A rogue UN body

The UN Human Rights Council is out-of-control

If you thought that the UN Human Rights Council was a farce, think again. It is an out-of-control outfit that has come to become a handmaiden of states that are the worst abusers of human rights.

You have read about its upside down sense of priorities. You have seen how it has perverted even the definition of human rights. And you have seen how its special rapporteur stepped way out of line while ‘auditing’ India’s record.

Well, the latest outrage from the UNHRC is the appointment of Richard Falk as its special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories. The problem is that Professor Falk is far from level-headed: he is a person who sees little difference in the Jewish Holocaust in Nazi Germany and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

As David Aaronovitch writes

The implication of this logic is simple. The UN Human Rights Council doesn’t give a toss about the human rights of the Palestinians in the sense of wanting them upheld. Its majority is far more interested in using Israel as a stick to beat the US with, or – in the case of Islamic states – as a bogeyman to dampen down domestic discontent. [Times]

Reason’s Michael Moynihan calls Professor Falk a ‘rogue rapporteur’. The problem lies deeper. The UNHRC is a rogue organisation. Instead of politically correct pussyfooting, the appropriate response for countries that do take their constitutional commitments to human rights seriously is not to dignify it by their continued participation.

25 thoughts on “A rogue UN body”

  1. In all honesty, the UN Human Rights Council is no better than its predecessor. It spends all its time condemning Israel while ignoring human rights catastrophes in places like Darfur and Zimbabwe. Like the UN General Assembly, it’s a useless organization, and a joke. It should be disbanded.

  2. He’s one of those “self-hating” types as he is Jewish at least ethnically. Also connected with the 9/11 Truthers, that it was a “false flag” operation by neocons and or Israel.

  3. I’m quite amused by the hysterical reaction to Falk’s statements.

    To cut through all the hysteria, I propose a simple exercise. Just compare N.Ram’s piece in Frontline to Marty Peretz’s piece in The New Republic. The same apologetics. The same point of “Occupation: Try it, you’ll like it”. The same “economic growth”. Ask yourself why you consider one (correctly) a shameful piece of propaganda, and the other a “refutation” of Falk.

    If anybody wants to escape from these delusional world and want to know what Gaza is today, there’s plenty of material. One of the leading western authority on the Gaza Strip, Harvard’s Sara Roy has written with great detail on the conditions Israel is imposing on Gaza. This was two years ago. Today’s much worse, obviously.

  4. My dear Anand,

    Words like genocide are fashionable in the hands of polemicists, but they have a specific meaning. There is a genocide convention that defines what genocide is. If the situation in the Palestinian territories is genocide, why isn’t the Arab world making a case under the genocide convention?

    Please don’t conflate genocide and the horrors of occupation. Contrary to what you might think, the real world is not delusionary. People know the difference. It is possible to be entirely against Israel’s policies against the Palestinians while also being entirely against characterising it as a Holocaust.

  5. Labels are in the eye of the beholder. Falk’s point about genocide and comparing to the Nazis has to do with collective punishment, an unambiguous violation of the Geneva Conventions. It’s simply not acceptable to punish an entire population because of some elements. He has made this sufficiently clear in a number of comments, but the bias is so extreme that you cannot see it. A Chinese Politburo member might well make similar comments about “cultural genocide” of Dalai Lama.

    Also note that heated rhetoric like “Holocaust” are used on all sides. It was an Israeli minister who warned last month that Gazans would face a “Holocaust”. Note the vastly more important rhetoric there from the persons in power, not a relatively powerless UN official.

    Deeds matter most. Labels are second order effects.

    The real issue with the attack on the UN is the elementary fact that for almost 30 years, the US and Israel have stood alone, (literally), in opposing the solution to the conflict. The UN General Assembly votes every year, on “Peaceful resolution of the Palestine question”. And the vote is always the same roughly 160 to 2 (along with some marginal exceptions). This includes literally the entire world, not just “corrupt Arab states”.

  6. Dear Anand,

    Murder is against the law. Beating up someone is against the law. Just because someone is guilty of beating someone else, he is can’t be accused of being a murderer. Ditto, the Geneva conventions. Genocide has a definition under international law, arising from the Genocide convention. You can’t simply say Israel is guilty of genocide just because the Dalai Lama said something about it. The Dalai Lama is not international law. And no, just because genocide is part of “heated rhetoric” used “by all sides” it still remains a legally well defined crime.

    You’ve got the point about the UN. It’s useless. It’s useless because even when states vote 160-2 on something, things don’t change at all. Don’t blame Israel and the US for that—they are not altruistic moral paragons, they are doing whatever they are doing because they see it as being in their interests. The countries on the UNHRC, like China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan etc are doing what they are doing because they see it as being in their interests. That, my dear Anand, is the whole point.

  7. >>>And the vote is always the same roughly 160 to 2 (along with some marginal exceptions). This includes literally the entire world, not just “corrupt Arab states”.

    You don’t mention abstentions. The world knows that US will veto the resolution so most countries vote for their economic interests and concern for oil.

