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[Opinion] US Human Rights Council pullout: the NGOs only have themselves to blame

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Last Tuesday, nearly 18 months after first warning of such a move, the U.S. pulled out of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Explaining the decision, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley stated, “this disproportionate focus and unending hostility toward Israel is clear proof that the council is motivated by political bias, not by human rights.”

Predictably, the non-governmental organizations most intertwined with the Council, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, launched into hysterics. Ken Roth raged, “Trump has decided that ‘America First’ means ignoring the suffering of civilians in Syria and ethnic minorities in Myanmar at the United Nations.” Amnesty tweeted, “Ten good reasons for the #USto leave the UN Human Rights Council” with a blank list of items.

These overwrought lamentations demonstrate that the U.S. withdrawal is a serious blow to the UNHRC and its supporters. As the world’s only superpower, the U.S. presence adds tremendous credibility to the UN body. There was consternation when President George W. Bush refused to join the council upon its creation in 2006, primarily because of its singling out of Israel. And when Obama reversed policy, becoming a member in hopes it could reform the body from within, there was celebration.

The council’s prejudicial history relating to Israel is long and sorry. The UNHRC was created to serve as a “reform” of its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights, which was disbanded largely because of its extreme obsession with Israel. Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan noted at the time that “the selectivity and politicizing of [the Commission’s] activities [were] in danger of bringing the entire U.N. system into disrepute.”

Yet the UNHRC, which inherited a permanent agenda item on Israel from the commission, has been as bad if not worse. In the past 12 years, there have been more condemnations of Israel than almost all other countries combined.

NGOs like HRW and Amnesty International have played a leading role in promoting the discrimination and double standards. They have eagerly used Agenda Item 7 to maintain a disproportionate focus on Israel, while all other countries of the world were relegated to Item 4. On a typical Item 7 debate, more than 75 anti-Israel NGOs sign up to speak. In contrast, debates on Ukraine, for instance, barely garner 10 presenters.