News: Today the Commission on Human Rights begins its deliberation of agenda item 8, “Question of the violation of human rights in the Occupied Arab Territories, including Palestine.”  There is no better example of discriminatory treatment at the UN than the existence of this agenda item.

Analysis: Israel alone is scrutinized and condemned under Item 8.  The rest of the world is examined under Item 9.  There is no justification for this separate treatment, only an explanation: it serves the political interests of a substantial number of the members of this Commission.

Item 8 is essentially a subsection of Item 9 that has been set apart and expanded.  Putting aside for a moment those political calculations, imagine what subsections of other agenda items this Commission might examine with greater relevance to a greater number of people.

If this Commission is concerned with that most sacred of human rights – the right to life – then Item 8 might instead be devoted to the pandemic of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.  Since September 2000, almost 3000 Israelis and Palestinians have been killed.  By comparison, almost 6 million Africans died from AIDS over the same period.  Over 29 million Africans are living with AIDS today.  Their plight is discussed as one of four topics – of one of four sub-headings – of Item 14.

What about hunger?  The World Food Program reports that 38 million Africans are in the grip of a “vast hunger crisis.”  Yet, this Commission will spend more time talking about the status of the Golan Heights than the imminent threat of mass starvation – one topic of many under Item 10.

Throughout the world, there are 25 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and 20 million refugees, whose fate will be discussed under subsection C of Item 14.  As part of Item 8, this Commission will pass a special resolution to condemn Israeli settlements.  The majority of the members of the Commission will agree that none of these people – the IDPs, the refugees and the Jewish residents of the West Bank and Gaza – are where they are supposed to be.  Shouldn’t Item 8 be about refugees and IDPs? There are 200 of them in the world for every Jew living in the West Bank and Gaza.

Under subsection C of Item 17, this Commission will discuss the right to education.  There are 860 million illiterate adults in the world and 113 million children that do not attend school.  How can illiteracy, which prevents the enjoyment of so many political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights, be given such low priority?

The existence of Item 8, which takes valuable time and attention away from more serious and less political human rights concerns, demonstrates that this Commission has strayed from its purpose.  The Commission should deal with the Arab-Israeli conflict in an appropriate, non-political manner under Item 9.

UN Watch