Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

UNHRC green-lights Goldstone II: The settlements

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We've seen this movie before.

Coming soon from the same producers of the discredited Goldstone Report on the 2009 Gaza War - the UN Human Rights Council - is a sequel: A "fact-finding" mission to investigate the impact of Israeli settlements in the West Bank on Palestinians. Co-sponsors of the resolution that authorised it include Syria and Iran. 

The vote on the measure was 36 in favour, 1 against (USA), and 10 abstentions (Cameroon, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Guatemala, Hungary, Italy, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Spain).

According to the resolution:

"[The UNHRC] decides to dispatch an independent international fact-finding mission, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, with a mandate ending on submission of a report to the Council, and calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, not to obstruct the process of investigation and to cooperate fully with the mission."

Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of the non-government organisation UN Watch, which monitors UN activity, lashed out at the forum for "politicising" human rights. He noted that, while focusing their attention disproportionally on Israel, the body had at the same time refused to adopt a host of resolutions on human rights violations in other countries.

"On the same day that the UN Human Rights Council severely watered-down a text allowing Sri Lanka to determine what advice it receives from the UN-and after the council ignored our own proposed resolutions for victims of abuses in China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe-the session directed half of all its condemnatory resolutions against one single state, Israel. Sadly, the council remains partisan, selective and politicised, and is failing its founding mission to defend the world's victims of human rights violations."

UN Watch has dubbed the new mission "Goldstone II" and expects Damascus and Teheran - no less than Ramallah - to attempt to focus media attention on renewed UN scrutiny on settlements in order to deflect the world's attention away from the atrocities in Syria, the Iranian nuclear program, and continued Palestinian responsibility for rejection of the peace process. 

Not surprisingly, Israel has slammed the decision and made it clear that they will not cooperate with the mission.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called the UN Human Rights Council a "hypocritical council with an automatic majority against Israel."
"One only had to hear the Syrian representative speak today about human rights in order to understand how detached from reality the council is," Netanyahu said.

On Monday, Israel's Foreign Ministry made the unprecedented decision to end any working relationship with the UNHRC.

"There was a decision by the foreign ministry to sever work contacts
with the organisation," ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said on
Monday, adding that Israel had yet to formally inform the council of
its decision.
"There won't be working relations with them, conversations, passing
papers, making visits, exchanging information, consulting one another,
attending meetings," he added. "That's work, and it will not take
place."

In a move that surprised some observers, even Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now came out in opposition to the fact-finding mission - a step which illustrated perhaps more than anything else the extent that the UNHRC is mistrusted by even the most dovish circles of Israeli society.

In a surprising step, Peace Now's Executive Director Yariv Oppenheimer said he opposed the council's creation of a fact-finding mission on settlements.
"We think the [UN] Human Rights Council is not an objective body," Oppenheimer said.
His organization strongly opposes all Israeli settlement activity and independently monitors it.
"Settlements are an important issue and they are harming Palestinians human rights," he said. "We are very critical of Israel's settlement policy in the West Bank," he said.
But Oppenheimer added, the council "has taken the issue a few steps further than the truth."
It is possible, he said, that Peace Now would refuse to cooperate with the fact-finding mission.
"We have not decided yet," he said. "But we are considering this move."

An Israeli official told Bloomberg on Sunday that Israel would consider penalising the Palestinian Authority (PA) for pushing for the probe. He did not specify what form that penalty might take. Israel has, in the past, withheld tax revenue from the PA in response to unilateral diplomatic actions taken against it.

Times of Israel analyst Raphael Ahren warned that the lopsided vote for the fact-finding mission - including from many generally friendly countries in the EU, was an ominous sign that Israel would be ill-advised to ignore.

The fact that even Israel's allies - with the US the lonely exception - either voted for the fact-finding mission or abstained clearly shows that Jerusalem's clinging to the settlement project is the one issue the world does not want to tolerate any further.

Meanwhile, The Jerusalem Post, in an editorial, said that the Palestinian focus on building international pressure against settlements was an attempt to undermine Israel instead of make peace with it.

While it might be convenient to use them to bash Israel, settlements are not the problem.
The Palestinian leadership's refusal to enter into direct negotiations without preconditions, not Israeli settlements, is the real obstacle to peace. A Palestinian state will not be established by the UNHRC in Geneva or in New York, but only via direct negotiations with Israel. The Palestinian leadership's insistence on unilateral measures, such as appealing to the UNHRC, seems to reveal a preference for harming and delegitimizing Israelis over dialogue with us.

For an excellent breakdown of the outcome of the latest session of the UNHRC, including vote tallies and text of the resolutions CLICK HERE.

- Ahron Shapiro