Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The on-going ritualistic bowdlerization of The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is in full swing again.

Here is a resolution that condemns Israel for launching a military response to Qassam rockets lobed at its citizens within civilian areas (killing today a 57 year old woman as she crossed the street with her husband and injuring and maiming many others):

The Human Rights Council this morning opened its third special session which is looking at Israeli military incursions in Northern Gaza and the assault on Beit Hanoun, hearing speakers call for the Council to condemn the human rights violations of Palestinian people, provide Palestinians with protection and send a fact-finding mission to Beit Hanoun.United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour told the Council that she would soon be visiting Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory where she would emphasize the obligation to protect civilians during armed confrontation, and the entitlement of all, Palestinians and Israelis alike, to live free from fear, free from want, and free from harm. Palestine said Beit Hanoun seemed today as if it had been hit by a strong earthquake. Once again, the Israeli army had unleashed its lethal power against defenceless Palestinian civilians in Beit Hanoun, shelling their homes while they slept and targeting and shelling again those civilians fleeing the earlier bombardments. The perpetrators of this horrendous war crime should be brought to international justice.

Israel blamed the Palestinian Authority and its Government because they did nothing to stop the brazen firing of Kassam rockets at Israeli civilian communities from within Beit Hanoun, setting the stage for an Israeli response which became inevitable.

Israel accused the Council of one-sidedness, double standards and politicized decision-making, adding that those who pushed for the special session were conspicuously ignoring tragedies in other parts of the planet.

Most speakers condemned Israel’s military operations in Northern Gaza in the past few months which had left more than 350 Palestinians dead. There were accusations that Israel was using disproportionate force and resorting to collective punishment. The attack on Beit Hanoun was strongly condemned, and many called for a high-level fact-finding mission to the town.

A number of speakers, led by the United States and Canada, expressed their concern and regret for the deaths of civilians in Beit Hanoun, but said the draft resolutions being circulated provided an unbalanced view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They called on the Palestinian Authority to take concrete measures to address Israel’s security concerns and eliminate attacks against Israel.

Let's contextualize this interesting spasmodic ritual. Here is Anne Bayevsky, explaining what's happening (emphasis added by the CC):

The widespread misrepresentation of the Council made its self-immolation in its first two weeks of operation even more striking. The Human Rights Council is now the U.N.’s lead human-rights body, and examples of egregious human-rights violations should not have been hard to find. In Darfur, there are three quarters of a million people beyond humanitarian reach, 2.5 million people displaced by the violence, 385,000 people in immediate risk of starvation, and over two million dead in 22 years of violence and deprivation. But it wasn’t genocide in Sudan that interested the Human Rights Council. Nor was it a billion Chinese without civil and political rights. Not 13 million women in Saudi Arabia whose lives depend on hiding from sight in public places and never being caught behind the wheel of an automobile. Not the dire human-rights conditions of 23 million people in North Korea. Not Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s incitement to genocide or his country’s legal system, which includes crucifixion, stoning and amputation.

No, there was only one country singled out by the U.N. Human Rights Council, and that was Israel. The Council decided that the program for the first session should focus discussion on five issues; the first one being the “human rights situation in the occupied Arab Territories, including Palestine.” (The rest were “support for the Abuja Peace Agreement,” and three thematic subjects.) The Council placed criticism of Israel permanently on the agenda of all future sessions. It gave only the special investigator on Israel what amounted to a permanent mandate. On its final day, the Council passed just one resolution condemning human-rights violations by any of the 192 U.N. members, and directed it at Israel. When it was all over, the Council decided to hold its first special (emergency) session within a few days — on Israel.

The numbers explain it all. There are 47 states on the Human Rights Council divided among five regional groups. Fifty-five percent are from the African and Asian regional groups. In the May election, the member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) garnered a majority on both the African and Asian regional groups, thereby giving them the balance of power. Since no criterion exists for Council membership other than geography, countries like China, Cuba, Russia, and Saudi Arabia were elected without difficulty. Furthermore, 32 of the 47 new Council members are from the so-called Group of 77, and when it comes to human rights, developing nations have proven themselves a highly effective protection racket.

The math similarly explains other results. There was a second Council resolution adopted by a vote on the defamation of religions. Its aim was to stifle free speech. The same minority that voted against the Israel resolution emerged in the minority a second time. It is now clear that there are only twelve countries on the Council, or one quarter of its members who are prepared to stand together as democracies. The resolution creating the Council redistributed seats from the Commission, decreasing the proportional representation of the Western group and increasing that of the Asian group. The consequence? The resolution on defamation of religions was adopted by the 2005 Commission by 58 percent; the Council resolution on this subject was adopted by 70 percent.

I am wondering, how many more Palestinians are doomed to be killed by Israel's retaliatory attacks? And I am wondering, why are they doomed? Why isn't there one responsible Arab leader to tell them: Take your future in your own hands, stop the bad people from waging war on your backs, and on the backs of your children. Demand that they stop lying to you, defrauding you and your children from your future by making false promises to you.

I am also wondering why the august body of the UN Human Rights Commission treats the Palestinians as though they were brainless babies, incapable of making moral judgments and therefore exempt from being held up to any universally received moral standard. For how else is one to interpret the ritual of condemning Israel for defending its citizens with a reverberating silence on the role Palestinians are playing in provoking these defensive attacks?

Not for the first time has the thought occurred to me that Israel's odds of being treating fairly, squarely, and, hmm, proportionately, by any UN body are about the same as the chances for acquittal of a black man accused of raping a white woman in the US deep South during the thirties.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home