The 41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) (June 24 – July 12) continued the bias and hypocrisy that has come to define the UN in general and the UNHRC in particular. NGO Monitor was present, speaking before the Council and documenting the numerous false accusations made by self-proclaimed human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The statements made during the session and side events by NGO officials, many of which receive large portions of their funding from European governments, are summarized below, highlighting the inflammatory and false allegations.

Item 7

UNHRC Permanent Agenda Item 7, purporting to address Israeli human rights violations, is the only permanent agenda item targeting a single country. Numerous Western countries democracies boycott this agenda item because of this discrimination.

In contrast, NGOs used Item 7 as a platform to promote demonization and BDS. In particular, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Defense for Children International (DCI), and Palestinian groups reinforced and echoed the rhetoric of the “vital importance of item 7” promoted by the dictatorships on the Council.

For example, HRW called for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to publish the discriminatory database of companies doing business over the 1949 Armistice line, which is being prepared by the Council’s bureaucratic arm – the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The purpose of the list is to bolster BDS campaigns against Israel. HRW also delegitimized the concerns raised by Western countries regarding Item 7.

DCI read a statement prepared by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)-linked Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), calling on the UN to include the IDF on the UN Secretary-General’s list of the worst violators of children’s rights. Offenders currently on the list include Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, and ISIS. (See NGO Monitor’s report “UNICEF and its NGO Working Group” for more on this campaign).

Finally, Palestinian NGOs BADIL and Al-Haq claimed that Israel is preventing Palestinians from adapting to climate change.

Item 9

A number of NGOs used the Item 9 debate, which addresses “racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action,” to further attack Israel.

For example, the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) referred to Israeli “apartheid like practices” and called on the international community to “end support or collaboration with Israeli apartheid.”

A group called Giving Nature Volunteer accused Israel of “anti-Muslim sentiment” and demanded that the Council support “Palestinian political prisoners.”

NGO Side Events

“Climate and Environmental Justice in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”

Date: July 8, 2019

Hosts: Al-Haq and Al Mezan

Speakers and Statements:  

  • Suha Jarrar, Al-Haq (receiving funds from the EU, Germany, and Italy) – daughter of PFLP leader Khalida Jarrar
    • Jarrar promoted her organization’s forthcoming report on “justice adaptation” and argued that climate change is a “threat multiplier” for Palestinians living in the West Bank.
    • She further claimed that Palestinians suffer from limitations in their ability to adapt to climate change.
    • She also stated that “the majority of environmental problems are the result of Israel’s occupation and not climate change so far…scientific proof shows that climate change is not yet impacting Palestine…the major obstacle for water availability is Israel and Mekorot not climate change…”
  • Atwa Jaber, the Graduate Institute of Geneva
    • Jaber, citing the pro-BDS NGO Who Profits, claimed that “Israel controls the sun as much as it controls the resources below the land.”
    • He also accused Israel of “greenwashing” and argued that Palestinians have almost “no access to solar energy.”
    • He also stated that “they [Israelis] not only steal the sun but also sell it and by default some of it is sold to the settlements.”
  • Samir Zaqout, Al Mezan (receiving funds from the EU)
    • Zaquot began his presentation by stating, “let’s talk about policies imposed on the Gaza Strip since 2005…after 2005 when Israel withdrew a lot of policies were imposed that forced a changed in agriculture.”
    • Zaquot also advanced a classic NGO demonization and scare tactic by claiming that Israel illegally uses uranium weapons in Gaza. In fact, there is no international treaty banning the use of depleted uranium weapons, such weapons are used around the world as a form of “bunker buster.”
  • Sandra Ratjen (moderator), Franciscans International
    • According to Ratjen, her NGO is not an expert on issues concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“UNRWA and Palestinian Refugees”

Date: July 9, 2019

Host: Palestinian Return Centre

Speakers and Statements:

  • Beliz Celasin Rende, Turkish Deputy Permanent Representative in Geneva
    • Stated that “in the face of occupation, armed confrontations, and violence, preserving UNRWA’s relief efforts…is even more critical.”
    • Claimed that “the role played by UNRWA remains vital until a just solution is achieved.”
  • Dina Kawar, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Jordan to the UN and other International Organizations in Geneva
    • Stated that she does not have to remind people that the “Palestinian people continue to suffer because of the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories.”
    • Stated that this “historic injustice requires international action to end the tragedy.”
    • Claimed that the there is a “need to support UNRWA to support its goal of preserving refugees.”
    • In response to a question asked about why the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, does not handle Palestinian refugees, stated that it is “important UNRWA continues” and that “UNHCR should not cover Palestinians” as it does not “give them the right to statehood.”
  • Majed Al Zeer, Palestinian Return Centre (The Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) does not publish donors or financial information, reflecting a lack of transparency and accountability. According to its website, PRC “depends primarily on donations from people who believe in its cause” and “accepts contributions in money and kind from any source as long as there are no strings or conditions attached.”)
    • Discussed how his organization was established in 1996 with a focus on the “right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland, which they were evacuated from by force.”
    • Stated that his NGO’s ECOSOC status is another “means of being able to address a right of return.”
    • Claimed that the “situation has become more miserable…new waves of refugees…”
    • Referred to 1948 as a “great catastrophe.”
    • Stated that “UNRWA keeps the issue of Palestinian refugees alive.”
    • In response to a question asked about why the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, does not handle Palestinian refugees, stated that this was a “dangerous question” and that the “refugee issue has been created as a catastrophe because of UN Resolution 181, establishing the State of Israel.”
  • Christopher Gawronski (moderator), Geneva International Centre for Justice