October 31, 2010

Better late than never for U.S. on rights council (originally published May 17, 2009)

Durban II has concluded and nearly everyone has gone home. Next month, however, brings an event far more significant and substantive than any racism review document or yet another outrageous speech by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: The United States will formally join the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Unlike the one-shot Durban Review Conference known as Durban II, the Human Rights Council meets several times a year in Geneva in regular session, and includes special sessions (usually to condemn Israel) and the ongoing multi-year review of every country’s human rights record. Its first three years, without benefit of U.S. membership, have been no picnic. The council emerged from the detritus of the former Human Rights Commission, which had earned its reputation as a shamelessly ineffective institution obsessively focused on condemning Israel.

U.S. membership on the council comes none too soon. Canada, the first nation to announce it would boycott Durban II, will soon rotate off as a member of the council. The European Union members on the council are generally well meaning, which is part of the problem. Negotiating a compromise resolution sounds worthwhile, but toning down a blatantly one-sided and unfair anti-Israel resolution to the point where it is only implicitly one-sided does no favors for Israel or the credibility of universal human rights. It only allows European governments to avoid voting “no” on what is objectively an anti-Israel resolution.

Read full op-ed at JTA.org.

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