The United Nations Human Rights Council [UNHRC] convened an emergency session on July 23, 2014, to consider the plight of Palestinians in Gaza during the war between Israel and the terrorist organization, Hamas. The session was held at the request of the coordinators of the Group of Arab States, the Group of African States, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries and the "state of Palestine," in a letter, dated July 18, to the UNHRC President. At that session, 29 out of 47 member states voted (1 against — USA — and 17 abstentions) to dispatch urgently "an independent, international commission of inquiry" to investigate "all violations of international human rights laws and international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territory [sic], including East Jerusalem, particularly in the Gaza Strip."
This may have seemed a reasonable thing to ask in a time of war, and no doubt gentlefolk around the world deem it a suitable and necessary thing to do, given the very high numbers of casualties and fatalities clocked up by that day. But expecting the UNHRC to carry out a fair, balanced or accurate investigation of anything involving the State of Israel is rather like asking the Organization of Islamic Cooperation [OIC] to carry out investigations into the persecution of Christians, Ahmadi Muslims, or Baha'is in Muslim countries.
Before the emergency session ended, Navi Pillay, the South African UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who has her own office in New York, but supervises the Geneva-based UNHRC, warned the world that Israel may have committed war crimes by not doing enough to protect civilians. Pillay, however, has a long track record of demonizing Israel; it was she who was behind the infamous and totally discredited Goldstone Report of 2009, which accused Israel of deliberately targeting Gazan civilians — a finding that the report's author, Richard Goldstone, later retracted, although Pillay did not.
(Image source: UN Watch)
Our lives are filled with contradictions and deceitful words. We may be wise to politicians, but terribly naïve when it comes to others. Politicians, churchmen and journalists proclaim that "Islam is a religion of peace," while Islamists rampage across the globe, bringing "unpeace" everywhere. Which of us can forget George Orwell's 1984, in which the Ministry of Truth is really concerned with lies, the Ministry of Peace is devoted to war, the Ministry of Love is dedicated to torture, and the Ministry of Plenty occupies itself with starvation?
We are still living in 1984. The UNHRC works to defend and even promote countries that abuse those rights, and to condemn one of the most rights-observant countries in the world — Israel. When anyone tries to take the floor at the UNHRC and reveal the truth about abusive states, watch the abusers press their buzzers and demand that the truth-teller be stopped from speaking. How many times have the vigilant and dedicated human rights activists Anne Bayefsky of Human Rights Voices or Hillel Neuer of UN Watch been attacked for speaking truth?
The UNHRC was created in 2006 to replace the UN Commission on Human Rights, which had been widely condemned for its bias, especially towards Israel. Ironically, the United Nations had created the state of Israel in 1947 to implement the purposes of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine. But rapidly, and increasingly as more non-Western states joined the UN, the UN became viciously anti-Israel, despising what it had itself brought into being; and nowhere is that hatred for Israel more deeply underscored than it was by the Commission and is now by the UNHRC. On its creation, the UNHRC resolved to make Israel the chief focus of its investigations, thereby subjecting one of the world's few democracies to more intense criticism than any of the world's most lawless dictatorships. At its first meeting in June 2006, the Council made a review of Israeli human rights abuses a permanent feature of every session in future. A Special Rapporteur was appointed to cover this conflict — the only expert mandate without a year of expiry.
John Dugard, the notorious "Special Rapporteur" on Israel and the Palestinian territories, who worked for the Commission from 2001 to 2008, was given a mandate "to investigate human rights violations by Israel only, not by Palestinians." It should have been obvious that something was out of kilter. Human Rights Watch, seldom the friend of Israel, saw the imbalance and asked the UNHRC to cover Palestinian abuses as well; the request was ignored. The agenda had been set.
