As U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley suggested way back in November, the United States withdrew last week from the problematic U.N. Human Rights Council because “our commitment [to human rights] does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office called the move “courageous” and “an unequivocal statement that enough is enough.”
We’ve long criticized the council for its disproportionate focus on Israel. Two years ago in this space we noted how at the close of its session that year, the council had adopted 37 resolutions. Of those, five were directed against Israel. In contrast, Myanmar, Iran, Syria and North Korea merited one each. What’s more, Israel is the only country in the world whose rights record comes up for discussion at every council session.
Critics of the council have long maintained that the notion that Israel’s alleged misdeeds are on par with (or worse than) the severe documented human rights violations in other countries that are only given scant attention makes clear that the Human Rights Council’s analysis is severely flawed and downright dishonest. Indeed, it is difficult to take the accusations of such demonstrably anti-Israel voices seriously. And when the Human Rights Council repeatedly attacks Israel but fails to call out the miserable human rights record of some notable Arab states and the Palestinian Authority, you know that something is really wrong. Perhaps Vice President Mike Pence had that idea in mind when he said the U.S. action last week “took a stand against some of the world’s worst human rights violators.”
Others, however, see a downside to the U.S. withdrawal. Critics point out that it fits a Trump administration pattern of abandoning multilateralism, evident also in its exit from the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accord.
Critics also say the move does nothing to address the council’s flagrant anti-Israel bias. Israeli journalist Barak Ravid, for instance, wrote that Israeli officials “are concerned that … [the U.S. withdrawal] will make it harder to block anti-Israeli initiatives on the council.”
We disagree. On balance, we believe that the decision was the correct one, and a long time in coming. While the original goal of protecting human rights throughout the world certainly has merit, the council’s actual record of bias and single-minded focus on bashing the Jewish state has made it near-impossible for anyone to take council pronouncements seriously. The U.S. withdrawal sends a clear message that when it comes to human rights, the council is simply a sham — or, as the United States has put it, “a cesspool of political bias.”
Already this week, Israel has begun distancing itself from the council, showing that its patience for the body has finally been exhausted. We hope both the U.S. and Israeli moves will encourage others to head for the exit, as well. The door is open.