Israel, Palestine and the Human Rights Council

By Robert Fantina

With the ever-present backing of the hypocritical United States, Israel has once more thrown a temper tantrum on the world stage.

The latest move by the United Nations that has outraged apartheid Israel, is that organization’s decision to investigate the illegal Israeli settlements in illegally-occupied Palestine, to determine if they infringe on the human rights of the Palestinian people. In response, Israel has severed ties with the UN’s Human Rights Council, which effectively  prevents “any fact-finding team dispatched by the council from entering Israel and the West Bank to investigate settlement construction,” according to the Haaretz news agency.

"It means that we’re not going to work with them. We’re not going to let them carry out any kind of mission for the Human Rights Council, including this probe," said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.

The U.S. fell right in line, jumping as high as Israel demanded. U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, said during a meeting with students at Tel Aviv University, that the Human Rights Council ‘obsessively focuses’ on Israel, while neglecting other human rights issues that are far more important and urgent. The U.S., he said, remains a part of the Human Rights Council, and tries to shift its focus away from Israel and onto Iran and Syria. 

One wonders why this is. If it is suspected that human rights are being abused anywhere, should not the United Nations investigate? One also wonders what it is that Israel is so afraid of? If that nation isn’t abusing the human rights of Palestinians; if it is not stealing their land and bulldozing their homes; if it is not establishing and operating checkpoints that make what should be a short walk from home to school or work, an hours-long ordeal; if it is not shooting at farmers working in their fields, than why not let the Human Rights Council investigate? If Israel is not preventing ambulances from Palestine  from crossing checkpoints, resulting in babies being born at checkpoints without any medical attention; if it is not preventing seriously ill and injured people from getting medical treatment, why not let the United Nations see that? If Israel is not building roads on occupied Palestinian territory that only Israelis can use; if it does not prevent the inferior roads that Palestinians are forced to used from being used if a new Israeli-only road crosses it; if it’s complete control of Palestinian borders does not cause ‘food insecurity’ for millions of Palestinians, they why oppose the investigation?

If, however, Israel is in fact perpetuating these and other horrors on a daily basis on the Palestinian people, why will the U.S not support an investigation? Why should human rights abuses in Syria and Iran be the focus of the Human Rights Council’s investigation, when horrific human rights abuses are being perpetrated by Israel?

This is really not much of a mystery. AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, funnels large sums of money to U.S. politicians, and those politicians are not known for biting the hands that so generously feed them. Between 1978 and 2009, AIPAC donated nearly $50,000,000.00 to politicians in the United States. As with so much in the U.S., the bottom line means everything, even enabling horrific human rights abuses of a vulnerable population. If Iran, Syria or Palestine had a wealthy, powerful lobbying group, perhaps the U.S. would not have stood alone in voting against the U.N. investigations of illegal Israeli settlements.

It is, of course, a two-way financial street. In exchange for AIPAC’s large investments, the U.S. doesn’t only block the U.N. from censuring or investigating Israel. In fiscal year 2011, the U.S. gave Israel an astounding $2,990,000,000.00 in military aid. That is certainly a very nice return on Israel’s investment.

The hypocrisy of the United States is made crystal clear by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In March, as Israel bombed the Gaza Strip, in retaliation for some ineffectual rockets fired into Israel, Mrs. Clinton spoke at the United Nations. In support of the Syrian people struggling to free themselves from the oppression of their own governments, she said: “Now the United States believes firmly in the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all member-states, but we do not believe that sovereignty demands that this council stand silent when governments massacre their own people, threatening regional peace and security in the process. And we reject any equivalence between premeditated murders by a government’s military machine and the actions of civilians under siege driven to self-defense.”

Yet those lofty sentiments do not apply when the Israel ‘government’s military machine’ engages in ‘premeditated murders,’ and the ‘civilians under siege’ are ‘driven to self-defense.’ She commented also on Israel’s bombing of Gaza:  “And let me also condemn in the strongest terms the rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel which continued over the weekend. We call on those responsible to take immediate action to stop these attacks. We call on both sides – all sides – to make every effort to restore calm.”

What, one might reasonable ask, about the ‘sovereignty and territorial integrity’ of Palestine? True, it is not a ‘member state’ in the U.N., but does that somehow make its people inferior? Apparently so, in the eyes of the United States.

Despite Israel tightening the noose around the neck of Palestine, the world does seem to be taking notice. Palestine is recognized by at least 112 countries, representing approximately 80% of the world’s population. However, these countries hold only about 25% of the world’s financial resources.  Once again, cash trumps justice every time.

Last year, Palestine was accepted as a member of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), much to the dismay of the U.S. and Israel. And now, as of April 9, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that he may renew his efforts for U.N. membership, if Israel will not accept Palestine’s conditions for continued negotiations.  Why he ‘may’ renew such efforts, and why there was any lapse in those efforts, is a topic for another essay. Regardless, it is highly unlikely that Israel will accept those terms. Why should Israel bother to seriously negotiate, when it can simply take from the Palestinians whatever it wants?

There should be no delay in Mr. Abbas’ efforts for full U.N. recognition. Despite the stranglehold that Israel has on Palestine, such recognition is the key to justice for the Palestinians. That, along with continued and ever-increasing world focus on apartheid Israel, will finally bring justice to the Palestinians.

– Robert Fantina contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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