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Opinion: New UN human rights council, not improved

Old commission vilified Israel; new council wrongly places Iran on commission to promote gender equality.

Delegates arrive for the general debate on the situation in Palestine and occupied Arab territories, at the 13th session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, March 22, 2010. (Denis Balibouse/Reuters)

PALO ALTO — Who can forget when the American representative to the United Nations Human Rights Commission got up and walked out of the chamber in 2004, after the commission elected Sudan as a full-fledged member. Sudan, which at that time was slaughtering hundreds of thousands of its own people.

For that and other even more egregious acts, the U.N. abolished the Human Rights Commission in 2006 and replaced it with the U.N. Human Rights Council.

So then last week, the “new” Human Rights Council elected Iran to its Commission on the Status of Women, whose mission is to promote gender equality. Iran, one of whose senior clerics declared last month that women who dress immodestly “lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes.” (Read another opinion about how Iran is unfit to oversee women's rights.)

This time the United States representative simply sat there and allowed the Iranian representative to be appointed “by acclamation.”

President George W. Bush refused to appoint anyone to the council once it was established. President Barack Obama, following his penchant to engage with the “enemy,” reversed that decision and appointed a U.S. representative last year.

Well, as he and everyone else quickly learned, you can change the name, but that is not going to solve the problem. Just like the old commission, the new council must be representative of the world. That means it cannot fill its seats only with representatives from Sweden, Australia Brazil and Canada. So, right now, some of the nations charged with upholding the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights are Cuba, China, Pakistan and Nigeria — every one of them human-rights abusers of the first order.

But perhaps the old Human Rights Commission’s greatest failing was its pathological obsession with Israel as the root of all evil in the world. That as much as anything else drove the Bush administration to urge the U.N. to abolish it. Here we are four years later, and of 40 angry condemnations of bad-actor nations issued in the new council’s short history, 33 of them have been directed at one country. North Korea or Sudan? Zimbabwe or Iran? Burma or Somalia? No, Israel.

A new “blood libel,” as some NGO’s are putting it, came out of the council just last month. A collection of upstanding nations led by Libya published a document on the council’s website, under the U.N. imprimatur, accusing “Israeli physicians, medical centers, rabbis and the Israeli army” of harvesting organs from “kidnaped and killed Palestinians” because the body parts “can be a source of great wealth through illegal trafficking in the world market. “After Israeli physicians remove organs they think marketable, the soldiers bury the bodies in graves that carry only numbers and no names.”