On Oct. 22, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Ganz announced that six Palestinian civil society groups (some of them with significant backing from the European Union) have been designated as terror organizations, asserting that they worked on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, surrounded by dictatorships like Cuba, Venezuela, Libya, Somalia and many others among the 47 members of the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC), has again criticized and challenged the Israeli government.
Michelle Bachelet said that Israel’s blacklisting of six Palestinian organizations for their alleged ties to the PFLP terror group is an attack on human rights defenders, on freedom of association, opinion, and expression and on the right to public participation, and she called for the move to be immediately revoked.
The list of organizations: Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees; ADDAMEER—Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association; Bisan Center for Research and Development; Al-Haq Organization; Defense for Children International—Palestine; and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees.
Bachelet said that these organizations are not terrorists, but defenders of Palestinian human rights, mainly of those who are in jail. But she did not say that most of those who are in jail have murdered Israeli civilians. On the contrary, she urged the Israeli government to prove the accusation. The Israeli government responded that there is ample proof of the connection of the organizations with the PFLP.
In 2019, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs published a report about several Palestinian organizations using the nongovernmental organization (NGO) label but in fact laundering money and recruiting young people for the PFLP, which has been designated as a terrorist group by many Western countries. According to the report, the Palestinian organizations have received 200 million dollars from the EU between 2014 and 2021. Why there has not been any investigation, or at least some serious checking, into where the money goes is a remaining unanswered question.
One of the six organizations, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, has a name that invites people to believe in serious civil work and assistance. Two main members of this “NGO,” Summer Arabid and Abd a-Razak Farage, are members of the PFLP. They have been identified and accused of being part of a terrorist attack that killed Rina Shnerb, 17 years old, in August 2019, while she was walking with her father along an Israeli road on their way to enjoy hiking.
ADDAMEER, another organization of the six named as terrorists by Israel, is linked with issues concerning terrorists in jail in Israel. Khalida Jarrar, the former President of ADDAMEER, is an active member of the PFLP.
Al-Haq says it is a defender of human rights. Ganz was very clear: the whole board of Al-Haq are members of the PFLP and all of them have taken part of terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.
An NGO must prove that its work really is the work of an NGO work. It is not a title—there must be facts on the ground. But if it receives funds and it is not held accountable, if the dictatorships that are members of the UNHRC support them unequivocally, if the High Commissioner shows trust to these organizations and publicly dismisses what a democratic state like Israel says, and—last but not least—if the main target of the UNHRC is to attack Israel and delegitimize its right to defend itself, the whole panorama is dark and very dangerous.
The Israeli Government is taking the necessary steps to defend its citizens from ongoing terrorism. It is unacceptable that the permanent denial of Israeli rights come out in an outrageous litany from the UNHRC. And it is also outrageous that real democracies accept sitting together with cruel dictatorships. This acceptance is destroying the credibility that still may remain.
CEO and Director of U.N. Affairs Joint Op-ed in JNS: At the UNHRC, why not focus on countries with egregious human-rights records?
The United States was again elected this month to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) after an absence of more than three years. The United States fully deserves to be recognized as a global leader in promoting human rights.
Often, however, election to the world’s preeminent human-rights body is not founded upon countries’ merit but political horse-trading. In fact, none of the 18 vacant seats to be filled at the start of 2022 was contested; each will essentially have been claimed in advance by a “candidate” government without assurance of governments’ actual performance in protecting human rights or of equal opportunities for a stint on the council.
Case in point: Since the establishment of the council, around 120 of the 193 U.N. member states have enjoyed membership on it, some repeatedly.
Among the countries perennially left out is one subjected to far more harsh treatment by the body than any other: Israel.
This comes as no surprise to those within the U.N. system. After all, Israel is one of the United Nations most longstanding members, dating back to 1949, and it has also gotten more than its fair share of attention from the Security Council. Yet it has not been one of the 130 countries to have had at least one term in that powerful forum either. That’s unlike Algeria, Libya, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.
To sum it up: Over the course of nearly 75 years, one side of the Arab-Israeli conflict has repeatedly had a voice, and vote, on relevant matters in key international institutions. The other hasn’t.
One side has wielded an automatic majority in these critical settings—there are some 60 Arab and Muslim U.N. member states—and the other is the world’s only Jewish state, Israel.
But the inequity is not limited to questions of mere representation.
