The European Union and several countries have decided to no longer participate in UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions that single out Israel as a violator of civil rights. The decision has many Islamic countries up in arms.
Agenda Item 7 of the UNHRC is entitled, “The Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories."
Though this might imply that the many civil rights violations by the Palestinian Authority might be the topic of discussion, in fact it is Israel that is under the gun. Representative after representative typically takes the floor to condemn Israel's activities, even though it is the only true democracy in the region, and despite its legal system and media that constantly ensure the preservation of civil rights for all.
Pakistan, speaking for the Islamic Group at the UNHRC, expressed "deep disappointment that certain member states of the Western European and Others Group had ceased their participation under agenda item 7, which [is] particularly disturbing in the light of the latest Israeli behavior."
Other Arab countries reacted similarly. The United Arab Emirates, speaking for the Arab Group, expressed "extreme discontent about the European Union’s decision to boycott this agenda item."
Iran, for the Non-Aligned Movement, was "deeply disappointed by the decision of certain states to cease their participation in this agenda item."
Saudi Arabia said it saw that an increasing number of countries were insisting on boycotting agenda item 7, which was "proof of double standards concerning Israel." It declared that "Item 7 [is] a fundamental agenda item of the Council which would stand until Israeli occupation and impunity ended."
"Non-participation speaks loudest against bigotry"
Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of the UN Watch observer organization, took the floor at the most recent session and summed up as follows: "Today is an important day for justice at the United Nations… Today we meet under Agenda Item 7, which singles out one nation, Israel, for differential and discriminatory treatment."
"Let us recall that in 1968, a similar form of discrimination took place in Tehran, at a UN conference celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. René Cassin, author of that Declaration, was present at that event. When he saw that one nation was being singled out, he left early in protest," said Neuer.
"Because sometimes," Neuer continued, "non-participation speaks loudest. Sometimes, it is the only remedy that can deny the legitimacy of a bigotry which cannot otherwise be challenged or overcome."
Neuer noted with satisfaction that the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, and many other liberal democracies did not take the floor in the debate. "The free and democratic world, echoing the appeal of René Cassin, has spoken for justice."