    The hurdle to peace there is Hamas. They do not accept Israel’s right to exist, so do many Arab countries. Palestinians have never given up on violence and the Tibetans never took it up. Huge difference.

  8. >>Labels are in the eye of the beholder

    Anand, “genocide” is not a label, and not all labels embody subjective perceptions.

    For instance, one has to be a seasoned Jew-hater to dispute the fact that the Nazi holocaust was indeed a genocide.

    Likewise, one has to be a thoroughbred commie to not recognize the genocidal impact of communism on mankind.

  9. Nitin,
    1. The point here is that to focus on labels is to evade the issue, in this case, collective punishment. When the Israeli Defence minister threatens Gazans with “Holocaust”, it’s a bit rich to focus on the UN official. Try a simple exercise: check how many times you find that fact in any of the links you cited. Or how many describe the uncontroversially criminal (under the Geneva Conventions) collective punishment as anything else than wholly blamed on the victims. In any parallel circumstance, you’d recognize all these articles as unadulterated propaganda. That’s why I asked you to compare them to N.Ram’s piece in Frontline. The analogy carries over perfectly.

    2. The UN can only be as effective as the Great Powers allow it to be. It’s a truism that countries “act in their interests”. How can it be otherwise? The point is that there should be international law constraining the actions of States, so that they don’t act arbitrarily. Because the interests of States are not necessarily the interests of people. On this issue you’ll find that the “interests” argument doesn’t hold much water. It streches credibility to hold that all the countries in the world have “interests” opposed to US and Israel as regards the Middle East.

    Special thanks to Oldtimer for ignoring all my substantive points.

  10. >>Special thanks to Oldtimer for ignoring all my substantive points

    This is interesting. You are not responding to my substantive point that it is easy to tell REAL genocides and imagined genocides that are used as rhetorical devices; and that Falk types are trivializing true concern for human rights by their use of the latter.

    If you truly believe in your own claims about “labels”, why get worked up about Israel minister’s use of the word “shoah” given 1) there is not a real shoah, and 2) that the word in native tongue may have different connotations than as “holocaust” is understood by us and 3) he used the word in the context of threatening a retaliation AFTER rocket attacks on Israelis? (Heck, Pakistan threatens us with nuclear annihilation with not excuse at all!)

    In fact, I am much more concerned about China’s threats to “crush” Tibetans since Chinese communists have a track record of literally crushing dissenters to death. Note that Falk and communists elsewhere or not exercised about this.

    So to get back to point, to dub Falk as a rogue “human rights” activist is not “hysteria”. Hysteria is to claim that “genocide” is happening in Gaza.

  11. Anand
    While holding no sympathy for the Zionist regime in Palestine, I do not think it is engaging in genocide in the commonly used meaning of the term.

  12. “Zionist regime in Palestine”

    Wow! Still no acceptance of Israel as a state and people ask why there is not peace in the middle-east. That Zionist “regime” is a democratically elected government, a signatory to UN charter. It amazes me how those who don’t want to concede this much in their minds advice others to relinquish anything for that matter, leave alone a chimera of peace.

    Using the pejorative “regime” in context of Israeli government is incorrect in that it clubs them with unrepresentative, unelected thuggish dictatorships around the globe.

    It is quite implausible that states that don’t even seek legitimacy of their own people will ever be constrained by something as quaint as international law that cannot be enforced, and that provides the followers with lesser incentive any way. It creates false equality between states with power and states that have none.

  13. Socal,
    You’re confused. “Palestine” does not refer to Israeli territory. It refers to West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. You’re quite right to insist that Israel should be allowed to live in peace and security, just like any other nation state.

  14. Conservative groups in the US that are most vocal about the UN’s irrelevance are playing the old game – when they couldn’t use it to wage an illegitimate war, they started shouting it down and questioning the very rationale of its existence. It was a nice little instrument the big five could use to push their own agenda, apparently it’s run its course. It’s dangerous to align ourselves with these groups and join in the chorus even though we have our own issues with the UN.

  15. Of course the same worthies didn’t waste time pushing resolutions down our collective throat because no one gave a damn about India (or Bangladesh, for that matter).

  16. Oldtimer,
    Thanks for elaborating.

    I’m not getting through to you. But that’s my problem (as also shown by history_lover’s comment). I’ll try once more.

    The point is not whether the label ‘genocide’ is applicable or not. You can judge for yourself. If you want my opinion, I don’t think it’s applicable. But I think it’s a minor issue.

    Suppose you think this is a major issue. Ok. Then, we should apply this principle across the board. We should all use labels correctly. So what’s the elephant in the room here which wasn’t mentioned in any of the links cited?

    The Deputy Defence Minister threatens Gazans with “Holocaust”. Here’s a person in power, directly responsible for everything going on, saying an outrageous thing. You’d at least expect these strong moral characters to say something about it.

    Or how about talking about what the minister is actually implementing? Words are cheap. Deeds are what matter. Again, not even mentioned anywhere that collective punishment is wholly illegal.

