The United States has said it is considering its support for the United Nations Human Rights Council, citing its “chronic anti-Israel bias”.
Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the UN, made the threat after the UN human rights chief opened a session in Geneva by condemning the 50-year Israeli occupation.
Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called on Israel to withdraw from land captured in the Six-Day War in 1967, criticising “a half-century of deep suffering under an occupation imposed by military force”.
However Haley hit back, suggesting Donald Trump’s administration could pull support from the body, just as George W. Bush did before the decision was reversed by Barack Obama.
She highlighted the Council’s continuing focus on Israel when other human rights abusers – namely Iran and Venezuela – remain off the institution’s radar.
“The United States is looking carefully at this council and our participation in it,” she said. “We see some areas for significant strengthening.”
She added: “It is hard to accept that this council has never considered a resolution on Venezuela and yet it adopted five biased resolutions, in March, against a single country, Israel. It is essential that this council address its chronic anti-Israel bias if it is to have any credibility.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called the UNHRC a “circus” and ceased working with it four years ago, when it decided to investigate Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Israel’s supporters have long complained of hypocrisy, pointing to the human rights records of some of the 47-member Council’s members, including China, Russia, Algeria and Saudi Arabia.
Zeid, a Jordanian prince, told the Geneva delegates at the opening of the body’s three-week session that Israel’s withdrawal from captured territories “would benefit both sides” and that Israel also deserved freedom from violence.
However he said Israel’s rule of the West Bank and east Jerusalem “has denied the Palestinians many of their most fundamental freedoms, and has often been brutal in the way it has been realised”.
He added that it was “an occupation whose violations of international law have been systematic, and have been condemned time and again by virtually all states”.