An extraordinary event took place at the Human Rights Council on September 16, when the Palestinian representative took the floor to attack countries for attacking Israel.
The incident took place while the HRC was discussing human rights situations around the world, under Agenda Item 4.
What angered the Palestinians is that European and other Western countries — such as Denmark, Italy, Spain, Germany and Japan — decided to raise their criticisms of Israel under the normal agenda item for criticizing countries, rather than under Agenda Item 7, which is the council’s special agenda item targeting Israel, entitled “Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.”
Israel is the only country singled out by a special agenda item. Not even Syria, Sudan or North Korea have their own agenda item. Under that biased framework, Israel is attacked by venomous accusations, and targeted under more than half of the HRC’s country resolutions. Even UN chief Ban Ki-moon has condemned the institution of this agenda item.
In the past year, the EU has refused to take the floor under Agenda Item 7, denying it legitimacy. Instead, they speak about Israel, when they feel the need, under Item 4. Gradually, Item 7 threatens to become a dead letter.
This triggered an angry response from the Palestinian representative who criticized these democracies — and also challenged Israel’s right to self-defense against Hamas terrorism. Of course, the Palestinians did not object to Iran criticizing Israel under item 4, or other authoritarian countries who are willing to do so at every opportunity.
This is the Palestinian statement made as a right of reply:
We are deeply disappointed by the practice of certain states to speak about the human rights situation in the OPT under item 4 rather than under item 7.
Item 7 has been a standing item on the agenda of the Human Rights Council since its creation in 2006 and similarly appeared on the agenda of the former Human Rights Commission.
This item takes all the more importance as we see the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory including East Jerusalem is deteriorating, particularly after the occupying power’s brutal military aggression on the Gaza strip this summer, which resulted in the deaths of 2,142 Palestinians, including 501 children.
Yet, in the face of mounting evidence of atrocities and war crimes committed by the occupying power, Israel, some governments continue to refer to Israel’s so-called right to self-defense against the besieged population of the Gaza strip, where Israel is clearly both occupier and aggressor giving credence to Israel’s erroneous claims and encouraging it to continue to commit crimes against innocent civilians.
Such statements also ignore that Israel is an occupying power and its argument of self-defense in the territory it occupies stands no legal ground in the confines of international humanitarian law.
Failing to judge current Israeli transgressions in that context is tantamount to no less than a blanket endorsement of the odious crimes committed against our people and an encouragement to carry on with these crimes with shameless impunity.
In effect, these positions undermine the foundations upon which the international system was founded and strip the system of universal rights of any credibility.
Moreover, state disengagement from item 7 emboldens Israel’s efforts to obstruct Palestinian peaceful resort to their rights through the UN Human Rights system. We call upon those states concerned to reconsider their positions.