by Elad Benari
According to political writer Anne Bayefsky, the Obama administration’s treatment of Israel is not as hostile as it appears, but is, in fact, worse.
In an article which appeared last week on the Unity Coalition for Israel’s website, Bayefsky wrote that the U.S. State Department has adopted a practice of saying different things to different audiences. She brought as an example claims by the U.S. that recent speeches delivered the U.N. Human Rights Council were in Israel’s defense, when in fact the remarks American diplomats actually delivered were “strikingly different.”
While U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Eileen Donahoe, said during the Council’s last session in October that the Human Rights Council had “made historic progress…in advancing the rights of human rights defenders throughout the world,” Bayefsky said that Donahoe’s claim “turns on the virtue of legitimizing the demonization of Israel in favor of other people’s human rights.”
Bayefsky explains that during the latest session, the Human Rights Council had before it a report produced by a committee chaired by German lawyer Christian Tomuschat, a former legal adviser to former PA President Yasser Arafat. In the spirit of last year’s Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, the Tomuschat Report repeats the claim that Israel engaged in “violence against civilians as part of a deliberate policy” and criticizes Israel’s legal system for failing to mount a witch hunt for “officials at the highest levels.” The report also refers to Hamas’ internal investigation of the events during Operation Cast Lead, which exonerates itself from any wrongdoings, and finally concludes that it “is not in a position to ascertain the veracity of any of these assertions.”
According to Bayefsky, when the Human Rights Council took up this report, Ambassador Donahoe told the Human Rights Council: “We appreciate that the Tomuschat Committee did not jump to conclusions…” and also praised the committee on the grounds that it “did not recommend any further UN action,” despite the fact that the report was written so that it would guarantee the committee’s reappointment, which did indeed occur.
Furthermore, says Bayefsky, Ambassador Donahoe dropped from her speech the words “Because Israel has the right and the demonstrated ability to conduct credible investigations and serious self-scrutiny, further follow-up of the Goldstone Report by UN bodies is unnecessary and unwarranted,” a version which appears on the State Department website.
Bayefsky adds that this was not a one-time occurrence. A second anti-Israel report, commissioned in June after the flotilla incident, was written following a Human Rights Council investigation created within 48 hours of the incident and carried out by a three-person group that included lawyer Desmond de Silva, who headed a British law office with a Palestinian legal advisor, and hosted the team which is supporting a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. De Silva was has told the Human Rights Council that “[E]ven if Bin Laden himself was on board the Mavi Marmara, it wouldn’t have made the blockade legal.”
De Silva and his group said they couldn’t trust Israeli video evidence of the incident, and described the IHH activists on the Marmara as “persons genuinely committed to the spirit of humanitarianism.” They produced what Bayefsky calls “the usual U.N. laundry list of wild accusations and demands, such as prosecuting Israelis for torture.”
In this case as well, the State Department gave the U.N. a speech by Ambassador Donahoe to post on its website which includes an important defense of Israel, which once again was omitted from her actual delivery. On September 29, several days after Donahoe addressed the Council, it voted to approve both reports.
Bayefesky notes that even though at the conclusion of this session, the Human Rights Council maintained its record of having adopted more resolutions and decisions condemning Israel than all other 191 U.N. states combined, the Obama administration still described it as an “historic” session advancing human rights.
“This administration’s message is that demonizing Israelis is a price worth paying for the sake of other people’s human rights,” concludes Bayfesky. “’Several developments’ for anybody else trump several losses for the Jewish state. Legitimizing the Human Rights Council with American membership and financial support is justified regardless of the threat that it poses to the safety and security of the Jewish people. The Obama administration ought to know better. Equality and human dignity cannot be built on the inequality of the few.”
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