At last month’s Palestine Center conference, both Osamah Khalil and I warned against any euphoria that escalating US-Israeli tensions over the interim nuclear deal with Iran would lead the US to shift toward a less anti-Palestinian policy on the “peace process” front.
Rather, we predicted, the US would move to appease Israeli anger with concessions at the expense of the Palestinians. It now appears this is already coming to pass.
Yesterday, US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power celebrated a US-supported decision to admit Israel into the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) at the UN in Geneva from 1 January.This, she said in a statement, provides “Israel membership into one of the regional bodies that shape policy and determine leadership posts in UN fora.”
“As President Obama has made clear, the United States opposes effort to undermine Israel’s legitimacy as a full and equal member of the community of nations, and will continue to work vigorously to end structural discrimination against Israel throughout the UN system.”
The decision came on a day when Israeli occupation forces demolished the homes of 50 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank’s Jordan Valley – part of an escalating campaign of Israeli destruction and land theft recently condemned by Human Rights Watch.
The UN in Geneva is the headquarters of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which is the forum whose efforts to hold Israel accountable for various crimes have been constantly frustrated by the US and other sponsors of Israel.
Israel has not become a member of the Human Rights Council itself, but as a member of WEOG it is now eligible to be a candidate and to participate in various negotiations and decisions, among other benefits.
Such influence could be key to Israel’s fight against Palestinian rights.
The UN Human Rights Council commissioned the Goldstone report into the 2008-2009 Gaza massacre which Power’s predecessor, Ambassador Susan Rice, proudly helped bury and block.
It also commissioned an investigation into Israel’s 2010 attack on the Mavi Marmara in international waters, killing nine persons.
Earlier this year, in collusion with the Palestinian Authority, European countries helped block action in the Human Rights Council that could have led to sanctions against Israel for its relentless theft and colonization of occupied Palestinian land.
The American Jewish Committee (AJC), a major pro-Israel lobby group, welcomed the decision and claimed that its lobbying efforts had been instrumental.
“AJC conducted a multi-year campaign to secure that result, engaging in scores of private meetings with the leaders of WEOG member states, as it has in the more recent effort focused on Geneva,” the group said in a press release.
Is accountability now “anti-Semitism”?
US Secretary of State John Kerry also welcomed Israel’s inclusion in WEOG.
“It goes without saying that at a time when the scourge of global anti-Semitism is on the rise, it is more important than ever for Israel to have a strong voice that can be heard everywhere,” Kerry said.
“This is a particularly welcome development as we work to end anti-Israel bias in the UN system.”
Kerry’s tying of Israel’s inclusion in WEOG to alleged “anti-Semitism” would seem to be an implicit suggestion that efforts to hold Israel accountable, end its impunity and obtain a measure of justice for its victims, are driven by bias.
Singling out Israel?
Israel and its apologists often complain that Israel is “singled out” for ill-treatment at the UN. This is obviously false. While dozens of other countries have faced sanctions, Israel has never faced any concrete consequences despite its refusal to comply with dozens of UN resolutions.
Indeed it is Israel’s objection to lifting sanctions on Iran that is at the root of its dispute with the US.
In fact, Israel is rewarded for its defiance. On 30 November, JTA reported that “The European states had agreed to welcome Israel into their midst [in WEOG] in exchange for the Jewish state’s return to the council and its participation in its Universal Periodic Human Rights Review process.”
But participation in the council’s periodic human rights reviews is obligatory. Israel – with American and European support – managed to extract a reward merely for doing what every other country already does.
While US officials celebrate a diplomatic development that can only bolster Israel’s impunity, Israel prepares to carry out a new atrocity in addition to all its other ongoing abuses which the UN has failed to check for decades.
On 30 November, thousands protested the Prawer Plan, Israel’s racist scheme to ethnically cleanse tens of thousands of Palestinian Bedouins, steal their land, and replace them with Jews.
Israel reacted to the protests with its habitual brutality. Kerry and Power are too busy congratulating Israel and themselves to say a word about that.
Samantha Power, in her Twitter profile, describes herself as a “human rights defender.”