B’nai B’rith International held its annual leadership delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva last week, conducting meetings with high-ranking officials and presenting formal statements to the diplomatic body.
The multinational delegation, which was led by Senior Vice President Yves Kamami of France and B’nai B’rith International primary Geneva Representative Klaus Netter, met with numerous diplomats including new U.S. Ambassador to the UNHRC Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe. The meetings were convened to discuss the highly unbalanced report of the Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, also known as the Goldstone report; the anti-Israel permanent agenda item at the UNHRC; and the need for a special rapporteur on human rights violations in Iran. The discussions are a key part of ongoing efforts to defend Israel at the council.
Additionally, Netter delivered three statements at the council regarding Iran, the demonization of Israel, and some countries’ efforts to describe as “defamation of religion” various forms of speech that are critical or deemed blasphemous.
The statement on defamation of religion, delivered on March 15, reflects B’nai B’rith’s deep concerns regarding the routine resolutions on the topic at the United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.
“On behalf of a community that profoundly values faith and the right to hold and practice it free of threat or abuse,” Netter read from his formal remarks on behalf of B’nai B’rith International and the Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations, “[we] rise to appeal against repeated efforts to exploit the Human Rights Council in the name of preventing ‘defamation of religion’ in order to legitimize violations of the universal human right of freedom of expression.”
On March 16, B’nai B’rith reminded the council of the severity and urgency of the human rights situation in Iran—circumstances which necessitate that the UNHRC appoint a special rapporteur.
“The aftermath of the [Iranian] election last year has proven beyond a doubt the tyrannical nature of the Government in Iran,” the remarks read. “While the world watched, the Government brutally suppressed freedom of expression and peaceful protests. Those whom the regime broadly defined as members of the opposition were subject to arbitrary arrest and, in many cases, physical and psychological torture.”
The B’nai B’rith mission to Geneva was followed by a statement to the council on its singular anti-Israel fixation, delivered on March 22. Reading the remarks on behalf of B’nai B’rith and the Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations, Netter referenced the “multitude of resolutions lambasting Israel, all of which will be adopted without difficulty by the well-organized majority dominating this Council.”
B’nai B’rith and the Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations also requested “that the [General Assembly-mandated] 2011 review of this Council’s work be used to eliminate this egregious [anti-Israel] item from the permanent agenda” and called for the resignation of Richard Falk, the stridently partisan special rapporteur on the Palestinian issue, “in view of his obvious bias, which deprives his reports of any credibility.”
Click here to read the remarks on Iran.
Click here to read the remarks on defamation of religion.