This week US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, announced the US withdrawal from the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC). Haley stated that after a year of seeking to bring reform to the ‘deeply flawed’ institution that unfairly targets Israel while ignoring the behaviour of rogue states with ‘awful human-rights records’ the US would no longer be party to an organisation ‘which has for too long been a protector of human rights abusers, and a “cesspool” of political bias’.
While Foreign Minister Winston Peters has said the withdrawal of the US from the HRC was very concerning because it had been a great contributor in the past, he did not go as far as acknowledging the valid reasons for the US move like Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, who said
“Australia shares many of the concerns held by the US about the UNHRC, particularly its anti-Israel bias, and we have consistently supported efforts to address other matters of contention”Julie Bishop
Or UK Secretary of State, Boris Johnson, who said
“We share the view that the dedicated Agenda Item 7 focused solely on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories is disproportionate and damaging to the cause of peace,”Boris Johnson
This sentiment was shared by a number of New Zealand community leaders. The New Zealand Jewish Council called the UN HRC “a deeply flawed organisation”, saying
“While the NZJC wholeheartedly supports the improvement of human rights for all peoples, and works with the NZ Human Rights Commission to achieve that in New Zealand, it sees the United Nations Human Rights Council – with its permanent Agenda 7 bias against the Jewish State – as a deeply flawed organisation that will not achieve anything worthwhile until it is drastically reformed.”New Zealand Jewish Council
And Israel Institute of New Zealand co-director, Dr David Cumin, hoped that the US move would bring about “much needed change” and that New Zealand would be supportive of it even without having a seat at the table:
“The UN HRC is clearly anti-Israel, passing many more resolutions condemning Israel than all the other countries on earth combined while simultaneously failing to address truly egregious human rights issues. The United States has long talked about reform and hopefully this move will facilitate much needed change. New Zealand could play a small part in that by acknowledging the bias and not standing by as politics gets in the way of addressing real needs.Dr David Cumin
Christians For Israel National Executive Director, Bryce Turner, referenced previous UN Secretaries-Generals who “have slated the apparent bias of the council” saying:
“…Even successive UN Secretaries-General have slated the apparent bias of the council. Kofi Annan back in 2005 shared his concern that the council’s ‘credibility deficit’ was destroying the reputation of the whole UN. In 2007, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stated that “The Secretary-General is disappointed at the council’s decision to single out only one specific regional item given the range and scope of allegations of human rights violations throughout the world.” Well over a decade after being called out by the head of the entire United Nations, nothing has changed…”Bryce Turner
Zionist Federation of New Zealand President, Rob Berg, also thought the time was right for the US to leave the HRC, saying “there comes a time when you have to say ‘enough is enough'”:
The ZFNZ welcomes the US Administration’s decision to pull out of the UN Human Rights Committee. The UN HRC has shown to be more concerned in attacking Israel than actually advocating for human Rights. It’s obsession with Israel and the standing agenda Item 7 which discusses alleged Israeli ‘human rights abuses’ whilst ignoring the atrocities taking place in Syria, Yemen, Iran, China, and several other countries, gets in the way of the UN HRC being anything close to an effective body.Whilst ideally being part of something is the preferred way to influence change, there comes a time when you have to say enough is enough, and this is exactly what the US has done. Other civilised countries should take America’s lead and vote with their feet. Only now by stripping the UN HRC of any credibility can a wholesale change to its current agenda of Israel bashing be changed and maybe then it can actually serve those people suffering from human rights across the world in a positive way.Rob Berg
While International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) New Zealand Director, Derek McDowell, drew attention to the make-up of the HRC being “some of the world’s worst abusers”:
“The UN Human Rights Council is a flawed, politicised and discredited organisation with serial human rights abusing nations in its ranks, displaying an unharnessed, disproportionate and consistent bias against Israel. It has adopted almost as many resolutions condemning Israel as it has passed resolutions relating to the other 192 members of the United Nations, combined.While some of the world’s worst abusers sit on the HRC, it has also failed in its 12 years of existence to adopt a single resolution critical of those and other countries with appalling records of violating basic human rights and freedoms, including Saudi Arabia, China, Russia and Cuba.The US withdrawal, which came after more than a year of fruitless efforts to reform some of the HRC’s most serious flaws — many of them systemic — is principled, right and long overdue.”Derek McDowell
And Flaxmere Christian Fellowship Pastor, Nigel Woodley, raised concerns about “NZ’s recent record of bias against Israel” at the UN:
The Flaxmere Christian Fellowship in Hastings welcomes the withdrawal of the United States from the U.N. Human Rights Council. As Nikki Haley their ambassador to the U.N. said, the Human Rights Council has become “hypocritical and self-serving”. To be noted particularly is the strong anti-Israel bias that is entrenched within the organisation. It seems that the primary agenda of many of its members, who themselves have appalling human rights records, is to denigrate, defame and delegitimize the State of Israel. When rogue nations with deplorable human rights records can hypocritically point the finger unjustly at Israel and then get the support of liberal democracies then the Council has certainly lost its way. It is time for either a shake up or a break up. Whereas the departure of the U.S. from the UNHRC should be applauded as another courageous decision made by the Trump administration in their Foreign Policy toward the Middle East, yet the question remains regarding which nation will fill the slot vacated by the U.S.? If New Zealand were to fill that gap (as has been touted) then what was to America’s honour and credit would be to our shame. Unfortunately NZ’s recent record of bias against Israel by voting in favour of one-sided anti-Israel resolutions at the U.N. would mean that Israel would be in store for more of the same. Unless of course there is a major change in the ethos of the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs—a change that is long overdue.Nigel Woodley
It’s all too true that New Zealand’s record in recent years has been to vote with the ‘automatic majority’ against the one democratic nation that upholds liberal values in the Middle East. In 2017, New Zealand voted to support 16 of 19 anti-Israel resolutions at the General Assembly and abstained in the remaining 3. In contrast, Australia voted no to 6 of the resolutions, Canada voted no to 17 (they also abstained on the other 2), and the United States voted the same as Canada.
This year, most recently, a United Nations General Assembly resolution that censured Israel for the Gaza border conflict, while ignoring the role of terrorist organisation Hamas was proposed. New Zealand voted for the US proposed amendment that would have mentioned Hamas responsibility but hypocritically went ahead and voted for the unamended one-sided resolution.