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18 September 2011

Israel, another view

Israel is a young democracy surrounded by many hostile nations.

By Gideon Barth

Next week, New York will host Durban III, the United Nations conference celebrating the tenth anniversary of the World Conference against Racism. This seems like a worthwhile venture, but like so many UN programmes, it has been hijacked to attack Israel, inevitably leading to greater anti-Israel sentiment in sections of the media. In 2001, speeches were made by Robert Mugabe, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Yasser Arafat, hardly renowned for peaceful and non-discriminatory politics.

This year, western countries including Britain, Canada and the United States will boycott the event but one can see how anti-Israel bias creeps into the UN, turning an organisation initially created to further international harmony into a propaganda tool for anti-Semites and the Arab nations.

In recent years, criticism of Israel through the UN has reached a high-point but on reflection, is Israel really so bad?

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has condemned Israel 39 times since its creation in 2006 – a huge 45 per cent of all UNHRC resolutions. In comparison, Syria has been condemned twice despite massacres of their own population and restrictions on freedom of speech. Egyptians may now have a chance to enjoy their human rights having finally overthrown dictator Hosni Mubarak, but where was the UNHRC during the dictator’s 30 year regime?

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So why has Israel been criticised so much? And why is it a permanent issue on the agenda of the UNHRC?

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Let us look at the council’s membership. Admittedly, Libya was removed this year after Gaddafi’s human rights abuses were too much to hide but human rights are blatantly ignored in countries such as Uganda, Saudi Arabia and Qatar who still sit on the council.

It is time we started seeing these UN organisations for what they are.

African and Arab countries vote “en bloc” against Israel in order to distract attention from their own human rights abuses. This stance has even been criticised by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon decrying the “disproportionate focus on violations by Israel.”

Israel is a young democracy surrounded by many hostile nations and constantly faces the threat of war and violence on its people. There are obviously times when loss of life happens and this is deplorable but it does not deserve this harsh criticism it receives at the hand of the UN.

Last week, Mehdi Hasan wrote that Israel’s violation of international law is “a record for any UN member!”. Undoubtedly, Israel has violated international law in the past, which is unsurprising for a country bordering territories run by terrorist organisations; as we know, in war time, not everything goes to plan. But as we can see, the facts that come out of the UN are not always objective.

The Goldstone Report, criticising Israel of abusing human rights was recently rescinded by its own author, Richard Goldstone, in an op-ed in the Washington Post. After an initially hostile reaction to the Mavi Marmara incident, the Palmer Report has found that Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza is perfectly legal and Israel Defence Forces (IDF) commandos were acting in “self-defence” despite widespread condemnation after the incident.

Just like every democracy, Israel is criticised and strives to improve, but this denigration on the world scene is not an attempt to improve the world but further political objectives.