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Prime Minister Issues Scathing Attack on UN Human Rights Council

Netanyahu brands UNHRC a 'procession of hypocrisy'; council also under fire for whitewashing Saudi human rights abuses.
By Ari Soffer
First Publish: 3/30/2014, 1:51 PM

UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay
UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay
Reuters

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has come under fire from various quarters for ignoring and even whitewashing human rights abuses in authoritarian states while focusing almost all of its efforts on criticizing Israel.

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu attacked what he described as a "procession of hypocrisy" after the UNHRC passed a string of resolutions condemning the Jewish state despite a wave of rights abuses elsewhere in the region.  

"At the end of last week, the UN Human Rights Council condemned Israel five times, at a time when the slaughter in Syria is continuing, innocent people are being hung in the Middle East and human rights are being eroded," he told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting.    

"In many countries the free media are closed down and the UN Human Rights Council decided to condemn Israel," he added. "It's absurd. This procession of hypocrisy goes on and we shall continue to denounce and expose it."    

According to Human Rights Watch, the 47-member UN body on Friday passed four resolutions critical of Israel's conduct toward the Palestinians and one on its "occupation of the Golan Heights".    

HRW said the motions on the Palestinians were carried by 46 votes to one, with only the United States against, while the Golan resolution garnered 13 abstentions and a US 'no' vote.  

The criticism comes just three days after human rights NGO UN Watch blasted the UNHRC for a categorically positive report on Saudi Arabia's human rights record, which UN Watch CEO Hillel Neuer pilloried for whitewashing the true extent of human rights abuses in the gulf state.

After quoting from a report in which numerous countries - most of whom are themselves among the world's worst human rights abusers - praised Saudi Arabia for its "progress" in implementing human rights reforms, Neuer urged the council to reject it out of hand.

"The truth is that there are zero women's rights, zero religious rights, zero minority rights, zero human rights in Saudi Arabia. The truth is that Saudi Arabia has an entrenched system of gender apartheid. The truth is that Saudi Arabia should never have been elected as a member of this council," he shot back.

Accusations of institutionalized discrimination against women in Saudi Arabia have come to the fore in recent days, with revelations that Saudi King Abdullah has been keeping several of his daughters prisoner for over a decade. In a recent public plea for help, the trapped princesses echoed accusations of "gender apartheid" by their father and his government.

The glowing report on human rights in the gulf kingdom come just months after rights group Amnesty International attacked Riyadh's "hot air" and broken promises on the issue, saying it has failed to implement promised reforms to the state of human rights.

In December, the UNHRC invited Israel to join its Western European countries group and Israel accepted.    

UN members are divided into five regional groups that try to craft common policy positions and elect countries and individuals to UN bodies. Joining a group does not guarantee Israel will become a council member, but nonetheless gives it more sway than it has out in the cold.    

Although geographically the Jewish state is in Asia, hostile Arab and Muslim states have blocked it from joining the Asian group.  

In January 2012, Israel became the first country to refuse to attend a periodic review of its human rights record, and two months later it cut all ties with UNHRC after the Geneva-based council said it would probe how settlements may be infringing on Palestinians rights.    

Israel has accused the UNHRC of routinely singling it out at its annual meetings, as well as passing a number of anti-Israel resolutions.

UN Watch's Hillel Neuer blasts whitewashing of Saudi abuse at UN: