Kerry Denounces UN Human Rights Council “Obsession” with Israel

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US Secretary of State John Kerry gestures as he delivers remarks to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday, March 2. AFP/Evan Vucci

Published Monday, March 2, 2015

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday launched a staunch defense of Israel at the annual session of the UN human rights body.

Israel has long had stormy relations with the Human Rights Council (HRC), which has repeatedly accused it of rights violations in Palestinian territories, leading to accusations of bias by Israel and its allies.

"The HCR's obsession with Israel risks undermining the credibility of the entire organization," Kerry said at the opening of the main annual session of the council, which aims to protect human rights around the globe.

"We will oppose any group within the UN system (attempting) to regularly and arbitrarily de-legitimize Israel," he said.

Calling the council's record on Israel "deeply concerning," he said "no country on earth should be free from scrutiny, but neither should any country be (subjected) to bias.”

Israel has a long list of human rights violations against the Palestinian people dating back to the establishment of the Zionist state in 1948.

Following the end of the British mandate and the establishment of the Zionist state in accordance with the Balfour Declaration, 700,000 Palestinians were forced to flee their homes, or were expelled while hundreds of Palestinian villages were razed to the ground by invading Zionist forces.

The Palestinian diaspora has since become one of the largest in the world. Palestinian refugees are currently spread around the region and in other countries, while many have settled in refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In the 1967 Middle East war, Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank. It later annexed the whole city in 1980 claiming it a capital for its state — a move never recognized by the international community.

More than 600,000 settlers, soaring from 189,000 in 1989, now live in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, in contravention with international law.

Settlers ​also act without government approval to expand settlements or create new ones in the West Bank, building outposts that are illegal even by the Israeli authorities' standards.

In most cases these settlement outposts are then later "legalized" by Israel, or, in rare cases, they are dismantled. Meanwhile, Palestinians are rarely granted permission to build in ​the 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli military control, or in annexed East Jerusalem.

Israeli authorities have also allowed Zionist settlers to take over homes in Palestinian neighborhoods both in annexed East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and announced plans to build thousands of settlements strictly for Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem while ignoring Palestinian residents.

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions estimates that Israeli authorities have demolished about 27,000 Palestinian structures in the West Bank since 1967.

In addition to demolitions of homes for expansionist purposes, the Israeli state razes Palestinian homes for punitive purposes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. If a member of a family take action against Israel or Israeli citizens, their houses often risk being demolished, even if the perpetrator has already been arrested or killed by Israeli security forces.

Jerusalem Palestinians also face discrimination in all aspects of life including housing, employment, and services, and although they live within territory Israel has unilaterally annexed, they lack citizenship rights and are instead classified only as "residents" whose permits can be revoked if they move away from the city for more than a few years.

Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, who make up 20 percent of the population within Occupied Palestine, face routine discrimination, particularly in housing, land access and employment.

According to the Ramallah-­based Palestinian Authority government, the apartheid wall — which snakes through the West Bank, isolating large swathes of Palestinian territory — cuts some 50,000 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem off from the city center.

In addition to daily human rights violations, Israel is also accused of a long list of war crimes.

Since September 2000, following the Second Intifada, more than 9,100 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis, including 2,053 Palestinian children — the equivalent of ​one Palestinian child being killed every three days ​for the past 14 years.

Human rights groups have accused Israel of encouraging a shoot-­to-­kill policy after a wave of incidents in which police shot dead Palestinians involved in, or accused of, attacking Israelis.

For 51 days this summer, Israel pounded the Gaza Strip by air, land and sea, ending on August 26 with an Egypt­-brokered ceasefire deal.

More than 2,310 Gazans, 70 percent of them civilians and at least 21 percent of them children, were killed and 10,626 injured during that conflict.

According to the UN more than 96,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the recent Israeli offensive. Gaza also suffered widespread destruction of its infrastructure, reaching levels of devastation that UN chief Ban Ki Moon called “beyond description” in a visit to the Strip on October 14.

UNRWA has estimated that $720 million will be needed to provide rental subsidies to families with no alternative shelter, and to rebuild destroyed homes and repair damaged ones.

The Gaza Strip now harbors a large population of homeless people who lost their homes in the Israeli offensive, most of which are children.

Under Israeli blockade by air, land and sea since 2007, the Gaza Strip has seven border crossings linking it to the outside world. Six of these are controlled by Israel, while the seventh — the Rafah crossing — is controlled by Egypt, which recently closed it following a wave of attacks in Sinai.

It is worth noting that the international community has never taken any serious action to stop Israel’s persistent human rights violations and war crimes.
Meanwhile the US strongly opposes Palestinians’ decision to join any world bodies including recently the International Criminal Court (ICC).

On January 2, the Palestinian Authority (PA) presented a formal request to join the Hague-based court in a move which opens the way for them to file suit against Israeli officials for war crimes in the occupied territories.

On January 1, PA President Mahmoud Abbas signed onto 20 international conventions, including the ICC, giving the court jurisdiction over crimes committed on Palestinian lands and opening up an unprecedented confrontation between Abbas and the Zionist State.

Kerry’s defense comes at a time when ties between the United States and the Zionist state have allegedly cooled over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's attempts to dissuade the US administration from making a deal with Iran on reining in its nuclear program.

Netanyahu is currently in the United States and will address the US Congress on Tuesday at the invitation of President Barack Obama's Republican foes, infuriating the White House.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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