David Trimble, a member of the British House of Lords and winner of the Nobel Peace prize, blasted the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) earlier this week over a recent report criticizing Israel.
The head of the panel that produced the report described it as “a kind of weapon” to be used against Israel. The report called for all Israelis living beyond Israel’s 1949 armistice lines to be removed from their homes.
Speaking at an event organized by the NGO UN Watch, Trimble called the report counterproductive and the demand “grotesque”:
I am a firm believer in a two-state solution, which will require difficult compromises. This report, however, does not help.
By urging the removal of all settlers living beyond the green line, the report is inconsistent with Security Council Resolution 242, endorsed by the Council decision establishing this commission.
It could lead to the utterly grotesque consequence that the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem should be returned to the desolate condition that existed between 1948 and 1967…
I have to say that the very idea of this inquiry is wrong… outside bodies purporting to make authoritative pronouncements on major issues over the heads of the parties can only undermine and subvert the peace process.
Trimble’s reference to the Jewish Quarter is a gesture toward the Jordanian occupation of East Jerusalem between 1949 and 1967. During that period, Jordanian officials barred Jews from accessing that portion of the city, which contains Judaism’s holiest sites, and desecrated the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives. The 3,000-year-old cemetery is the oldest and largest in the Jewish world and for the 19 years they controlled it, Jordanian officials barred Jews, demolished parts of the cemetery to create parking lots and filling stations, and even had Jordanian soldiers use the tombstones as latrines. Israeli officials launched substantial restoration efforts after the Jewish state reunified Jerusalem in the aftermath of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
Trimble further criticized the UNHRC’s relentless and disproportionate focus on Israel, to the virtual exclusion of any interest in genuine human rights issues around the world. U.S. officials have expressed similar concerns, noting that the UNHRC has institutionalized its bias against Israel in the form of a standing item targeting the Jewish state.
The UNHRC was created in 2006 to replace the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, which itself had been heavily criticized for disproportionately focusing on Israel. The change in name has not altered the central problem. Since its creation, the UNHRC has conducted seven probes into Israeli behavior – the investigation criticized by Trimble being the most recent – while generating only five probes about the rest of the world combined. None of those efforts focused on serial human rights abusers Iran, China, or Sri Lanka.
Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, told The Tower that “the human rights enterprise at the United Nations was created after the Holocaust by eminent figures like Eleanor Roosevelt, founding chair of the Human Rights Commission, and Rene Cassin, a key drafter of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.”
“Tragically, political changes in the world and at the UN quickly saw things get turned upside down. Human rights – its procedures and even its ideas – got mugged by rapists and murderers like Qaddafi, whose regime rose to become the elected chair in 2003,” he said.
“Today, when Nobel Peace Laureate David Trimble took the floor and spoke words of reason and decency in the chamber of the Human Rights Council, I felt – just for a moment – that we, heirs of the founders, were stealing it back.”