The U.N. Human Rights Commission has adopted a resolution condemning Israel for the assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. The vote was 31 in favor, two against and 18 abstentions.
As the country about to be criticized, Israel was allowed to speak first. The Israeli ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Yaakov Levy, denounced the special meeting as 'Israel-bashing' at its worst.
"Today, this forum has clearly reached its nadir, by lending a hand and moral standing for supporting the most despicable and horrendous of evils, that of terrorism, while denying Israel the right of self-defense against that evil. Whatever remains of the credibility and dignity of this body, is at stake today," he said.
Mr. Levy accused the U.N. Human Rights Commission of lending support to acts of terrorism instead of renouncing them, which he said is shameful. He said there is no equivalence between those who perpetrate terrorism and those who fight it in self-defense.
The Israeli ambassador's impassioned speech did not succeed in changing many minds.
The Pakistani ambassador called the assassination of Sheik Yassin a gruesome murder. Ambassador Shaukat Umer spoke on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which requested the special session. He said when the killings of Palestinians and their leadership stop, there will be no need for such meetings.
"But, as long as these horrors continue, as long as these outrageous killings continue, the people of Palestine have every right to knock on the doors of this Commission and ask for justice and ask for protection of their human rights and demand respect for international humanitarian law," he said.
Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Ireland's ambassador, Mary Whelan, condemned the killing of Sheikh Yassin and seven other Palestinians by Israeli forces. But she also condemned the terrorist atrocities committed by Hamas against Israeli civilians, and she said the resolution the Human Rights Commission passed was unbalanced.
"In particular, we regret that it does not call for the immediate cessation of all acts of violence, including all acts of terror, provocation, incitement, and destruction. Violence is not substitute for the political negotiations, which are necessary for a just and lasting settlement," she said.
Ambassador Whelan abstained on behalf of the European Union.
The head of the U.S. Delegation, Ambassador Richard Williamson, criticized the commission for taking up an issue which was being discussed at the U.N. Security Council. "It is precisely this sort of politicization of commission deliberations that discredits our work and diminishes the effectiveness of this body," he said.
Mr. Williamson called for both sides to work toward a two-state solution. For that to be achieved, he said Israel must take steps not to undercut peace efforts and the Palestinian authorities and people must 'rein in' terrorist groups like Hamas.