Opinion: New UN human rights council, not improved

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.”

When a pro-Israel NGO, U.N. Watch, wrote to the high commissioner of human rights, complaining about this, she wrote back and said in essence: Gosh, I wish I could do something, but the council “is not in a position to edit submissions.”

I have been in an Israeli graveyard for Arab terrorists, in the north, not far from Nazareth. It is not a decorous site. Graves are not well marked. But then what should you expect? Arabs often are not as kind even to their own. During the long Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, when an Iraqi soldier was killed, his commander would flag down a taxi, throw the body in the back seat, then give the driver the dead man’s home address. The first word his wife would hear of his death would be the taxi driver at the door, asking her to pay the fare.

To be fair, the United States’ council representative, Eileen Donahoe, was among the lobbyists who prevented Iran from winning a seat on the full council. But she seemed to give up when Iran set out for the secondary position on the women’s rights committee, prompting Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, of Florida, the ranking republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to remark: “That an Iranian regime that shoots and stones women would be 'elected' to a U.N. body supposedly dedicated to women's rights adds a whole new disgusting twist to the ongoing saga of Iran exploiting the U.N.”

When Donahoe faced Senate confirmation in December, Senator Kristen Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, observed that “after years of absence from an organization fraught with a record of anti-Israel bias, the United States has joined the Human Rights Council. I was encouraged by my conversation” about “the U.S. goal of working with the council to ensure that it focuses its work on the most pressing human-rights concerns of our time, rather than solely, or most often serving as a venue for anti-Israel bias.”

Well, that hasn’t worked. The council, like the commission before it, is irredeemable. It’s time for the Obama administration to face up to that and pull out.