Numerous Conservative MPs this week supported the Government’s abstention from a vote on a “unbalanced” resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Friday, which had called for an investigation into Israel’s conduct in Gaza on 14th May but neglected to acknowledge Hamas’s role.
The council voted 29 in favour and two against the resolution, with the UK joining 13 countries in abstaining.
Minister for the Middle East, Rt. Hon. Alistair Burt MP, made clear in response to an urgent question that the Government views the UNHRC as a body unfairly biased against Israel which cannot be trusted to reach a reliable and impartial conclusion on the violence of the 14th May.
Middle East Minister Alistair Burt underlined that the “substance of the resolution was not impartial and it was unbalanced”. He said: “We could not support an investigation that refused to explicitly examine the action of non-state actors such as Hamas. An investigation of that kind would not provide us with a comprehensive assessment of accountability”.
He added that such an investigation would be a hindrance to peace: “It would risk hardening positions on both sides and move us further away from a just and lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.
Labour MP Richard Burden had called an urgent question on Monday asking the Foreign Secretary to make a statement regarding the UK’s decision to abstain.
In March 2017, the UK Government delivered an unprecedented condemnation of the UNHRC’s stance towards Israel, announcing that it would be putting the UN body “on notice” and will vote against every motion on the conflict unless it ends its “disproportion and bias” against the Jewish State.
Mr Burt pointed out that the resolution “names the state of Israel in many cases right the way through” and that the UK was not alone in its concerns. Fourteen other states abstained, including Japan, Germany, and four other EU partners.
He emphasised that the United Kingdom “continues to fully support the need for an independent and transparent investigation into recent events”, and called on Israel to carry out a “transparent inquiry” with international members into the IDF’s conduct.
Numerous Conservative MPs spoke up about how both the motion and UNHRC selectively focused on Israel and neglected the role of Hamas in inciting violence and placing Palestinian lives on the line. These included CFI Parliamentary Chairman Rt. Hon. Stephen Crabb, CFI Vice Chairman Rt. Hon. Theresa Villiers, Zac Goldsmith, Rt. Hon. Mark Harper, John Lamont, Bob Blackman, Dr Matthew Offord, Paul Masterton, and Nigel Huddleston.
Rt. Hon. Stephen Crabb MP was highly critical of the UNHRC, asking the Minister “Does my Rt. Hon. Friend agree that what this points to again is the need for reform of the UN Human Rights Council? Does he agree that, whatever difficult questions Israel needs to answer about last week’s violence, using this absurd body on which some of the world’s worst human rights abusers play judge and jury on the rest of the world is not the way to deal with that?”
Rt. Hon. Theresa Villiers MP welcomed the Government’s decision not to back UNHRC resolution that was “one-sided and biased against Israel”. Asks She asked whether the Minister will urge the UNHRC to “desist from adopting these heavily one-sided resolutions”.
Rt. Hon. Mark Harper’s question emphasised that the resolution made no mention of terrorist organisations in its wording and prejudged the conclusion of the proposed investigation, stating: “53 of those killed last week were members of Hamas or Islamic Jihad… It not only does not mention those two organisations but reaches its conclusions in the resolution outline; it has already prejudged the outcome. That is not going to lead to the impartial, international investigation that everyone in this House wants to see”.
Zac Goldsmith MP also underlined the bias the UNHRC has demonstrated previously, asking: “The UN Human Rights Council has held a total of 28 urgent sessions; not one of them has focused on Iran, North Korea, Turkey, Russia, China, Venezuela, Yemen, Crimea, Pakistan, Somalia and so on, yet eight of those 28 have been on Israel. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that organisation lacks any credibility whatsoever as an impartial observer?”
Click here to read the exchanges in full.
In the House of Lords, the Government statement was repeated by FCO Minister Lord Ahmad. Lord Robathan raised his concerns about Israel’s use of lethal force, but added: “however, this was whipped up by Hamas”. He said: “We know that and, indeed, I understand that Hamas has claimed that over 50 of the dead people were allegedly members of Hamas. That is not a capital offence, in my opinion, and there was disproportionate use of force, but any investigation must be impartial, and I do not think that that was on offer at the UN Human Rights Council”.