Israel boycotts UN Human Rights Council over settlement probe

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Published Monday, March 26, 2012

Israel's government isolated itself further from the international community on Monday as it announced it would cut all contact with the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The council adopted a resolution last week that condemned Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and its decision to send a fact-finding mission to investigate such activity.

The resolution was adopted by a democratic decision in the 47-member council, with 36 votes in favor and 10 abstentions. Only the United States voted against it.

Israel accuses the council of having a bias because of what it says is its disproportionate focus on Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.

However the council is highly critical of all human rights abuses across the world, including in Israel's enemies such as Syria and Iran.

The Israeli foreign ministry said on Monday it would cut all contact with the body.

"There was a decision by the foreign ministry to sever work contacts with the organization," ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP, adding that Israel had yet to formally inform the council of its decision.

"There won't be working relations with them, conversations, passing papers, making visits, exchanging information, consulting one another, attending meetings," he added. "That's work, and it will not take place."

The Council's leader Laura Dupuy Lasserre said the decision by Israel was "most regrettable."

Lasserre said she has not received official confirmation of Israel's decision, but "if it is indeed the case, this would be most regrettable."

"I have no doubt that it is in the interest of Israel to cooperate with the Human Rights Council on this investigative mission, not least so that it can explain its own policies and actions to the independent commissioners once they are appointed," said the Uruguayan ambassador.

Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, but Israel has continued to expand Jewish communities in the occupied territory.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) became the first UN body to recognize Palestine as a state last October, incurring the wrath of Israel and a funding cut from the United States.

Omar Barghouti from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement said the decision to boycott could prove to be the start of Israel's "South Africa moment."

"Israel's far-right government is so drunk with impunity that it often mistakenly perceives its made-in-the-USA influence in the world today as an indicator of its inherent power and worth and acts accordingly, often with untenable and nauseating hubris," he said.

"With the steady and gradual demise of US power, however, and given the fast growth of the global, Palestinian-led BDS movement, Israel's impunity will get increasingly thinner, eventually reaching a breaking point where there is no more protection for its grave violations of human rights and international law. Then the South Africa moment will be heavily felt in Israel."

Souheil El-Natour, spokesman for the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) in Lebanon, said the UN rights council decision was part of a trend that is isolating Israel from the international community.

“It will shock a lot of people who think unconsciously or because of propaganda that they are searching for peace. Now they will discover that the UN human rights body is investigating them,” he said.

“I think the Israelis pay a lot of attention to international public opinion...The best thing for them is to pretend all the time that they are with peace and negotiations. Now it is clear that practically they are continuing their occupation and widening their occupation of the West Bank,” he added.

“That will encourage all pro-Palestinians and all those pro-justice to pressurize and boycott the settlements.”

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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