Dugard's successor, the hardly impartial Richard Falk, took an even harder line against Israel, comparing Israelis to Nazis; justifying suicide bombings as a proper last resort for the Palestinians; calling Israel's 2008 response to Hamas attacks "war crimes of the greatest magnitude," (as if he had never heard of the Nazis or the Japanese forces in World War II), and claiming that Israel practiced apartheid in the West Bank. Earlier, however, Falk had defended violence by anti-Vietnam War protesters; resisted U.S. action everywhere, and in 2013 blamed the Boston Marathon bombings on the U.S. and Israel. According to UN Watch, Falk "had endorsed the conspiracy theory that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were orchestrated by the US government and not by al-Qaida terrorists." Even the Palestinian Authority called for his resignation because he sided so strongly with Hamas. For all that, he has exercised a powerful influence on the UNHRC's policy towards Israel.
Between 2006 and 2014, the UNHRC had condemned Israel in 50 resolutions — more than the rest of the entire world. In twenty-one Special Sessions, resolutions have been made on the human rights situation in seven countries: Syria, Libya, Côte d'Ivoire, Sri Lanka, Congo, Myanmar, and Sudan (relating to Darfur) — eleven resolutions in all, five on Syria. None on Iran, Saudi Arabia, China or any other rights-abusing states. In those same sessions, a total of eight resolutions have been adopted against Israel.
According to Freedom House, there are 88 free countries in the world, 59 partly free, and 48 not free. Israel is one of the free countries in respect of political, religious, and personal freedoms. The ten "worst of the worst" states are: Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The UNHRC has adopted resolutions against only two of those, Syria and Sudan, yet focuses in every session on one of the world's freest states.
On a planet packed with countries that abuse human rights daily, and that execute, persecute, imprison and torture with impunity, if we are to talk of disproportion — as so many do when talking of Israel's defensive measures against Hamas — then here is the real thing, paraded in public, packaged for media consumption, and sequestered behind a grinning mask of neutrality, non-partisanship, and self-congratulatory "justice."
In 2001, UNESCO organized the third World Conference Against Racism. Held in Durban (and often labeled the "Durban Conference"), it became a platform for incendiary attacks on Israel, anti-Semitic demonstrations, and accusations that Zionism is a form of racism. A subsequent conference held in Geneva (the Durban Review Conference) featured a deeply anti-Semitic and anti-Israel speech by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ten countries boycotted it, and twenty-three EU countries sent only low-level delegations. Yet at its eleventh Special Session, the UNHRC passed resolution 11/12, which included the following decision:
Acknowledging with appreciation the outcome document of the Durban Review Conference, held in the framework of the General Assembly from 20 to 24 April 2009, including paragraph 124 thereof
1. Decides to extend the mandate of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action for a period of three years
Over the years, it has become clear that the UNHRC is controlled by African and Middle Eastern countries, and is supported by China, Russia and Cuba. Currently, members include (each with a three-year term) 13 African states, 13 Asia-Pacific states, 8 Latin American and Caribbean states, and 8 Western European and other states (the "other" being the United States). Of the thirteen African states, two (Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone) have large majority Muslim populations, and two (Côte d'Ivoire and Ethiopia) have large Muslim minorities. Of the thirteen Asia-Pacific states, seven are fully Muslim entities.
When I was growing up, the UN looked as if it were the best thing to come out of the Second World War, a restoration of dignity to the human race after the enormities of the short-lived but destructive Nazi empire, and a guarantor of peace in the future. Then the Cold War set in hard with the specter of nuclear war. The Cuba crisis brought the West close to annihilation and the UN was powerless to do much more than watch as the drama unfolded.
But by then the UN itself had started to change. When it was founded in 1945, it had 51 members. Only ten were non-Western states, and the UN was driven by Western values. Now, there are 193 member states. 72 of those are (in rough terms) non-Western, and 56 of those are member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (formerly the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which has 57 members in all). All of the OIC states are vehemently anti-Israel, and more than one has, at some point, actually engaged in wars with Israel, or supplied money and arms to Israel's terrorist enemies, or advanced media lies against Israel and the West, or taught its populations hatred for Jews and Israel, or opposed democratic rights for its citizens.
