Britain condemns ‘anti-Israel bias’ at UN Human Rights Council

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the UNHRC’s dedicated agenda item on Israel was “disproportionate and damaging to the cause of peace.”

By: AP 

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Monday urged the UN Human Rights Council to reform its treatment of Israel.

But while he joined the United States in demanding an end to what has been been described as the body’s bias against the Jewish state, he urged the US not to pull out of the UNHRC.

Addressing the opening of the 38th council session, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson criticized the council’s controversial Agenda Item 7, a permanent fixture on the schedule exclusively devoted to discussing Israel’s purported rights abuses.

Speaking to the Human Rights Council, Johnson said that its dedicated agenda item on Israel was “disproportionate and damaging to the cause of peace.”

Johnson said: “But I stress that that does not mean that we in the UK are blind to the value of this council.”

 

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Johnson said the council’s work on the Israel-Palestinian conflict could have value under the right conditions.

Diplomats have told The Associated Press that a US withdrawal from the 47-member council could come as early as Tuesday.

Washington, some European countries and Australia have sided with Israel in condemning Item 7 as prejudiced, noting that countries with worse rights records in recent years, like Syria, are spared such intense scrutiny.

While previous US administrations have criticized Item 7, President Donald Trump’s government has raised the prospect of withdrawing from the council unless it is scrapped.

Israel is the only country with a dedicated council item that obligated the council to raise Israel’s alleged human rights abuses every time the council meets.

Item 7 has been part of the council’s regular business 2007, almost as long as it has existed. The council was established in 2006.

Diplomats who requested anonymity told AP last week that it appeared more a matter of when, not if, the pullout threatened last year by the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, will happen. The United States could announce its decision as early as Tuesday, an official said.

Efforts by Haley and other American diplomats to end or to water down the routine scrutiny of Israel have failed in recent months at the UN General Assembly in New York.

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During her visit to Geneva a year ago, Haley denounced the council as a “forum for politics, hypocrisy and evasion.” She accused member countries such as Venezuela, Cuba, China, Burundi and Saudi Arabia of failing to fulfill their duties to “uphold the highest standards” of human rights, while emphasizing what she said was the council’s anti-Israel bias.