    As soon as you ask these basic questions, it’s clear that all these tantrums (I refer to the links cited) are just propaganda. It’s a smoke-screen to evade the issue. Hence the N.Ram comment.

    When a torrent of abuse is focused on a cosmetic issue, you know something else is going on. And I gave my opinion as to what is going on. And my reasons. The reason the whole UN is attacked is because the actions of Israel are contrary to the position of virtually the entire world.

  17. You are not getting through because you’re not getting the substantive point. This discussion is about Falk, his loopiness (to put it mildly), his lies about genocide in Palestine, and how UNHCR is disgracing human rights movement by dignifying people like him.

    Let me tell you a little about Holocaust.

    In Germany, (National) Socialists brainstormed together and chalked out a “final solution” to the “Jewish problem”. The solution was to round up Jews from all (national) socialist controlled areas, put them in freight trains, and transport them like cattle to specially constructed extermination camps, such as Auschwitz. Some captives died while in transit, simply due to asphyxiation. When the survivors arrived at the camp, they were segregated into two groups: children and old people into one, and the able-bodied into the other. The first were marched off directly into gas chambers soon after arrival. They were subjected to Zyklon-B, a poisonous gas, for 20 minutes, the amount of time required to extinguish life completely. People from the second group were then called out to remove valuable personal effects (including gold teeth) from the dead. Cremation chambers — which doubled up as living quarters for people from the second group — did the rest of the work, billowing out smoke throughout the day. This assembly line rendered final solution to more than a thousand Jews a day on the average during its existence, and saw peak activities of several thousand lives snuffed out in a single day. Abattoirs of that time weren’t known to be as efficient.

    Several things made all of this possible. The more important among them: first, ideology. National Socialism. Second, a hopelessly outnumbered target population that was incapable of hitting back, which in fact accepted persecution as its lot. Third, a huge government bureaucracy that ran this gigantic killing operation and coordinated its several activities. Not one person in this vast command chain summoned up the conscience to want to put an end to it all. Imagine, you, Anand, were a national socialist officer in this racket. Your daily routine might have consisted of lining up a bunch of people before you, calling out names from a record, make sure the results tally, pack them off into the train, dispatch a report to your national socialist HQ, and go home for a nice dinner and a bottle of wine with wife and kids. This (national) socialist piece of work so defied comprehension, that some people say that no deep theories are required to explain it, it was all just the “banality of evil”.

    That is what Holocaust is. If loony Falk is claiming that this is what is happening in Gaza, he needs to explain where the rockets targeting Jewish settlements are coming from. From inside gas chambers? He and other socialists also need to explain why indiscriminate killing by Palestinians is acceptable, while Tibetans are held to exacting standards, even as socialists in China are going about crushing them.

  18. Anand,

    Collective punishment, of even a population that has disproportionately large sections actively conniving with terrorists, and an even larger proportion that provides some kind of logistic support or cover, is wrong. OTOH there is no Holocaust anywhere close to what Oldtimer spelled out above anywhere on the horizon there, thank goodness for that. Perhaps the Israeli DDM grandstanded for a hardline audience or something, but there is no way I see it actually happening in Israel today. Also you miss the context of rocket raids that he was perhaps responding to.

    I do condemn the violence from both sides, I think at least on occasion the only difference between atrocities perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists and Israeli forces is that one set wore uniforms -eg with shooting down young boys- even if they are chucking rocks at armored carriers; horrible and tactically a blunder too.

    That place is a mess, nobody particularly has their hands clean IMO.

    I really dont see why you brought Tibet and the Dalai Lama into this though, the differences are so glaring this only highlights the Palestinian violence and thereby weakens their legitimate IMO claim to a state by contrasting the ugly methods they use.


  19. Anand: “You’re confused. “Palestine” does not refer to Israeli territory.”

    history_lover says there is “Zionist regime in Palestine” which is what I was responding to. In the Palestine of your definition there is no Zionist regime. West bank is run by PA and Gaza strip by Hamas.

    Unless you’re taking his comment for mine I don’t see anything confusing in my statement.

  20. Nanda_kishore,

    The conservatives’ talk of UN’s irrelevance predates Iraq war. There were few dozen Iraq related resolutions that even the biggest of big five could not implement. So much for pushing their own agenda.

    To play the global game, it is necessary to have a seat at the table. And acquiring that needs partnership, especially given our current status which is not very flattering to elaborate.

  21. socal,
    I’m sorry, if you think Israel does not occupy/control Gaza and West Bank, it’s hard to argue.

    I think I’ll stop trying for now.

  22. Anand- “I’m sorry, if you think Israel does not occupy/control Gaza and West Bank, it’s hard to argue.”

    The apologetic tone above would appear sincere if the unnecessary confusion between access to West Bank and Gaza with control of the same was dropped. Two different things. If Israel were controlling Gaza Hamas would have no reason to fire rockets in Israeli territories when they would have Israelis around them.

    What exactly is the ‘authority’ in Palestinian Authority if they’re not controlling West Bank? Hamas won election not too long ago. What was it about if not for controlling Gaza?

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