Many a time when engaging in discussions relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, reference to a UN resolution purportedly charges the individuals argument with unique powers and becomes an all-out, exclusive, power-pack trump card. A conflict of such convoluted nature, riddled with many - often missed - nuances raises a unique set of challenges and is often difficult to fully convey the appreciation one has to factor in, when examining the realities of the conflict. Yet no amount of contextualising and reasoning will counter argue a pointer to a specific UN resolution. Its weight is indisputable and its respect unmatched and is perhaps what gives many naïve individuals confidence in taking a stance on an issue -- the middle east -- they know very little about. After all, if the United Nations churns out non-stop, a torrent of resolutions and heavy criticism of Israel, that leaves a clouded impression of an evil imperialist dictatorship masquerading as a democracy and paints a reductionist, black and white lens of which to view the conflict.
The history and establishment of “The United Nations Commission on Human Rights” was indeed laced with noble intentions, but lamentably, before long, its commendable aims were overrun and its collective effect watered down by regimes such as Cuba, Libya (its 2003 chair), Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Zimbabwe having the power to strike down resolutions directed at their respective countries. In 2005, the General Assembly established the “UN Human Rights Council” to replace the inept CHR and attempt to restore some measure of respect to the institution. With such collective political clout and an available financial pool of over 1.1 billion, it promised a new era of accountability with a united force dedicated to upholding basic human rights and liberty.
Being that in the student environment I operate, the UN often dominates the discussion, I felt the need to gain more of an insight into the HRC, to appreciate the dynamics and process involved in the decision making, which leads to the statements and resolutions echoing out of the HRC headquarters in Genèva .
It was with that spirit that I travelled last month to Genèva to spend four days at the UN HRC as an ambassador, on behalf of the European Union of Jewish Students, representing over 200,000 Jewish students across Europe.
Being rather familiar with the intricacies of the conflict, I was well aware of the inherent institutionalised bias employed and admittedly had not raised the bar very high. Yet lodged in the back of my mind, I naïvely envisaged the decision makers employing some measure of objectivity and relating from a relatively well informed platform on the pressing issues millions of oppressed peoples are heavily counting on for support. A global body to raise their extreme plight and shine a spotlight on the responsible dictatorships.
But I was in for a nasty surprise, for what greeted me was a complete circus of a council, staffed with disillusioned dictators, totalitarian regimes with appalling records of human rights abuse voicing laughable “concerns”, all of them engaged in a complete mockery of “Human Rights.”
I sat in the main hall witnessing the absurdity of Iran criticizing Iceland's record of human rights abuse of children and observed Syria standing up and criticising the council for focusing on the over 9,000 civilians murdered but “allegedly” ignoring what is going on in the West Bank. And this ludicrous display continued on unabated.
I later spent time with the Ugandan ambassador to the HRC who in official capacity occupies a dual role as ambassador to Geneva as well. He was completely unaware of the content and subject of item 7 on the council’s agenda; a dedication of an entire permanent item with the express purpose of directing attention on Israel. He further aired his concern with the perceived grip, the “Jewish lobby” has on The US Congress. But the real bombshell came at the conclusion of the meeting, when he aired a question in all seriousness, inquiring, “Are there any Christians in Israel?”
A week later Uganda was one the countries lending support to the five condemnations directed at Israel. The ambassador, who just a week before was blissfully unaware of the country he was condemning nor the mechanics of the council.
Equally taken aback I was, whilst at the French embassy, when I was told by the press attaché, he could not elaborate on anti-Semitism in France since he had not familiarised himself with the relevant reports as well as the fact he was not Jewish himself.
The general incompetence and maladroitness displayed was astonishing.
In the field of medical ethics, there exists the principle of “abandonment” relating to medical practitioners responsibilities when off-duty. Medics have no legal responsibility to offer their services, but if they choose to do so, they are legally bound to exercise full duty of care. The rationale for this is: once someone has engaged in giving medical attention, other competent individuals will not offer their services, relying on the attendees skill set. Thus, the full responsibility of care lies in the hands of the attending medical practitioner.
And so the obvious question is formed; has the council fulfilled ITS duty of care?
Furthermore in light of this, what role should such a body play in global politics and is it high time we stop granting unwarranted legitimacy to a body that has effectively become another tool in the grand
available to despotic regimes?
Should the disqualifiable “doctors” be granted space and legitimacy to continue wreaking havoc and flaunting the very morals it was tasked with upholding ?
Shlomie liberow is the president of JSoc at Goldsmiths University and a student fellow at StandWithUs UK