, but all events leading up to it, and since. They have the unprecedented 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 legal request that she recuse herself, but this was ignored.
Another commissioner is Miloon Kothari. Last summer, 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 has remained in his post.
In this regard, I want to commend the superb work of U.S. Ambassador to the Human Rights Council, Michele Taylor, in leading 27 member states this week to object to this commission of inquiry, and to call for an end to anti-Israel bias at the Council.
Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese Legitimizes Hamas Terrorism
Other officials also need to be examined. Last year, the Council appointed Francesca Albanese as its“Special Rapporteur on Palestine.” The mandate, in fact, 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.” The Council knew all this, and appointed her. One year into the post, Albanese has repeatedly legitimized terrorism, and addressed a Hamas conference where she said you have a right to resist.”
Eric Tistounet’s Dirty Tricks Campaign Targeting UN Watch
Mr. Chairman, because of our work fighting this discrimination, we are now being targeted.
UN Watch, the Swiss non-profit association that I direct, was founded in Geneva in 1993 by former US Ambassador and civil rights leader Morris Abram. We have never received funding from any government, and are supported solely by charitable donations. Our reports and speeches, exposing anti-Israel prejudice and combating dictatorships at the Human Rights Council, are seen worldwide.
In retaliation, the powerful chief of the council’s secretariat, Mr. Eric Tistounet, is running a campaign of smear attacks, censorship and harassment against me, and our organization. He tampers with speakers lists to prevent us from taking the floor at the Council.
According to whistleblower testimony by his former colleague Emma Reilly, Mr. Tistounet justified his actions by falsely claiming that UN Watch was an “Israeli GONGO” — a fake, government-operated NGO.
When discussing me and UN Watch, Ms. Reilly reports that the chief of the Human Rights Council secretariat would frequently use anti-Semitic tropes, to the effect that we were controlling member states or other NGOs behind the scenes.
Based on leaked internal emails and whistleblower testimony, our complaint documents how Mr. Tistounet, in violation of UN rules, systematically orders his staff to manipulate speakers lists to prevent UN Watch from speaking at the Human Rights Council. For example, in the June 2022 session, we requested to speak for 36 interactive debates. Groups close to Mr. Tistounet received about 15 slots, we received zero.
- Mr. Tistounet concocted a fictitious rule, specially for us, demanding to see our speeches in advance, enabling him to draft reprimands, which he would hand the Chair to read out against UN Watch, without any basis.
- According to leaked internal documents, which he has never disputed, when Mr. Tistounetlearned in 2007 that I was the victim of a false arrest due to mistaken identity, he sent out a celebratory email to his 50-member staff at the UNHRC.
- This chief of the Human Rights Council secretariat further instructed his UN employees to secretly go to an internet café and to anonymously defame me online, and to post the material next to videos of my speeches about the Council.
- Finally, according to the leaked emails, Mr. Tistounet told his staff to think of ways to have me physical detained by UN security, in order to block me from entering the Council chamber in Geneva.
We filed a detailed complaint about this with Secretary-General Guterres, in October. UN Assistant Secretary-General Martha Helena Lopez replied that it would be considered “as per internal procedures.” Eight months later, nothing has happened.
On the contrary, in the current June-July session of the UNHRC, I’ve just received word from my colleagues in Geneva that the speakers’ lists were once again manipulated by Mr. Tistounet. Groups that are close to him, like Amnesty International, received 19 speaking slots, while we are being prevented from speaking more than once.
Mr. Chairman, in summary, because of our work to expose antisemitism and other forms of prejudice and injustice at the Human Rights Council, its chief of staff is trying to censor and silence us. He doesn’t want the world to know.
We appeal to the United States and all other countries that care about human rights to demand that this bigoted and corrupt official be suspended, and that the Secretary-General create an independent investigation, as requested in our complaint.
In conclusion, UN bodies routinely apply double standards to Israel not expected of other democratic countries, singling out the world’s only Jewish state for opprobrium in a way that is wholly disproportionate to its deficiencies. UN officials have claimed that the State of Israel is a racist endeavor, drawn comparisons of current Israeli policy to that of the Nazis, or accused Israel of “genocide.” Under the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, it is clear that the actions of numerous UN bodies and officials are antisemitic in effect if not intent.
I want to thank this Committee for taking up this urgent matter, and especially you, Chairman Smith, for your leadership. Thank you.