The Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva has been, for the last 10 years, a place where EUJS is no stranger. Last week, the 11th seminar of it’s kind commenced and was attended by 20 students from across Europe.
The week-long seminar aimed to provide participants with a physical insight into the work of the Council and its sessions in order to better understand the UN’s policy towards Israel and its relations with the international Jewish community. The seminar also provided space for participants to actively engage in the political sphere through taking part in a co-led demonstration outside the UN building and, of course, speaking up against the infamous items 7 and 9.
The seminar opened with a summary of the work of EUJS and its member unions in combating anti-Semitism and Israel bias within the Council given by former Executive Director, Nathan Chicheportiche. The group also gained an overview of UN-Israel relations through a presentation and question and answer session with UN Watch Director, Hillel Neuer.
With this in mind the group were then able to sit in on plenary sessions and hear representatives from around the world speak on a number of different issues, primarily the Israel/Palestine conflict. It was at this point that two, pre-selected students were able to deliver an address directly to the Council, under the banner of EUJS as the representative body of Jewish students in Europe.
“The number of resolutions condemning Israel proves that the Council's position is far from being objective” said Dina Amselem (Barcelona) in her speech to the Council.
“Six reports and five resolutions on Israel will be discussed in this session alone. Yet the council remains silent about mass killings, obscene human rights violations of which some are being perpetrated by the council’s own member states.”
On the increasing number of anti-Semitic attacks in Europe, Benjamin Carr (UK) posed the question: "Why should Jewish people have to face this level of fear on a daily basis? I can tell you the answer now: there is no answer. We shouldn't."
A similar tone was echoed as seminar participants took to the square in front of the UN building to stand in solidarity and defend Israel with the aim of highlighting the Council’s bias agenda towards the human rights situation in the region. On this topic, President Benny was invited to speak.
“What we ask for is universal” Benny proclaimed during the rally.
“We ask the world’s highest body on human rights to do its job properly. To stick to its own ideals. We ask for no more double standards.
“It is student activists who are often at the forefront of pressing issues like this, most recently, repeatedly, through the infamous BDS movement, which poisons the atmosphere on campuses.”
These topics were also addressed by the many guests that were invited to speak to the group, including the Deputy Permanent Representative for the Israeli Mission to the UN, Omer Caspi, WJC’s Diplomatic Corps Coordinator Arielle Godwin-Weinstein, Swiss-Jewish activist, Jonathan Kreutner, as well as our keynote speaker, Yesh Atid leader, Yair Lapid.
Despite receiving the tragic news of the terror attacks in Brussels, the experience left participants feeling increasingly enthusiastic to continue their work as student activists back in their communities and with future initiatives.
Click here to read French participant, Eva Assouline's report on the seminar
Click here to read Spanish participant and UN Ambassador, Dina Mouyal Amselem's report on the seminar