The obsessive focus on Israel is a particularly effective and damaging strategy to control the activities of the Council. Already in the 1960s, the Soviet bloc, the Arab League, and the Islamic countries used international human rights frameworks to promote antisemitism. In 1975, this coalition led the adoption of the infamous “Zionism is racism” resolution – which, after the demise of the USSR, was relaunched in the UN-sponsored 2001 Durban conference on racism.
Twenty years later, the same themes are repeated in NGO campaigns by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International that exploit the apartheid label and lobby the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel. Already in 2009, Robert Bernstein, HRW’s founder, publicly condemned his own organization, led by Kenneth Roth from 1993, for abandoning its original mission “to pry open closed societies, advocate basic freedoms and support dissenters” and instead, focus on attacking democracies, and turning Israel into a pariah state. As long as international frameworks are busy bashing Israel, there are less resources for dealing with the real violations and war crimes, as in Ukraine.
In order to end this cynical manipulation, the entire structure of the HRC will need to be overhauled and redrawn, beginning with the election process in the General Assembly. Disbarring Russia would be a significant step in the right direction, but cannot be an end in itself or allow for a return to business as usual in the absurd world of human rights.