September 24, 2013

As UN General Assembly Debate Begins, Gillibrand, Barrasso Urge U.S. to Fight UN Human Rights Council’s Anti-Israel Agenda

Senators Press Secretary of State Kerry to Challenge UN’s Blatant Discrimination Against Israel, Work With International Community to Repeal Council’s “Agenda Item 7”

Washington, DC – As the UN General Assembly debate begins, U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and John Barrasso (R-WY) today pressed Secretary of State John Kerry to renew the U.S. commitment to challenge the sweeping anti-Israel bias at the UN and to work with our allies to repeal the UN Human Rights Council’s blatantly discriminatory Agenda Item 7, a tool used to attack Israel at every Council session. The Senators emphasized strong U.S. support for Israel and called for an international effort to end the unacceptable treatment against Israel, which distracts from critical issues at stake – particularly at a time when Syrian civilians are subjected to chemical weapon attacks by their own government, Iran continues to violate human rights, and Israelis and Palestinians are beginning to re-engage in peace talks. 

Senators Gillibrand and Barrasso wrote in a letter to Secretary Kerry, “We write to ask your renewed commitment to challenging the pervasive anti-Israel bias at the United Nations… We are also deeply concerned about the UN Human Rights Council’s persistent bias against Israel.  As you know, Item 7 of the Human Rights Council standing agenda focuses solely on Israel.  It is the only agenda item that is exclusively reserved for an individual member state.  Such blatant discrimination in a body devoted to universal rights is not acceptable… it is incumbent upon our government to work with our allies on the Council to campaign for the removal of Agenda Item 7.  The international community must demonstrate that we will not tolerate such discriminatory behavior from this body, nor will we stand by idly while egregious violations around the world are not addressed.”

The Senators pointed out the systemic bias that pervades the UN, noting that the General Assembly has annually voted on as many as two dozen resolutions specifically targeting Israel, ignoring the international issues that are more deserving of the Assembly’s attention and time.  The U.S. and the international community must focus on addressing the brutal violations of international human rights that are taking place around the world.

 

Full text of Senators' letter is below:

 

Dear Secretary Kerry:

 

                We write to ask your renewed commitment to challenging the pervasive anti-Israel bias at the United Nations.  Each year, the United Nations General Assembly votes on as many as two dozen resolutions specifically targeting Israel, while ignoring grave international issues that merit the attention of the international community.  We support the administration’s continued efforts to bring together our allies against these resolutions.

              

We are also deeply concerned about the UN Human Rights Council’s persistent bias against Israel.  As you know, Item 7 of the Human Rights Council standing agenda focuses solely on Israel.  It is the only agenda item that is exclusively reserved for an individual member state.  Such blatant discrimination in a body devoted to universal rights is not acceptable.

 

We expect that the Council will once again devote hours at its meetings this week to attacking Israel.  At a time when Israelis and Palestinians are once again engaging in talks aimed at a negotiated solution to the conflict, this discussion is especially unconstructive.  When just a few miles north civilians in Syria are being subjected to chemical weapons attacks by their own government and to the east Iran continues to execute citizens without conducting fair trials, there are countless issues that demand attention from the Council that are put by the wayside so that this bias can be aggressively pursued.

 

                As a member of the UN Human Rights Council, the United States must not accept the permanence of this agenda item.  In joining the Council in 2009, the administration stated its commitment to improving the U.N. human rights system from inside.  In pursuit of these ends, it is incumbent upon our government to work with our allies on the Council to campaign for the removal of Agenda Item 7.  The international community must demonstrate that we will not tolerate such discriminatory behavior from this body, nor will we stand by idly while egregious violations around the world are not addressed.

 

                We appreciate your immediate consideration on this issue that we know is of shared concern to all who value human rights and the special relationship with our ally, the state of Israel.