The UNHRC is the successor to the discredited UN Commission on Human Rights, which started life well by creating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. As we all know, the Declaration is the ideal of human rights values throughout the world, and even though it is more often observed in the breach than in practice, it constitutes a bulwark against infringements and a core text for the values it has introduced to the universal consciousness. But the Declaration is founded on Western values, most of them derived from Judaeo-Christian ethics, the standards developed during and after the Enlightenment, the Jewish Haskalah [Enlightenment] and the virtues promoted by secular humanism — and that does not go down well with countries that cling to other value systems. Thus, the Declaration, which most of us thought beyond reproach, has been much criticized exactly because it was inspired by Western points of view. Nowhere is this criticism more pronounced than in the Islamic world, a concatenation of some 1.6 billion people.
In 2013, in Conakry, the capital of the African state of Guinea, the OIC stated that Muslim foreign ministers should cut ties with any state that dared to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. And many countries follow its lead and refuse to acknowledge Jerusalem as Israel's ancient, modern and indivisible capital. Of all the UN member states, only two — Guatemala and El Salvador — have been willing to extend recognition to a city that has been the focus of Jewish prayers for thousands of years. Not even the U.S., Canada, Australia, or the EU -- possibly out of fear of offending the majority countries at the UN, most of which not only fail to share Western values but are only hostile to them — recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Such is the influence Muslim states and anti-democratic states exert even on the liberal democracies.
The introduction of so many Muslim states from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East has warped the manner in which the United Nations reaches its decisions and conducts its affairs. There is now a broad swathe of states that push an agenda of "post-colonialism," "anti-Western-'imperialism,'" and hostility to liberal democracies and the original human rights agenda of the UN. Many of these countries are dictatorships like Iran, Syria, China, or Sudan, and many that are not are far from being democracies in any sense of the word. The OIC has not only attacked the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for being too Western. In 1990, it helped create the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam, a revolutionary challenge to human rights standards everywhere and an ideological counterweight to the UN's Universal Declaration.
Are not human rights indivisible, constant, and beyond reproach? Not according to the OIC and its supporters round the world. Here is a statement from Article 24 of the Cairo Declaration: "[All] the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subjected to the Islamic shari'a" [Islamic religious law].
And here is a passage from Article 25 of that same document: "The Islamic shari'a is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification of any of the articles of this Declaration."
This is the same shari'a that sanctions jihad against non-Muslims and regulates the Islamic version of international law, which sanctions attacks on Israel and the killing of Jews. It is the same shari'a that calls for amputation as a punishment for often minor crimes; stoning to death for alleged adultery; the subordination of women; execution for apostasy; capital punishment for homosexuality; the treatment of Jews and Christians as second-class citizens who must pay protection money to stay alive; that permits slavery; punishes, often with death, speech and writing it deems "blasphemous" — and more, until there seems to be not a single human right it does not contradict. According to the Cairo Declaration, whatever is inside shari'a law is a human right, whatever is outside shari'a law is not.
The OIC has made efforts to have the Cairo Declaration (and, through it, shari'a law) be officially adopted by the UNHRC.
In particular, the United Nation Human Rights Council has introduced a resolution to "combat defamation of religions" -- meaning internationally to criminalize, with punishment, all forms of speech regarding religion; chiefly any perceived criticism of Islam. It has been adopted by the UNHRC every year since 1999, and as Resolution 16/18, and promoted for three years in a row, in three-day closed-door meetings in Washington and London, by the United States under the leadership of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And within the UNHRC, OIC members, supported by dictatorships and politically radical countries, fight to shield themselves and their allied states from criticism. But never Israel, the only country they condemn at every opportunity. North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Cuba, Nigeria or other of the world's great tyrannies which have appointed themselves to leadership positions in the UNHRC — the better to embody Orwell's inversions — are never criticized.
