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UN Rights Commission Again Condemns Israel - 2003-04-15

The United Nations Human Rights Commission has voted to condemn Israel for alleged abuses in the Golan Heights and the Palestinian territories. The United States was alone in voting against the resolutions, saying the criticism was one-sided and unfair.

Israel is regularly condemned by the 53-nation top rights body of the United Nations, and this year was no different.

A resolution sponsored by African and Arab countries condemned Israel for alleged mass killings of the Palestinians. It criticized Israel for setting up settlements, besieging Palestinian towns and the shelling of Palestinian residential districts.

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Yaakov Levy, denied that his country has carried out any mass killing of Palestinians. He also decried a resolution passed denouncing Israel for what is termed the "illegal installation of settlers in the Palestinian territories."

"I contest practically every word in this statement - illegal, installation, etc.," stressed Ambassador Levy. "There is a dispute over the issue of settlements. This dispute was raised by our Palestinian colleagues when they negotiated with us in 1993, 1994. This issue is not resolved. It was left to permanent status negotiations. They would like to force our hands through United Nations bodies by labeling these settlements in negative terms."

Mr. Levy argues that the Jewish settlement issue for the Palestinians and the future of the Golan Heights for Syria are matters for negotiation. He says they should not be raised at the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

"We have told the Syrians time and again that if they want to gain part of the territory that they lost in the war that they launched in 1967, the way to do is it to negotiate peace and not to expect that the international community will force our hand to make unilateral concessions," said the ambassador."

The resolution calls on Israel to desist from changing the physical character and legal status of the Syrian Golan Heights it has occupied since 1967.

Mr. Levy denied that the resolution carried added weight given the recent strong criticism levied against Damascus by both Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President Bush's administration. They have accused Syria of harboring Iraq's former leaders and its weapons of mass destruction.