US Calls for More Balanced UNHRC Approach to Israel

June 18, 2010

In remarks before the United Nations Human Rights Council this week, US Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe rightly criticized the Council’s “disproportionate focus on Israel” that unduly criticizes Israel and the conflict at the expense of other human rights situations around the globe, thereby undermining the Council’s credibility and impact. We join the United States’ call for a more balanced, objective, and constructive focus by the Council on Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

The Ambassador’s remarks strike a balanced note of concern not simply about the UNHRC, but about the importance of resolving the broader conflict. As the Ambassador underscored, the “best way to end the human rights abuses that stem from the Arab-Israeli conflict is to end the conflict” itself through a two-state solution and comprehensive regional peace.

Here are Ambassador Donahoe’s full remarks, delivered at the Human Rights Council on June 14th:

Agenda Item 7

Delivered by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe

Human Rights Council 14th Session

Geneva, June 14th, 2010

Thank you, Mr. President.

The United States joined the Human Rights Council to protect and promote human rights globally and to improve the human rights machinery of the United Nations. As elected members of the HRC, we share a responsibility to respond to allegations of serious violations of human rights around the globe, wherever they may arise. We have repeatedly emphasized our commitment to principled engagement on the Council; we will support what the Council does well and work constructively on aspects that need change. The Council’s disproportionate focus on Israel, as exemplified by Item 7, is one such area. The Council has too often been exploited to unfairly single out Israel, while ignoring significant human rights situations elsewhere. The United States has repeatedly urged this Council to maintain a balanced, objective, and constructive focus on the human rights situation in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

The U.S. is dedicated to universal respect for international human rights by all countries in the world. The Council should scrutinize the human rights record of all states under a common rubric. The United States remains dedicated to assessing the conduct of all countries in the world, including our own. Israel, like every other country, should also examine its human rights record. We urge the Palestinians and the Arab states to examine their human rights records.

Ultimately, the best way to end the human rights abuses that stem from the Arab-Israeli conflict is to end the conflict. The United States is working vigorously to achieve a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, based on the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its neighbors. We note that Israel and the Palestinians have begun indirect talks, which we hope will lead to a peace agreement. U.S. Special Envoy George Mitchell has now held several rounds of serious and wide-ranging proximity talks with the parties. Our goal is to re-launch direct, bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in the near term that will address all of the permanent status issues , including security, borders, refugees, and Jerusalem. We want the direct negotiations to resume as soon as possible with a 24-month timetable for their successful conclusion.

Many countries have expressed their views on the May 31 incident. As we made clear in the recent special session and at the Security Council, the United States government is deeply disturbed and regrets the tragic loss of life and injuries suffered among those involved in the May 31 incident aboard the Gaza-bound ships. We condemn the acts that resulted in the loss of lives and express our condolences to their families. We expect Israel to conduct a prompt, credible, transparent, and impartial investigation conforming to international standards into all the facts surrounding this tragic incident. We are open to different ways of assuring a credible investigation, including international participation. The situation in Gaza is unsustainable, and we urge all parties to work together to ensure that humanitarian and reconstruction goods are delivered to the people of Gaza.

We call again on our international partners – both inside and outside this Council – to promote an atmosphere of cooperation between the parties and throughout the entire region. At this important moment, we look to the Human Rights Council to ensure that the world community addresses the salient human rights issues in this region with objectivity, fairness and balance. We look forward to working with the international community to build a better future for Palestinians, Israelis, and all the people of the Middle East.

Thank you, Mr. President.