When the United States withdrew from the Human Rights Council in 2018, The New York Times characterized the pullout as protesting “frequent criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.” No country is immune to fair criticism, but this portrayal, sadly commonplace, represents nothing short of journalistic malpractice. What the council dishes out to Israel is not “criticism” but simple demonization—delegitimization and double standards.
The Human Rights Council was formed 15 years ago to replace its corrupt and utterly ineffective predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights. But the council has been little better, particularly when it comes to Israel and the human rights of its diverse citizens.
At the council, what is the only country permanently probed under a dedicated agenda item? Israel. The only country even tarred as racist under yet another agenda item? Israel. The country targeted with more condemnatory resolutions than all others? Israel. The country that has been the subject of more “emergency” sessions than all others? Israel. The country repeatedly targeted with so-called fact-finding missions whose one-sided findings are endorsed in advance? Israel. The country scrutinized in perpetuity, though not its violent adversaries, by a “special rapporteur”? Israel. The only country subjected to a discriminatory corporate blacklist? Israel.
Too many outsiders assume that the U.N.’s sky-high output of anti-Israel excoriations reflects the real-world misbehavior of a uniquely and wildly aggressive Israel.
In actuality, Israel serves as a convenient target for scapegoating and unjust isolation at the world body, despite an astonishingly humane record in the face of practically unequaled and unending existential threats.
Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad—all openly committed not to limited territorial or political claims but to the outright destruction of the Jewish state—have never been condemned by the Human Rights Council for their fanaticism and terror.
Meanwhile, more Arabs have been killed in just 10 years of civil war in Syria than in nearly a century of conflict over Jews’ return to sovereignty in their small and sole ancestral homeland.
Fortunately, with more and more Arab and Muslim leaders now recognizing not only the permanence of Israel but also its legitimacy and potential to help forge a thriving Middle East, forces long accustomed to weaponizing the United Nations for cynical political purposes may find increasingly little enthusiasm for that stale cause.
As America rejoins the UNHRC, it must make clear that the body’s own legitimacy rests upon abandoning bias and bigotry in the pursuit of human dignity. Only concrete and substantial change at the council will make the body worthy of American membership and sustained investment. That change should start with ending the council’s singular fixation upon defaming Israel at the expense of highlighting the world’s most egregious and systemic human-rights abusers.
Read Mariaschin and Michaels' take in JNS.
Daniel S. Mariaschin is CEO of B'nai B'rith International.
David J. Michaels is Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs at B'nai B'rith International.
CEO Op-ed in JNS: U.N. Human Rights Council: When It Comes to Israel, Still Driving on Biased Retreads
(July 27, 2021 / JNS) That “history repeats itself” is not only a shopworn axiom, it is, like other clichés, oftentimes true.
The appointment last week of Navi Pillay, the former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to head up an investigation of the “root causes” and “systemic abuses” emanating from the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in May comes as no surprise.
The mandate of the investigation is to look at “all underlying root causes or recurrent tensions, instability and protraction of conflict, including systemic discrimination and repression based on national, ethnic, racial or religious identity.”
In other words, using kangaroo-court vernacular for singling out Israel for defending itself in the face of daily barrages of indiscriminate fire emanating from Hamas rocket-launchers in Gaza. Furthermore, this newly named commission has no specified shelf life and can continue to investigate Israel indefinitely.
We’ve seen this call to criticize before, especially on Pillay’s watch at the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC). During her six-year tenure at the UNHRC in Geneva, she more than once held her thumb on the scale when opining on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In 2010, Pillay oversaw the work of the special commission headed by South African jurist Richard Goldstone, tasked by the UNHRC with investigating the fighting between Israel and Hamas in 2008 and 2009. That report, which was biased against Israel and distorted the facts surrounding that three-week war, concluded that Israel may have been guilty of war crimes.
In 2014, Pillay convened another investigation into fighting between Israel and Hamas, again showing her biased hand in evaluating the causes and the outcome of that war. “There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated,” she said, “in a manner that could amount to war crimes.”
She criticized Israel for use of disproportionate force and for its disregard for civilian lives. The UNHRC, in what has become the usual feverish diplomatic hysteria that surrounds fighting between Israel and Hamas, created “an independent commission of inquiry” that would look into “all violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip.”
Once again, the Human Rights Council demonstrated its bias and callous disregard for the facts. It should be recalled that Israel had actually withdrawn from Gaza in 2005, nine years before the 2014 resolution, citing “the occupied Gaza Strip,” was adopted. More important to note, though, is the broad band of responsibility that the resolution arrogated to the investigative committee: indeed, what did “East Jerusalem” have to do with Israel defending itself against Hamas rockets?
