GENEVA, August 13, 2019 — The UN’s anti-racism committee today began a mandatory two-day review of the policies and practices of the Palestinian Authority, whose delegation responded by criticizing experts of the 18-member panel for asking about antisemitic incitement based on evidence provided by international human rights group UN Watch, whose 32-page shadow report on Palestinian discrimination was labeled by the PA as “propaganda.”
As reported by the Jerusalem Post, members of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) challenged the PA after they had been briefed by UN Watch, NGO Monitor and Impact-SE.
“Several NGO reports pointed out antisemitic and anti-Israel prejudice and incitement to hatred, especially in the [Palestinian] media and speeches of state officials. Can the state party [the PA] provide any explanation in this regard?” asked panel member Chinsung Chung of South Korea.
Silva Albuquerque, another expert on the UN committee, asked for concrete examples of how the PA tackled antisemitism in its school textbooks.
Member Bakari Sidiki Diaby asked: “Is there a Jewish minority in Palestine, and how is the Jewish community represented in the media? How are the other minorities represented?”
Prior to their questioning of the PA, members of the CERD were addressed by UN Watch Legal Advisor Dina Rovner, in a meeting with non-governmental organizations, as well as in a private briefing. Rovner highlighted the gross and systematic antisemitism by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, as documented in UN Watch’s written submission. (Click here for both UN Watch oral statements presented today.)
UN Watch also called attention to the failure of the Palestinian delegation—headed by Ammar Hijazi, deputy foreign minister for multilateral affairs—to acknowledge any of this in its submissions to the world body.
UN Watch’s presentations today, together with its prior written submission published on the UN website, provided resources which committee members used in their questioning of the Palestinian delegation, and placed on record key facts before a global audience.
“Our shadow report and presentations today exposed how the PA’s submissions to the committee completely ignored racist and discriminatory Palestinian practices, and how they tried to evade responsibility by shifting the focus of the review onto Israel,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.
Notably, groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International—which lobbied for the Palestinians to be recognized as a state for the purpose of signing human rights treaties, saying this would hold them to account—failed to make any submission or statement for this first-ever review of the Palestinians by the UN anti-racism committee.
Out of some 40 Palestinian human rights groups who appeared in the same UN building when Israel was reviewed earlier this year, only one, Al Haq, appeared at today’s review of the Palestinian Authority. This raised questions as to whether their primary focus in on improving Palestinian human rights, said Neuer.
UN Watch’s detailed submission revealed that the PA and Hamas routinely violate international commitments to combatting racism, through laws, policies, and statements aimed at denying any Jewish rights in Israel or the Palestinian-controlled territories.
By contrast, in its own report, the PA sought to shirks its obligations as a party to the anti-racism convention by failing to address the problem of racism in Palestinian law and society, and, as the UN experts realized, instead repeatedly tried to blame Israel.
“The PA exploits the reporting process of the anti-racism committee as yet another UN vehicle to attack Israel. This is a waste of the committee’s time and resources, as Israel is subject to its own review later this year,” said Neuer.
Highlighting deficiencies in the PA’s report, UN Watch urged the anti-racism committee to focus the review on Palestinian laws and policies in eight key areas, including incitement to antisemitic racial hatred by Palestinian officials, demonization of Israeli Jews in state-sponsored media and educational facilities, and Palestinian persecution of minority Christians and Samaritans. (Click here for UN Watch’s statements.)
Over nearly two hours of presenting before the committee today, the PA blamed Israel for its problems related to discrimination, and devoted only a few moments to its own policies and practices. The Palestinian delegation included Majdi Hardan, legal adviser at the Ministry of Justice, and Haitham Arar, head of the interior minister’s democracy and human rights unit.
The Palestinian delegates told the committee of their life “under Israel’s racist occupation” and “the presence of apartheid,” contrasted with the PA’s alleged “commitment to work towards harmonizing legislation with the UN conventions.”
In a rare plea, the PA delegation asked for “slack” from the committee for its first-ever review.
Several of the UN experts pressed the PA on its failure to implement anti-discrimination policies, requesting proof that textbook materials had been reviewed for antisemitic material, and asking for explanations for Palestinian officials’ documented incitement to terrorism.
The UN panel’s review of the Palestinians continues tomorrow morning.
“We trust that the committee will continue its work to hold the PA and Hamas accountable for their flagrant violations of the UN’s convention against racism and the principles of international human rights law,” added Neuer.