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Will a UNHRC without America rebuild and flex its muscles against Israel?

Image of the 34th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council at the United Nations office in Geneva, Switzerland on 2 February 2017 [Mustafa Yalçın - Anadolu Agency]
34th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council at the United Nations office in Geneva, Switzerland on 2 February 2017 [Mustafa Yalçın - Anadolu Agency]

The UN Human Rights Council’s allegedly “unconscionable” approach to Israel is the reason cited by the Trump administration for withdrawing unceremoniously from the international body. Using the excuse that the UNHRC is biased against Israel, the United States has, without blinking — and in typical, cowardly fashion — exited stage right in the hope that other states will follow. At the moment, it looks as if the US is on its own apart from Israel itself.

Having America at loggerheads with an important part of the UN structure may be music to the ears of Israel, but it certainly does not augur well for whatever is left of the “prestige” of the only global superpower. Flexing its muscles to protect the world’s last remaining settler-colonial regime may have worked in the past, but that era has passed, thanks mainly to the overt and shameful collusion between the US President and Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu to impose the Israeli narrative of “victimhood” on the rest of us.

The new reality is that people all over the world have had enough of US-Israeli bullying and intimidation, even if some governments are still in awe of America’s power. What’s worse for the US is that its President is viewed as an unpredictable character, whose claim to legitimacy is mired in controversy. Donald Trump is considered by most reasonable people to be a buffoon surrounded by a coterie of right-wing racists who profit from his disastrously irrational policies.

The US leaving the UN Human Rights Council – Cartoon

More importantly, with an arrogant, fire-spitting loudmouth like Nimrata “Nikki” Haley as his ambassador at the UN, the contrast between good and evil could not be starker. In her shrill voice, Haley attacked the UNHRC as “hypocritical and self-serving” without any regard for the hypocrisy of her own government. Trump’s envoy, who is arguably there to serve Israel’s interest rather than America’s, may actually believe her own lies, but sadly for her and her Zionist patrons, world opinion is inclined to believe that Washington is complicit in Israeli war crimes against the Palestinians by its failure to act against its client state.

Such obvious failures apart, the US has deliberately sabotaged attempts by the UNHRC to hold Israel to account for its frequent and ongoing breaches of international human rights law. Shameless double standards dog Trump’s presidency, especially in the emphatic fashion that it continues to shield Israel.

OPINION: The US departure from UNHRC is reflection of widespread impunity

As global outrage against Israel’s latest horrific bloodbath in Gaza grows, there can be no doubt that the settler-colonial regime is as fearful as the former South African apartheid regime was about the potential of the United Nations to curb its ability to act with impunity. It is well documented that the UN had a significant role in the abolition of South Africa’s notorious racist rule. Condemned as a “crime against humanity”, the UN established a Special Committee against Apartheid in 1962. A decade later it adopted the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. As the newly-elected President of South Africa in 1994, Nelson Mandela addressed the UN General Assembly by welcoming its role in the vanquishing of apartheid in his homeland.

Israel is obviously fearful of a similar scenario whereby leaders of the freedom struggle in Palestine would retrace Mandela’s steps and repeat his celebratory speech. Netanyahu’s government and its supporters are keen to have Trump as their proxy to destroy or at the least cripple the UN and key institutions such as the UNHRC. It is for this reason that the Israeli regime has sought to ridicule and slander UN Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups whose roles in the investigation of Israeli violations have been made impossible.

Israel is also aware that its conduct against Palestinians — especially in the emphatic way that its racist laws are being applied — is at odds with the charter of the UN. A regime of intolerable cruelty is in place which no organ of the UN can justify or ignore.

the US (Nikki Haley) leaving the UN Human Rights Council, saying It’s “Anti-Israel” – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

It is no surprise that South Africa has slammed the US decision to withdraw from membership of the UNHRC. The ANC-led government has correctly deplored the exit as “worrisome” and against the spirit of multilateralism as well as the UN Charter.

READ: Human rights activist describes US withdrawal from UNHRC as ‘arrogant’

Human rights groups have argued consistently that the UN has not done enough to take Israel to account for its numerous violations of international laws and conventions. Discontent at its lackluster performance may be a polite way of expressing major disappointment. This critique is shared by Palestinians who argue justifiably that the endless list of crimes committed by Israel against them — all in violation of the UN Charter — have not resulted in swift, decisive action against the Zionist state.

Notwithstanding comprehensive reports by Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups, it is an undeniable fact that Israel has evaded censure and concomitant punitive measures, due mainly to the protection offered by the US from the UN Security Council down. Not only has it impacted negatively on the image of the UN, but the question of Israel’s impunity and defiance has also undermined the credibility of its institutions.

Now that Trump has taken America out amidst bellicose war cries by Haley, will we start to see the UNHRC rebuilding and then, more importantly, starting to flex its muscles? Victims of injustice around the world, not least the Palestinians, will certainly hope so.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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