Issue 469: Historic Victory: Israel Admitted to UN Regional Group After Decades of Exclusion

Historic Victory: Israel Admitted to UN Regional Group After Decades of Exclusion 

Up above, Eleanor Roosevelt and Rene Cassin—architects of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and great supporters of Israel—are smiling.

Because today, as the world marks the 65th anniversary of their Declaration, for the first time in history Israel can join the observance of Human Rights Day, as an equal member of the UN Human Rights Council’s regional group system, participating in a basic consultation and nomination process just like every other UN member state.

1947 – UN votes to create Jewish and Arab states.
1949 – UN admits Israel as a member state.
1957 – UN begins to allocate positions according to regional groups. As the system evolves, Israel is excluded.
1996 – UN Watch publishes first legal brief arguing for Israel’s inclusion into the Western group.
2000 – UN Watch publishes ad in the International Herald Tribune calling for Israel’s inclusion into the Western group.
2000 – Israel accepted as a temporary member of the Western group, in New York only.
2003 – Israel formally requests to join the Western group of the UN Commission of Human Rights in Geneva.
2003 – Sergio de Mello, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, urges the Western group to accept Israel. Soon after, he was killed in Iraq.
2005 – UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan calls for Israel’s inclusion into the Western group in Geneva.
2006 – UN Watch launches online petition that is featured permanently on its website homepage, generating hundreds of messages to EU leaders.

2012 – Israel suspends relations with UN Human Rights Council and Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, in response to creation of yet another “fact-finding mission.”

January 2013 – Israel postpones its appearance at scheduled UN universal periodic review of its human rights record, prompting criticism from Western allies.
October 2013 – Israel participates in the UPR review, after Western countries privately pledge to remedy some of the UNHRC’s anti-Israel bias.
December 2013 – Israel is finally accepted into the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) at the Human Rights Council, effective January 1, 2014.

After decades of discriminatory exclusion—and months of tense negotiations with European countries—Israel last week was finally accepted into one of the council’s regional groups, that of the Western European and Others Group (WEOG).

This puts an end to a fundamental injustice—sadly, only one among many—inflicted by the world body against the Jewish state.

The other late UN human rights figure who is smiling is Sergio de Mello, the high commissioner who was murdered in Iraq in 2003.

Unlike his successor, current high commissioner Navi Pillay, de Mello opposed the UN’s anti-Israel bias, joining UN Watch in Geneva to actively lobby for Israel’s acceptance into a regional group.

For UN Watch, this rare diplomatic victory is a milestone moment in our struggle to uphold the equality principle guaranteed under the UN Charter.

Since our founding 20 years ago, UN Watch fought tirelessly for Israel’s acceptance into the Western group. In hundreds of meetings, we lobbied diplomats and senior officials in Geneva, Paris, London, Berlin, New York and elsewhere.

UN Watch authored the definitive legal brief arguing for Israel’s admission to WEOG; waged a public education campaign that included a major advertisement in the International Herald Tribune; organized a global petition, sending hundreds of messages to the EU’s Catherine Ashton; and made the case again and again in hundreds of UN statements, op-eds, and public speeches.

Persistence, diligence and faith were finally answered by this signal achievement.

UN Watch pays special tribute to the devoted diplomats from Canada, Britain, France, Germany, the U.S., Australia, and of course Israel, who played a key role in the diplomatic victory.

Does this mean that UN bias against Israel, and specifically at the Human Rights Council, is over?

Far from it.

First, it was not the UN or the council that admitted Israel this week, but rather a group of Western democracies. The regional group that under the UN’s geography-based system should have accepted Israel was the Asian Group. But out of hatred and spite, Arab countries like Saudi Arabia and Syria, and Islamic countries like Iran and Pakistan, have barred the Jewish state from exercising its basic rights of participation as a sovereign UN member state. Wrongly, no UN official has ever called out the Asian states on their diplomatic bigotry.

Second, the UN as a whole continues to be poisoned with anti-Israel bias. By the end of this year, to give one example, the UN General Assembly will have condemned Israel in 21 resolutions—with only 4 on the rest of the world combined.

Third, the Human Rights Council continues to institutionalize prejudice with its anti-Israel agenda item built into every one of its meetings. Disproportionately, the council continues to target Israel with one-sided resolutions, emergency sessions, and fact-finding missions. And Richard Falk, the council’s permanent and pro-Hamas “expert on Palestine,” carries on his self-declared “Legitimacy War” against the Jewish state.

Today, we should justifiably celebrate a historic victory against inequality, bigotry and discrimination, and at the same time reaffirm our commitment to struggle—as Eleanor Roosevelt, Rene Cassin, and Sergio de Mello did—against the many gross injustices that remain.

UN Watch