(Update: The Human Rights Council on Wednesday passed the resolution establising an inquiry into Israel’s Gaza offensive by 29-1, with the United States the sole “no” vote. Seventeen members, including European nations, abstained.)
(CNSNews.com) – The U.N. Human Rights Council will hold an emergency session on Wednesday to consider a draft resolution that condemns Israel repeatedly for its military offensive against Hamas, but does not mention the terrorist group once.
The resolution calls for the establishment of an international commission of inquiry to probe allegations that Israel has committed war crimes and violated international law.
Alongside multiple criticisms of Israel – whose conduct the council “condemns,” “strongly condemns” and “condemns in the strongest terms” – there is a single reference in the three-page typewritten draft to rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.
It says the HRC “condemns all violence against civilians wherever it occurs, including the killing of two Israeli civilians as a result of rocket fire,” and calls for “an end to attacks against all civilians including Israeli civilians.”
Nowhere does the text name Hamas or identify the perpetrators of the “rocket fire.” The draft also refers several times to the “occupied Gaza Strip,” even though Israel’s occupation of the territory ended nine years ago.
A copy was obtained by U.N. Watch, a non-governmental organization based in Geneva, where the HRC is located.
The urgent session of the HRC was called at the request of the Arab group, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the “State of Palestine,” which holds observer status.
So-called “special sessions” require the backing of at least one-third of the HRC’s 47 members, and the request was duly supported by 21 countries, including China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela and 11 OIC states.
Since the HRC was established in 2006 as the U.N. principal human rights watchdog it has held 21 special sessions on crisis situations around the world; one-third of them have targeted Israel.
The Obama administration joined the HRC in 2009, reversing its predecessor’s policy of shunning it for several stated reasons, at the forefront of which were the presence of human rights-abusing regimes, and an anti-Israel bias.
While acknowledging that the problems persist, the administration argues that its membership has significantly improved the HRC.
On Tuesday Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, slammed the planned special session, noting in particular the support it has received from two Western hemisphere countries with poor human rights records.
“One knows it’s just another day at the United Nations when, even as Hamas uses men, women, and children as human shields, its human rights body decides to hold an anti-Israel session with the support of tyrants like [Cuban President Raul] Castro and [Venezuelan President Nicolas] Maduro,” she said.
“Cuba is one of the world’s worst violators of human rights, with the Castro regime brutally squashing all those who dare to speak out for freedom and democracy, while Venezuela has seen a severe crackdown on basic freedoms and widespread, government-backed violence against those who call for democratic change,” Ros-Lehtinen continued.
“Sadly, this kind of hypocrisy is the order of the day at the U.N. If this body is truly interested in investigating human rights in this situation, it has plenty to consider given the heinous tactics used by the terrorist group Hamas not only against Israelis but also against the Palestinian people.”
When it called at the weekend for a special HRC session, the Venezuelan government accused Israel of committing “genocide and extermination” in Gaza.
Judging from dozens of previous HRC resolutions critical of Israel, the latest one is all but certain to pass. The 21 members backing the special session will need just three more votes for adoption. And the HRC’s European members invariably abstain in such votes.
After an earlier Israeli offensive against Hamas, in Dec. 2008-Jan. 2009, a HRC special session passed a resolution establishing a commission of inquiry which ultimately accused Israel and Hamas of war crimes.
The “Goldstone Report” recommended that unless the Israelis and Palestinians launch independent, genuine investigations into the complaints, then the U.N. Security Council should refer the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Western legal analysts at the time warned that the report could harm anti-terror efforts everywhere, tying the hands of governments facing terrorism by holding over them the prospect of ICC prosecutions.
The chairman of that inquiry, South African judge Richard Goldstone, later retracted the most damning assertion in his report – that Israel had intentionally targeted Palestinian civilians.