The UK this week voted against the controversial Israel-specific Agenda Item 7 at the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. CFI Parliamentary Chairman in the House of Commons, Rt. Hon. Stephen Crabb MP, said that it “sends a clear, principled message about the institutional bias which cheapens the UN”.
In accordance with the UK’s stated “enduring commitment” – made in a meeting last month between Middle East Minister James Cleverly with CFI’s Parliamentary Officer group – to vote against the bias and permanent anti-Israel Agenda Item 7, the UK voted against all three resolutions and forced a division on two of these. The UK’s move to call for a vote on two of these resolutions was significant as otherwise they would have passed with automatically.
The UK was the only country from the European continent, with the exception of the Czech Republic, to vote against all three of the controversial resolutions. France, Germany and the Netherlands voted in favour of two.
A day prior, the UK abstained in a vote on a resolution in the separate Agenda Item 2, which featured a series of 19 anti-Israel paragraphs – some of which had been relocated from Agenda Item 7. There was a single reference to rockets fired at Israel in the adopted text and no reference to Palestinian terror groups nor human rights abuses in the Palestinian Territories. Dubbed the ‘accountability resolution’, the text also effectively called for an arms embargo on Israel.
CFI’s Parliamentary Chairman (Commons), Rt. Hon. Stephen Crabb MP, said it was “disappointing to see the UK not among those nations opposing the Item 2 vote”, which would “do little to advance the cause of peace”. Adding that “Conservative colleagues strongly support” the UK contesting divisive resolutions, he called on the UK Government to “in the future… vote against all one-sided resolutions singling out Israel”.
The Agenda Item 2 text, which has been strongly condemned by Israel and was adopted by a vote of 32 to 6 with 8 abstentions, was supported by Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands, while Bahrain joined the United Kingdom in abstaining. No European countries supported the resolutions last year.
Explaining the UK’s decision to vote against Item 7, the UK’s Deputy Representative to the UN in Geneva said it was a vote against “persistent, disproportionate” focus on Israel, which “alienates Israel”.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Meirav Shachar said that the relocation of text from Agenda Item 7 into Agenda Item 2 did not address the issue of bias against Israel. She stated: “It still contains the same one-sided, distorted understanding of the situation on the ground like its Item 7 predecessors. When I look through this resolution, I am amazed that members of the Council could ever consider this a fair and balanced resolution. It does not reflect the reality on the ground, and if anything this resolution will contribute to the polarization of the conflict”.
Condemning the Agenda Item 2 vote, Hillel Neuer, the executive director of UN Watch said: “The fact that this resolution was literally written by the Palestinians, with co-sponsors that include Pakistan on behalf of the Islamic states as well as Venezuela’s Maduro regime, is clear from the text’s pervasive condemnation of Israeli actions, with no mention whatsoever of Hamas, Islamic Jihad or the Palestinian Authority”.
Israel has long called-out the UNHRC for its anti-Israel bias, especially Agenda Item 7 which is the only dedicated, permanent agenda item reserved for a single country.