A new mall in Jerusalem
A new mall in JerusalemIsrael news photo: Flash 90

A Palestinian Authority human rights organization has used a regional health conference as a launching pad for political salvos against Israel, condemning "in the strongest possible terms" the World Health Organization's Europe division for holding a health policy conference in Jerusalem.

The first European Conference on the New European Policy for Health is being hosted by Israel Monday and Tuesday in Jerusalem, which infuriated the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR). 

"By conducting a conference hosted by Israel in the city of Jerusalem, the U.N. agency WHO sends an implicit recognition of Israel's annexation of the city and gives implied legitimization to Israel's illegal actions in Jerusalem over the past decades," the PCHR charged in a statement sent to media.

The conference is "an important milestone in the development of the Health 2020 policy that the European Region plans to endorse formally in September 2012," said the WHO in a statement on its website. "One of the core aims of the new European policy for health -- Health 2020 -- is to promote and strengthen innovative ways of working across sector and agency boundaries for health and wellbeing."

The conference aims to identify ways to establish and consolidate dialogue with critical stakeholders and all levels of government across the spectrum, essential for meeting most of the major public health challenges facing the world today.

The last several years' pandemics, first with bird flu and then with H1N1 influenza, should be enough to convince most officials that regional cooperation is essential in developing a uniform strategy to prevent future tragedy.

But the PCHR instead used the conference as a political soapbox to launch a harangue against the Jewish state, claiming "Judaization" of Jerusalem, human rights abuses of PA Arabs and "destruction of Palestinian heritage sites" in the city.

Among other charges trotted out by the PCHR were the "regime of apartheid" accusation and the "mistreatment of Palestinian by Israeli occupation forces," in addition to the insistence that the WHO cancel its conference in deference to "East Jerusalem as Palestinian territory and the rightful capital of a Palestinian state." 

The conference venue, incidentally, was not located in any of the eastern neighborhoods of the Israeli capital.