In both 2010 and again in 2014, Pillay did mention Hamas rocket fire into Israel. But given the heavy-handed focus on Israeli military actions, the reports’ references to Hamas had the look and feel of throwaways, as an afterthought placed in the texts of these resolutions to cover the UNHRC’s tracks.
Indeed, in 2014, Pillay accused Hamas of not practicing “the principle of distinction and precaution.” In other words, “disproportionate response” was being tossed around liberally by her and others with regard to Israel, while Hamas’s indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israeli population centers was lightly let off the hook with diplomatic language that required three readings to understand exactly what was “distinction and precaution.”
And if there is still any doubt as to where Pillay stands on the issue, consider this: In 2014, she pointedly criticized the United States for not sharing Iron Dome technology (that has allowed Israel to shoot down most incoming rockets targeting its populated areas) with Hamas. At the time, Pillay said, “No such protection has been provided to the Gazans against the shelling.” In other words, why isn’t the United States arming terrorists?
In May, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile and an incessant critic of Israel in her own right, said that Israeli attacks on Gaza might constitute war crimes. That led to the appointment of one of her predecessors, Pillay, to begin the process of publicly flaying Israel for the third time in 15 years. Even though the naming of Pillay to the post was done in the name of the current UNHRC president, there is little doubt that Bachelet’s influence was in play.
The United Nations is now in its 76th year, but it has been apparent for decades that many of its agencies and committees, like the Human Rights Council, stocked as they are with countries that participate in bloc voting and who engage in oftentimes mindless herd mentality, can be counted on to pounce on Israel whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Investigations into Israel’s justified responses to rocket attacks from Hamas, or its earlier and current responses to innumerable terrorist attacks, only serve to politicize and marginalize the organization. The United Nations, whose original mission was to promote peace in the international community, now often appears as a mouthpiece for the Palestinian narrative—predictable and yet dangerous because such activity only serves to reward terrorism, and raises expectations of both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority that they have the international community at their backs.
We should not be surprised by the outcome of the upcoming UNHRC “investigation” into the recent fighting in Gaza. Indeed, this commission of inquiry will no doubt pull from the shelf reports filed by the Goldstone Commission and that which the UNHRC inquiry produced in 2014. Which is to say: The Pillay Commission’s findings are likely already written.
The good news, I suppose, is that the Abraham Accords, which brought four Arab countries into the peace fold with Israel, will soon observe its first anniversary. The spirit of those agreements represents the future; they are a promising pathway to cooperation and co-existence.
Rather than convene yet another commission to castigate Israel, the UNHRC would have done far better to establish a commission to investigate why the Palestinians—now approaching 28 years after the Oslo Accords—refuse to engage in serious negotiations with Israel. Or, perhaps, a report focusing on Hamas’s obsession with bringing about Israel’s demise.
Now that would be a real contribution to advancing human rights.
Read Mariaschin's expert analysis in JNS.
Daniel S. Mariaschin is CEO of B'nai B'rith International.
On Dec. 2, 2020, the Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Luis Almagro and OAS Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect Jared Genser released a report that reaffirms that there is a reasonable basis to conclude the regime of President Nicolás Maduro has been committing crimes against humanity in Venezuela since Feb. 12, 2014 and condemned the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for inaction in the face of these crimes.
The new document notes that, since the publication of the original 2018 report, the crimes against humanity in Venezuela have increased in scale, scope and severity as the country faces a humanitarian crisis caused by unprecedented political and economic turmoil, along with food and medical shortages. Drawing on the work of the U.N. Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, NGOs, independent scholars and other credible sources, the new report paints a vivid portrait of a Venezuela wracked by state-sponsored violence and in the throes of a humanitarian disaster.
Among other findings, the report identifies 18,093 extrajudicial executions carried out by state security forces since 2014, and that tens of millions of people have suffered or been subjected to serious injury due to the ongoing humanitarian crisis created by the regime. This includes reports, such as one by the United Nations, which found 7 million people in need and more than 100,000 children under the age of 5 affected by severe acute malnutrition. There have been outbreaks of measles, diphtheria and malaria, the highest in Latin America, with almost 1,000 reportedly dead because of a lack of anti-malaria medication.
The report identifies enforced disappearances in 2018 and 2019, documented cases of torture since 2014, and that rape and sexual violence have been weaponized by the regime, including as a method of torture.