Israel has suffered in another Orwellian demarche of the OIC, namely its 1999 Convention on "Combating International Terrorism." Claiming to base this document on all the principles of the UN, international law, etc., etc., the Convention is really intended to do quite the opposite. Here are two passages that rip off the veil of doublespeak:
Being committed to combating all forms and manifestations of terrorism and eliminating its objectives and causes which target the lives and properties of people;
Confirming the legitimacy of the right of peoples to struggle against foreign occupation and colonialist and racist regimes by all means, including armed struggle to liberate their territories and attain their rights to self-determination and independence in compliance with the purposes and principles of the Charter and resolutions of the United Nations.
This echoes a paragraph in the earlier (1998) League of Arab States Arab Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, which begins by
Affirming the right of peoples to combat foreign occupation and aggression by whatever means, including armed struggle, in order to liberate their territories and secure their right to self-determination, and independence and to do so in such a manner as to preserve the territorial integrity of each Arab country, of the foregoing being in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and with the Organization's resolutions.
Human Rights Voices argues that the reason the UN itself does not have a proper definition of terrorism is because of a standoff between it and the OIC over the OIC and Arab League exclusions that have a single purpose: to justify attacks by terrorists on Israel and its citizens.
The impact of the OIC and its many backers in Africa and elsewhere has led to a cynical failure on the part of the UN, the world's leading human rights body, to address the greatest rights abuses of the current age. More disturbingly, despite efforts from Western states to issue condemnations of serious abuses in Iran, China, Syria, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Zimbabwe, and many other countries, the UN network of brutal and dictatorial states has for the most part succeeded in neutralizing resolutions against them based on the Universal Declaration, in particular, in violation of the UN Charter, the continual genocidal calls from Iran to eradicate a fellow member-nation, Israel.
Most disturbingly, both the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly, while pussy-footing with the world's most ostentatious human rights violators, cannot get savage enough with one of the world's most tolerant and free countries, Israel. Between its formation in 1947 and 1991, the UN General Assembly has adopted 300 resolutions against Israel. In the year 2006-7, it issued 22 such resolutions — but not one about the Sudanese genocide then continuing in Darfur. The year before, Israel had pulled out of Gaza entirely in an effort to make peace. Yet the General Assembly passes 19 resolutions per year against Israel and almost none on any other state.
No fewer than three UN entities exist that are dedicated to furtherance of the Palestinian cause (which is, in its simplest form, dedicated to destroying Israel). There are no UN entities to advance the Israeli cause, which has always been to make peace with its neighbors and to help its citizens — mainly Christians, Muslims and Jews — build good lives for themselves. Never in history has a human institution for goodwill and peace among men been so betrayed by those who seek to use it for their own ends.
 Richard Falk, "Slouching toward a Palestinian Holocaust," Transnational Institute, June 29, 2007. "UN expert stands by Nazi comments", BBC, April 8, 2008.
 Full list of resolutions and access to related documents, UNHRC website.
 See Michael Curtis, "Islam and Free Speech: OIC vs. the Universal Declaration of Human Rights", Gatestone Institute, February 8, 2012.
 For a detailed and incisive analysis of the Cairo Declaration, see Ann Elizabeth Mayer, Islam and Human Rights, 4th ed., Cambridge MA, 2007.
 Anyone wanting to learn more about the UNHRC from a solid academic point of view can do no better than to read the considerable work of Dr. Rosa Freedman of Birmingham University (UK), who has researched extensively in this field. Her second full-length book on the subject is the recently published Failing to Protect: the UN and the politicisation of Human Rights. She previously wrote The United Nations Human Rights Council: A Critique and Early Assessment.
 For a lengthy and detailed critical analysis of the Declaration, the OIC and the UNHRC, see the 2008 Briefing of the International Humanist and Ethical Union.