GENEVA - The World Jewish Congress on Monday urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to cease singling out the state of Israel for disproportionate criticism, demanding that it apply the same standards of judgement it would use for any other country. The UNHRC is meeting in Geneva this month for its 35th session, and on Monday was discussing item 7, which is a standing agenda item on Israel discussed at every session of the Council.
A member of the WJC Jewish Diplomatic Corps, Jacob Turner, delivered a statement to the human rights body on Monday as it met in Geneva, and queried the council members as to why Israel is so unique as to deserve its own standing item on the agenda.
“Is it the only country accused of human rights violations? No. Is it the only country said to be in occupation of territory? No. But it is the only country where the majority of the population and government are Jewish,” Turner said.
In his statement, Turner also commented on OHCHR’s report published last week, which castigated both Israelis and Palestinians for not implementing recommendations provided by all Council mechanisms, but primarily focused on Israel’s purported shortcomings. On June 6th, American ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley also complained that the body was “singling out Israel rather than focusing on the world’s actual human rights abusers” and threatened to pull the US out of the Council.
Turner asserted that the report focused “the great majority of its criticism on Israel,” adding: “We see these double standards constantly. Last Friday, a female Israeli policewomen was stabbed to death by terrorists, but again Israel was accused by some of ‘killing three Palestinians.’ Would any other country be treated like this for protecting its citizens after a terrorist attack?”
“Members of this Council, we urge you to set an example by treating Israel the same way you would any other country. No better and no worse. If protecting universal human rights means anything, it surely means that.”
Turner also noted in his statement that two weeks ago, thousands of Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv to celebrate gay pride, a testament to the state's record of human and civil rights.
“In what other Middle Eastern country could this have taken place?” Turner asked. “Homosexuality is not just illegal in much of the region, its punishable by death in some countries. Israel ought to be singled out for praise, and yet, this Council continually chooses to isolate it for criticism.”
In a separate statement, Turner also raised the issue of online anti-Semitism, offering the council the World Jewish Congress’ assistance in coming up with innovative solutions to counter the rising tide of online hate.
Over the course of 2016, more than 382,000 anti-Semitic statements were posted on social media and not deleted, he said, noting that this broke down to one racist post every 83 seconds.
And in another meeting, Turner suggested that monitoring anti-Semitism should be part of the mandate of the United Nations, asserting that “unless anti-Semitism is properly defined, efforts to eliminate it will be impeded.”
As such, he said, the United Nations should follow the lead of the European Parliament and adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) recently promulgated definition of anti-Semitism.
“The IHRA definition acknowledges that some expressions of anti-Israel views can amount to anti-Semitism,” he said. “This includes applying double standards by requiring of Israel a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation. Some Members of this Council might wish to reflect upon that point.”
As part of its ongoing advocacy in Geneva, the World Jewish Congress will co-host a panel discussion on the sidelines of the UNHRC session on Wednesday, on the challenges of combatting the new frontiers of anti-Semitism. The side-event is being organized in conjunction with the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations in Geneva and the European Union of Jewish Students.