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Amb. Prosor Denounces Handling of Gaza Probe, Calls UN ‘Tragic Theater of the Absurd’

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Ron Prosor lambasted the international body on Tuesday for its discriminatory behavior towards Israel, arguing that the once-venerable institution has been hijacked by undemocratic regimes that wield it as a means to further their own political ends.

In an op-ed published by The New York Times, Prosor identified a majority coalition of non-democratic states that has usurped control of key branches of the world body, turning it from “a stage for courageous statecraft into a tragic theater of the absurd.”

In 1949, when the United Nations admitted Israel as a member state, it had 58 member countries and about half had a democratic orientation. Today, the landscape of the organization has changed drastically. From 51 member states at its founding in 1945, the institution has grown to 193 members — fewer than half of which are democracies.

The very nations that deny democratic rights to their people abuse the United Nations’ democratic forums to advance their interests. The largest of these groups comprises members from the 120-member-strong bloc known as the Non-Aligned Movement. Since 2012, the bloc has been chaired by Iran, which has used its position to bolster its allies and marginalize Israel.

Prosor contended that the UN has been turned into a bludgeon that illiberal regimes may use to strike democratic states, Israel foremost among them, in efforts to deflect from their own flagrant human rights abuses. In turn, the body effectively supports the agendas of regimes whose actions undermine the democratic and humanitarian values the UN was originally entrusted to safeguard and promote.

In illustrating his criticism, Prosor observed that Israel was the only country condemned this month during the UN’s annual Commission on the Status of Women, whose members include aggressive violators of women’s rights like Iran and Sudan. Prosor also pointed out the grim track record of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), noting:

Then there is the United Nations Human Rights Council (the body that replaced the Commission on Human Rights in 2006). Its membership includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Venezuela — nations where you risk life and liberty if you express dissenting opinions. Yet these governments stand in judgment on the rest of us. […]

The council addresses the human rights abuses of all countries in the world under a program known as Agenda Item 4. That is, all countries but one. Israel is the only nation that is singled out for criticism by virtue of a special program, known as Agenda Item 7. A result, according to the Geneva-based monitoring group UN Watch, is that more than 50 percent of all condemnatory resolutions are directed at the Jewish state.

The UNHRC ended its 28th session on Friday after condemning Israel four times; Israel was the only member state to receive more than one condemnatory resolution, leading several Jewish human rights groups to denounce the forum’s relentless fixation with the Jewish state.

Prosor detailed more examples of the bloc’s grip on the UN, including Sudan’s chairing of a human rights committee in 2007, Saudi Arabia’s election to the UNHRC in 2013, and Iran’s election to a key position in a committee that deals with disarmament and international security in 2013, before noting that, “in the 2014-15 session alone, the General Assembly adopted about 20 resolutions critical of Israel, while the human rights situations in Iran, Syria and North Korea merited just one condemnation apiece.”

Prosor’s criticism extended to the UN’s treatment of Israel’s concerns regarding the UNHRC’s Gaza probe, which is now headed by American judge Mary McGowan Davis after the resignation of Canadian Professor William Schabas.

Following last summer’s conflict in Gaza, the Human Rights Council established a Commission of Inquiry and selected William Schabas, a Canadian law professor, to chair the investigation. In February, Mr. Schabas was forced to resign after documents came to light revealing that, in 2012, he had done consulting work for the Palestine Liberation Organization. Surprisingly, this fact slipped Mr. Schabas’s mind during his vetting process.

It was clear from the outset that Mr. Schabas was not an impartial arbiter since he had a record of public statements suggesting that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the former president, Shimon Peres, should face trial at the International Criminal Court. When Israel protested, however, the United Nations ignored it.

In Why the Schabas Report Will Be Every Bit as Biased as the Goldstone Report, published in the March 2015 issue of The Tower Magazine, Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based NGO, noted that “at the Arab states’ initiative, and with varying degrees of complicity by the EU and others, half of the resolutions passed by the HRC condemn Israel; there is a special agenda item against Israel at every HRC meeting; and the HRC has produced more emergency sessions and inquiries against Israel than any other country in the world.”

Neuer argued that this systematic bias extends to the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which works in conjunction with the UNHRC, and will influence the report produced by the UNHRC’s Gaza probe.

On March 23, what for six months was the Schabas Commission, and now in its final and seventh month has become the McGowan Davis Commission, will present its report to the Human Rights Council. Do we have any reason to expect a fair, objective, and credible report?

Not if we consider the built-in prejudice of the commission’s founding mandate, spelled out in resolution S-21/1 of July 23, 2014, which preemptively declares Israel guilty. […] The resolution mentions Israel 18 times. Hamas is not mentioned once.

Not if we consider that Schabas, the activist chairman who says that he “devoted several months of work” to the project, is someone who performed undisclosed paid legal work for the PLO—on the subject of how to prosecute Israelis in international courts—and who famously declared barely three years ago that the leader he most wants to see in the dock at the International Criminal Court is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

[… The] OHCHR’s bias was manifest from day one in their agency chief’s farcical selection of Schabas—of all the law professors in the world—to lead the inquiry. OHCHR knew that, a few months earlier, he had been rejected by a committee of five ambassadors for a similar UN mandate to investigate Israel—on the grounds that he lacked impartiality. Georgetown Law School professor Christine Cerna, herself a one-time UN candidate, has stated that Schabas was chosen specifically because of his well-known positions against Israel. Even Aryeh Neier, a colleague of Schabas at Sciences Po in Paris, founder of Human Rights Watch, and an NGO icon known as a defender of the UN, said of Schabas, “Any judge who had previously called for the indictment of the defendant would recuse himself.” The same OHCHR that recruited Grietje Baars to staff Goldstone I chose Schabas to head Goldstone II.

[Photo: IsraelinUN / YouTube ]