The report highlights the failure of the Prosecutor of the ICC Fatou Bensouda (the prosecutor that has decided that there is a “Palestinian State” according to International Law and accused Israel of “war crimes”) to conduct her preliminary examination expeditiously and to open an investigation despite overwhelming evidence of crimes within the court’s jurisdiction.
The OAS report recommends the prosecutor proceed as rapidly as possible to open an investigation into the situation in Venezuela and, in the meantime, has requested immediate, full and open access to Venezuela, issued a detailed public statement about the deteriorating situation in Venezuela, and highlighted the true scope and severity of the situation in Venezuela in the forthcoming “2020 Report on Preliminary Examination Activities.” Bensouda has never responded.
The report also presents actions by the Maduro regime that have facilitated and prolonged Venezuela’s worsening humanitarian disaster.
Government institutions, including the security forces and the Judiciary, have been used as weapons against citizens. For the people of Venezuela, the rule of law domestically no longer exists. For members of the regime, the State empowers them to operate with total impunity. The pursuit of international justice is the only recourse left.
The secretary general of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, said “the Venezuelan regime has been allowed to operate with impunity. Every day of inaction from the international community increases the suffering of the Venezuela people. We call on the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to take action and show the world that crimes against humanity will not go unpunished.” But Bensouda did not listen.
Jared Genser, OAS special adviser on the responsibility to protect wrote: “It is therefore as inexplicable as it is shocking that after almost three years examining the situation, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has still failed to even open an investigation into the alleged crimes.”
Bensouda began investigating the Venezuela case in February 2018 and, in the nearly three years since, has only completed two of four stages of her “preliminary examination.” Instead, contrary to her office’s stated goals of promoting prevention, deterrence and putting perpetrators on notice, she has failed to act, as she has repeatedly done in other cases. As a result, the regime has been emboldened to commit more crimes in the belief it can act with impunity.
“Crimes Against Humanity” are defined in Article 7 of the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court, as the crimes specified there on the condition that they were “committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population with knowledge of the attack.”
Venezuela signed and ratified the Rome Statute and, as a result, the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction over any crimes committed in the territory of Venezuela or by Venezuelan nationals since July 1, 2002.
Maduro and his proxies have felt that the inaction of the ICC and the world’s silence backed the regime to move forward in its alliance with Iran and the terrorists of Hezbollah. Most experts on Hezbollah in Latin America have concluded that it is primarily raising money, particularly in the tri-border area of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil, through all sorts of illicit commercial activities—money that’s increasingly needed as Iran, as a result of sanctions and low oil prices, has less money available to subsidize its proxies worldwide.
The fact that Hezbollah has freedom to operate in Venezuela makes it presumably easier for its operatives to travel around Latin America. Iranian friendships in Latin America, particularly in Caracas, have facilitated Hezbollah’s presence in the Western Hemisphere, as well as that of Iranian officials who coordinate Hezbollah operations.
The Venezuelan regime is also a drug-trafficking organization. It not only harbors Colombian guerillas, but also meaningfully benefits from its role in the shipment of cocaine from South America abroad, including to the United States and Europe. In March 2020, the Justice Department indicted Maduro and other top-ranking officials for coordinating the transport of cocaine with Columbia’s FARC guerrillas. Two nephews of Maduro are in prison in the United States for their role in the export of cocaine. The Treasury Department has repeatedly designated senior officials—including Tarek El Aissami, the former vice president of Venezuela—as major drug dealers.
The pandemic has not changed the starvation, malnutrition, poverty and the violation of human rights. On the contrary, things are worse, and the 5.4 million Venezuelans that have fled in recent years to the United States and mostly to Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay are increasing dramatically. According to experts, by the end of 2021 the number of Venezuelan refugees will rise to more than 6 million, outnumbering Syrian refugees.
On Feb. 22 the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) will start its forty-sixth regular session. Another round of shame will be the main input. Among the shameful behavior of the UNHRC, there will be another litany of alleged “resolutions” against Israel based in outrageous item 7. Venezuela today and for another year will be a member of the UNHRC. Venezuela will vote and speak against Israel, as other dictatorships like Cuba will do. Maduro will have the floor of the UNHRC. And Venezuela and the other dictatorships that are members of the UNHRC will again feel that the current hypocritical international system is protecting them.
