UK puts UN ‘on no­tice’ over bias against Is­rael

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY DANIEL SU­GAR­MAN

BRI­TAIN HAS said it will vote against all fu­ture UN Hu­man Rights Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions on Is­rael’s con­duct in the oc­cu­pied ter­ri­to­ries un­til the body ends its “dis­pro­por­tion and bias” against the Jewish state.

In what has been de­scribed as a “moral break­through”, the UK’s mis­sion to the UN in­sti­tu­tion said in an un­prece­dented state­ment that it was putting the coun­cil “on no­tice” over its lack of im­par­tial­ity.

On Tues­day, Boris John­son, the For­eign Sec­re­tary, at­tacked the UNHRC’s con­dem­na­tion of Is­raeli bomb­ing of Hizbol­lah po­si­tions in the Golan Heights as “a pro­found ab­sur­dity”.

He de­scribed the mo­tion con­demn­ing Is­rael’s pol­icy in the Golan as “pre­pos­ter­ous… when af­ter all in that re­gion we have seen the most ap­palling bar­bar­ity by the As­sad regime”.

The pol­icy change came af­ter a UNHRC vote last Fri­day on the “oc­cu­pa­tion” of the Golan Heights.

Fol­low­ing the vote, the UK mis­sion’s state­ment said: “Is­rael is a pop­u­la­tion of eight mil­lion in a world of seven bil­lion, yet since its foun­da­tion, the Hu­man Rights Coun­cil has adopted 135 coun­tryspe­cific res­o­lu­tions; 68 of which [have been] against Is­rael. Justice is blind and im­par­tial. This se­lec­tive fo­cus on Is­rael is nei­ther.

“Syria’s regime butch­ers and mur­ders its peo­ple on a daily ba­sis. We can­not ac­cept the per­verse mes­sage sent out by a Syria Golan res­o­lu­tion that sin­gles out Is­rael, as As­sad slaugh­ters the Syr­ian peo­ple.

“Nowhere is the dis­pro­por­tion­ate fo­cus on Is­rael starker and more ab­surd than in the case of to­day’s res­o­lu­tion on the oc­cu­pa­tion of Syria’s Golan.”

A White­hall source said that the stance on the UNHRC was in­dica­tive of a new gov­ern­men­tal bullish­ness to­wards sup­port for Is­rael: “If you thought Stephen Harper [the for­mer Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter] was pro-Is­rael, just you wait.”

Hillel Neuer, Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor of UN Watch in Geneva, said the new pol­icy was a “moral break­through”.

UK FOR­EIGN pol­icy took a sig­nif­i­cant and wel­come shift last week when it called out the UN Hu­man Rights Coun­cil’s bias against Is­rael as un­ac­cept­able and dis­pro­por­tion­ate.

By vot­ing against what it la­belled a “per­verse” res­o­lu­tion that con­demned Is­rael for the “suf­fer­ing” of Druze “Syr­ian cit­i­zens in the oc­cu­pied Syr­ian Golan”, the UK broke with both the EU and prior Bri­tish prac­tice.

On past votes on the same ab­surd text — his­tor­i­cally in­tro­duced each year by Syria’s As­sad regime and, more re­cently, to avoid em­bar­rass­ment while Da­m­as­cus is mur­der­ing its own cit­i­zens, by the Is­lamic group to­gether with Cuba and Venezuela — the UK had ab­stained, to­gether with France, Ger­many and other EU states.

This time, how­ever, the UK joined the US in vot­ing “no” in what ap­pears to be a move by Lon­don to fur­ther align it­self with Wash­ing­ton. With Brexit be­gin­ning, the UK in­creas­ingly needs to rely on close ties with Amer­ica.

More sig­nif­i­cantly, the UK also de­clared that if the UNHRC did not change its anti-Is­rael bias, the coun­try would vote against all five of the an­nual res­o­lu­tions con­cern­ing Is­rael.

“To­day we are putting the Hu­man Rights Coun­cil on no­tice,” said Bri­tish en­voy Ju­lian Braith­waite be­fore the 47-na­tion body, sound­ing more like a US Re­pub­li­can than a For­eign Of­fice diplo­mat.

In language and tone, there­fore, in ad­di­tion to votes and pol­icy dec­la­ra­tion, the UK is sig­nalling its prox­im­ity to Amer­ica in the in­ter­na­tional arena.

In­deed, the US am­bas­sador struck an al­most iden­ti­cal note at her ap­pear­ance be­fore the an­nual con­fer­ence of Aipac, Amer­ica’s pro-Is­rael lobby.

Have Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May and For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son aban­doned Lon­don’s harsh crit­i­cism of Is­raeli prac­tices and poli­cies?

Hardly. The state­ment is­sued on Fri­day made clear that the UK re­garded the Golan as “oc­cu­pied” Syr­ian ter­ri­tory, and crit­i­cised the “neg­a­tive” trend of “Is­raeli con­duct in the oc­cu­pied Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries over the past year.”

Hence the UK jus­ti­fied its con­tin­ued sup­port for two UNHRC res­o­lu­tions on Fri­day con­demn­ing Is­rael, and ab­sten­tion on two oth­ers — even as it noted that these texts failed to ad­dress Pales­tinian in­cite­ment or ter­ror­ism.

To see if the UK is se­ri­ous and prin­ci­pled in op­pos­ing the bias that it has now called out at length, the test will be in fu­ture votes.

When the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion in May will ab­surdly sin­gle out Is­rael as the only coun­try in the world that vi­o­lates health rights, will the UK change its po­si­tion and vote against? For the cred­i­bil­ity of the UK — and of the UN — let’s hope so.

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