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Imad K. Harb

US leaves UNHRC, and does Israel's bidding, again

The US accuses the UN body of being anti-Israel [AFP]

Date of publication: 22 June, 2018

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Comment: Withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council is a clear example of the Trump administration's policy of blind support for Israel, writes Imad K. Harb.
The United States has finally acted on its threat to leave the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley made the announcement on June 19, disingenuously decrying what the latter called "a hypocritical and self-serving organisation".

Coming after similar withdrawals from international trade deals and the Paris climate agreement, and following President Donald Trump's abysmal performance at the most recent G7 meeting, this is another step towards further US isolation in world affairs.

Withdrawal, not about human rights

It would be a grievous mistake to believe that this action was prompted by the Trump administration's adherence to or concern for high human rights at home or around the world.

The United States is currently implementing a cruel policy of separating children from their parents on the southern border with Mexico. The practice is an application of a so-called "zero tolerance" policy aimed at halting the admission of asylum seekers and refugees into the country.

The US has avoided discussing human rights abuses by governments of countries such as Egypt, the Philippines, and China

This policy is a realisation of President Donald Trump's racist rhetoric about Latinos, Muslims and generally non-white immigrants supposedly flooding into the United States.

It is also meant to be a deterrent to prevent even those legally applying for asylum, from persecution and gang violence.

Despite the president rescinding it, the policy deserves the widespread international condemnation it received from allies and foes alike. Pope Francis agreed with Catholic bishops that it is immoral.

UNHRC's chief, Zaid Raad al-Hussain excoriated it as "unconscionable" and "government-sanctioned child abuse".

Read more: Palestinians aren't using human shields, Israel is

The administration is also disingenuous about its purported defense of human rights around the world. Since it took office in January 2017, it has avoided discussing abuses of human rights by governments of countries such as Egypt, the Philippines, and China, to name a few. Instead, President Trump is happy to conduct business as usual with their abusive leaders.

Trump has for a long time been so enamoured of Russian President Vladimir Putin that he vociferously proposed re-admitting Russia to the G7 group of nations, despite its violation of international law and dismal record on rights and freedoms.

The president met and thereby legitimised North Korea's dictator Kim Jong-un, despite his policy of starvation against his people, and his extrajudicial elimination of any suspected opposition.

The withdrawal is about Israel

Withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council is specifically and explicitly an example of the Trump administration's policy of blind support for Israel. Any other justification is simple obfuscation and demagoguery.

Since assuming her duties in New York, Ambassador Haley has evinced a clear bias toward Israel. Her advocacy of Israel's interests is unprecedented in American diplomacy, leading some to wonder which country she actually represents at the United Nations.

Indeed, she has been the perfect envoy for an administration that not only has prostrated itself to Israel's right-wing government, but has also put American policy at the service of defending that government's practices.

The United States stood alone in vetoing a UN Security Council resolution May 14 calling for an investigation into Israel's killing of Palestinians at the Gaza fence.

May 14 was also the day the Trump administration moved the American embassy to Jerusalem, on the same day that commemorates Palestinian dispossession in 1948.

The United States was humiliated on 2 June when Haley proposed a resolution condemning so-called "Hamas violence" in Gaza. The proposition garnered no votes other than her own, as Haley used her veto power to shoot down a Kuwait-proposed resolution asking for protection for Palestinians in Gaza. Ten countries voted for that, while four abstained.

At the UN General Assembly, the United States and only seven others opposed a similar, but non-binding, protection resolution that passed with 120 votes, and 45 abstentions.

The United States wants the HRC to remove the permanent Item 7 from its agenda, which deals with Israel's continuing occupation of Palestinian territories. It also wants to limit the council's ability to bring up Israel's violations of the rights of Palestinians.

The failure of this so-called drive for "reform" has prompted the American withdrawal from the council. Pompeo and Haley are hiding behind legitimate criticisms of the HRC, but Israel is clearly the real issue at hand.

Interestingly, however, the administration's withdrawal will not change the status quo. In fact, while Israeli prime minister Netanyahu has hailed the American action, Israel's foreign ministry worried that Israel now has no one at the council to defend its interests.

As for the Trump administration, it has, in essence decided to abandon any pretense of working to protect human rights around the world, just to sycophantically serve Israel's reputation.

Imad K. Harb is the Director of Research and Analysis at Arab Center Washington DC.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab.

Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab

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