History shows that impunity of dictators does not last forever. But meanwhile, millions of people keep suffering brutally and needlessly. It is the case of Venezuela, the dictatorship that enjoys the silence of the ICC Prosecutor and shameful UNHRC, which has no limits to hosting human rights abusers as full members.
In the last days of June, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) decided to discuss and vote on “issues linked to human rights violations”. However, the council did not say a word about violations to human dignity and human freedom in Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Somalia, Argelia, Turkey, Russia, China or Iraq.
The UNHRC passed very soft and useless resolutions on North Korea, Myanmar, Libya, Syria and Iran. These will be forgotten soon.
Ignoring the egregious human rights violations of countless other countries, the UNHRC devoted most of its attention to one single country: Israel. The council passed five resolutions on Israel; one on Friday, June 19, and four on Monday, June 22.
This situation is not new. Unfortunately, it will happen again in the short-, mid- and long-term. This council is not doing anything different than its predecessor, the Human Rights Commission. In fact, it is worse. It has among its members the worst human rights abusers in modern times, and the council gives those countries the power to condemn democracies.
Last June 19th, the council decided to discuss one resolution against Israel. Some years ago, the council’s resolution used to focus on settlements; some short time ago, the council added to it the boycott of products made by Palestinian workers in Israeli factories. The goal of the resolution is to punish Israeli factories, but what would really be doing (if their resolutions were not toothless) would be leaving thousands of Palestinians unemployed.
Who cares that Palestinians become unemployed if the council can score points with a shameful resolution that attacks Israel? Almost nobody cares. The Palestinian Authority does not care; they promote the resolution. The “international community”?. It would be great to know what the term really means. What about the council, the high commissioner? Worst. The council is following dangerous paths on Israeliphobia and the high commissioner – believe it or not - has agreed to make a list of Israeli businesses which should be boycotted.
The resolution (not binding) passed with less votes than the Palestinians hoped. But there was more: the council decided to ask the high commissioner to present a full report on Israeli settlements…in March 2021. At a time when nobody in the world has a real idea when the pandemic and its consequences may end, in times of world economic recession and world unemployment, we can be sure that the UNHRC will ask for a useless report in nine months’ time.
The resolution had 22 votes in favor (which is less than half of the 47 members of the body), 8 votes against and 17 abstentions.
The Latin American members of the council overwhelmingly voted to unjustly condemn Israel.
Among the council’s 8 votes against the resolution, the only Latin American country included was Brazil.
The Bahamas and Uruguay abstained.
Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela voted for the resolution.
What are Argentina, Chile, Mexico and Peru thinking when they vote with undemocratic human rights violators like Qatar, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and, of course, Venezuela? That they are helping to achieve peace? That they are delivering a message of sanity to the Middle East? That they are really supporting and helping the Palestinian people? How is it possible that they do not see that pushing for boycotting Israeli products made by Palestinian workers is exactly the opposite of working towards peace?
Israeli Ambassador Aviva Raz Schechter was very clear: “This Council has an item which has been exclusively designed to condemn one state. Item 7 is a systematic mechanism of discrimination against Israel which is a feeling that is deeply rooted in the culture of this Council and several of its members. Let´s call Item 7 by its real name: it is the item of institutionalized antisemitism.”
Not one Latin American country answered the Israeli ambassador. Australia and the Czech Republic loudly and clearly rejected Item 7and the litany of votes against Israel.
Venezuela is ruled by a dictatorship which allies itself with Iran, violates human rights and has created a health turmoil in the region. We can expect nothing from such a regime, especially because it is also institutionally anti-Semitic. However, it is unacceptable that democracies join dictatorships and human rights abusers to single out Israel.
But it happens all the time in the U.N. agencies. It is time for those democracies to decide on which side of history they want to stand, because they can´t be in two places at the same time. If they keep standing together with Venezuela, Qatar, Somalia and others, it will be very difficult to see what differentiates these democracies from noted human rights violators.
Eduardo Kohn, Ph.D., has been the B’nai B’rith executive vice president in Uruguay since 1981 and the B’nai B’rith International Director of Latin American Affairs since 1984. Before joining B'nai B'rith, he worked for the Israeli embassy in Uruguay, the Israel-Uruguay Chamber of Commerce and Hebrew College in Montevideo. He is a published author of “Zionism, 100 years of Theodor Herzl,” and writes op-eds for publications throughout Latin America. He graduated from the State University of Uruguay with a doctorate in diplomacy and international affairs. To view some of his additional content, click here.
B'nai B'rith International has widely respected experts in the fields of: