GENEVA - Hundreds of people from across Europe gathered in Geneva Monday to protest as the U.N. Human Rights Council met to discuss allegations of Israeli violations in the Palestinian territories.
While the debate over Palestinian rights was going on inside the United Nations, a rally opposing alleged anti-Israeli prejudice by the 47-member Human Rights Council was taking place outside the premises.
Hillel Neuer is Executive Director of the non-governmental organization, U.N. Watch. He told the gathering that the U.N. Council spent all last week reviewing the human rights records of many countries from all regions of the world.
"Today Israel alone is criticized for an entire day.” Neuer said. “The only country in the world that is the focus of its own day, its own debate, its own agenda item. Not North Korea, not Syria, not Sudan is treated in this way."
Neuer called the seven reports under review by the Council biased. He noted that some accused the Jewish state of war crimes while giving a free pass to Hamas, the ad hoc authority in Gaza.
Michael Lynk is Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967. He told the Council the situation in Gaza is moving from a tragic human-made crisis to a humanitarian catastrophe. He called on Israel to lift its blockade of Gaza, which he said is the source of many human rights and humanitarian law violations.
"The International community has long assumed that the Israeli occupation is not sustainable, and that it will end when the Israeli leadership finally comes to its senses and decides to honor its international legal responsibilities,” Lynk said. “Alas, I see little evidence of this occurring any time soon. Impunity, not accountability, is the signature hallmark of this occupation."
Israel boycotted the day-long session but did have a representative at the rally. The Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Aviva Raz Shechter told the crowd the U.N. was harming, not promoting human rights.
"In fact, the human rights council is undermining the very cause of human rights. It is an institution where cynicism and hypocrisy prevail,” Shechter said. “While antisemitism is raising its ugly head all over the world, this place is legitimizing discrimination against the one and only Jewish State, the State of Israel."
Shechter called for an end to this institutionalized bias. She said this double standard could no longer be tolerated.
The Israeli Ambassador found support for her position from the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell. The U.S. diplomat called the allegations against Israel phony. He said passing resolution after resolution condemning Israel while frequently ignoring China, Cuba, or Russia, was a horrendous hypocrisy.
Grenell said applying one standard to the state of Israel and not applying the same standard to others was, in his view, anti-Semitic.