On the same day that Palestinian rockets fired from Northern Gaza killed one Israeli civilian and seriously injured two others, the UN Human Rights Council met in special session today to condemn Israel—the only country the body has censured during its five-month existence. The pretext for slamming Israel this time was the tragic deaths of 19 in the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, which resulted from errant Israeli artillery fire as the Jewish state sought to defend itself against the Kassam rocket attacks.  See UN Watch speech to Council below.

The emergency meeting was called by the Council’s powerful Islamic bloc, which easily won a censure of Israel for the “willful killing” of Palestinian civilians. The text entirely ignored any mention of the truly willful killing of Israeli civilians by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other Palestinian groups. The Council voted 32-8, with six abstentions, to approve the resolution. Canada and most European Union members voted against the resolution because they considered it one-sided, while France abstained. The U.S. and Australia are not currently voting members of the 47-nation Council, but as observers each strongly criticized the session for its bias. As usual, China, Russia and Cuba were among the states that automatically supported the anti-Israel measure.

The condemnation made no mention of the systematic Palestinian firing of Kassam rockets from Gaza into Israel, which today morning killed 57-year-old Faina Slutzker, a resident of Sderot, as she was crossing the street with her husband, nor of the other victims, one of whom lost both his legs in the  barrage. The resolution’s inflammatory language against Israel is likely to embolden extremists in the region and give moral support to the Hamas government’s recent promise to send more suicide bombers to attack Israel.

More than 50 countries spoke during the debate, mostly from the Arab and Islamic blocs. The Palestinian Authority said the Kassam rockets were nothing but harmless “Christmas firecrackers.” It accused Israel of committing “horrendous war crimes” in Gaza, and demanded that Israel’s leaders be tried by international tribunals.  Lebanon said Israel had not quenched its “thirst for blood” with the Lebanese, and so now looks to the unarmed civilians of Beit Hanoun.  Bangladesh said Israel was guilty of “crimes against humanity.” Cuba, which currently chairs the Non-Aligned Movement, said that Israel is perpetrating a “true genocide” against the Palestinian people. Sudan—yes, of all countries, Sudan—accused Israel of “monstrous” actions. Similar accusations came from such paragons of human rights virtue as Belarus, Iran and Venezuela.

This is the third special session that the Council has held in its five months of existence.  The first two, in July and August, also were called by the Council’s Arab and Islamic members to denounce Israel.  Both also resulted in one-sided, Islamic-sponsored resolutions being passed over the objections of the Council’s Western democracies.

The Council also has held two regular sessions, in June and in September.  These sessions resulted in only one condemnatory resolution being adopted against any country in the entire world: Israel.  That resolution, again drafted by the Arab and Islamic groups, also was opposed by the Council’s Western democracies.

The Council has not had a special session or passed a resolution on any other issue in the world, ignoring such grave human rights abuses as the mass killings in the Darfur region of Sudan. Over the past ten days, hundreds of Chadian civilians have been killed by Arab militias along the Chad-Sudan border.  Yet none of this has merited action by the Council.  Sadly, the new Council is so far proving itself even more irrelevant than its discredited predecessor, the Human Rights Commission.

Below is UN Watch’s speech today before the full plenary.

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UN Watch Testimony
UN Human Rights Council
3rd Special Session

November 15, 2006
Delivered by Hillel Neuer
Executive Director

Mr. President,

As of today this Council has now held more Special Sessions to denounce Israel than it has held Regular Sessions concerning everything else in the world.

Which raises the obvious question:  if the Special Sessions denouncing Israel are more regular than the Regular Sessions concerning everything else in the world, perhaps these definitions ought to be reversed—and the Special Sessions denouncing Israel become the Regular Sessions.

Reflection upon the actions of the one completed Regular Session, held in June, suggests, however, that this may not be so simple.

That Regular Session specially adopted only one resolution against a specific country, denouncing Israel alone out of all 192 UN member states.

Second, the Regular Session created a special, permanent agenda item to denounce Israel, for all future sessions.  This revived the notorious Agenda Item 8 from the old Commission, which was a major factor in what UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan described as the “credibility deficit” that “cast a shadow on the reputation of the United Nations system as a whole.”

Third, in the resolution renewing expert mandates, the Regular Session inserted a special footnote for the Special Rapporteur on Palestine—who openly admits that his instructions are to denounce Israel only—thereby making his mandate the only one with no express year of expiry.

And so, Mr. President, upon further reflection, it turns out that the only full Regular Session concerning everything else in the world was in practice and in effect a Special Session to denounce Israel.

This pattern will persist if too many democratic countries represented in this hall continue to show weakness of resolve in the face of an organized mischief that is both united and energetic; and if some continue to argue that today’s subversion of the Council should be celebrated as testimony of its responsiveness—of “la capacité d’intervenir promptement en cas d’urgence.”

If all this continues, Mr. President, it will have turned out that, under our new definition, the Regular Sessions are in fact Regular Sessions after all.

Mr. President, today’s resolution is entirely one-sided.  It ignores the systematic Palestinian firing of Kassam rockets from Gaza into Israel, which this morning killed 57-year-old Faina Slutzker, a resident of Sderot, as she was crossing the street with her husband.  Another victim lost both his legs in the barrage.

The countries who care to save this Council will vote “No.”  Anything else will be interpreted as acquiescence to the destruction of this new body.

Thank You.

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