Israel, the Arab Spring and the UN Human Rights Council

Mar 07

Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Daniel Ayalon, recently published a piece on’s Middle East Channel lamenting the fact that Libya was able to secure a position on the UN’s Human Rights Council, and decried the fact that states gave political expedience greater priority than a genuine commitment to human rights.  I, too, look forward to a day when countries don’t use political or financial interests to subvert cooperation in advancing human rights, and welcome an Israel that could be a partner iin such a world.

But Minister Ayalon’s criticisms of the UN Human Rights Council can hardly be taken at face value.  Indeed, he is exploiting the scandalous behavior of Qaddafi, and the fact that Libya is a member of this council, to undermine the Goldstone Report and the Commission’s report on Israel’s attack on the Turkish vessel, Mavi Marmara.  Unfortunately for Ayalon, the politicization of membership in the Council is not, in itself, evidence that these particular reports are not credible: they were each prepared by independent and professional human rights experts.  Moreover, there is even a deeper flaw in Ayalon’s reasoning, which is essentially based on the fallacious argument that “Because my enemy is bad, I am good.”  Ayalon brags that Israel receives a score of “free” from Freedom House, but Freedom House does not take into account the status of Palestinians in reaching this conclusion.  Accordingly, it is of little moral relevance: I’m fairly certain that southern whites enjoyed robust democratic rights in the Jim Crow south, but it was a still a regime of racial subordination.  So too, Israel may very well be a democracy and therefore “free” for tis Jews, but it certainly does not qualify as free for even its Arab citizens, much less the Palestinians who are under its military rule.

I am also happy to hear Ayalon state that “The people of our region are speaking in great numbers about the need for freedom, transparency, and accountability.”  I hope that means Israel is about to launch on its revolution, an equality revolution, in which it dismantles its own structures of oppression, subordination, and separation. If that is the case, then I am happy to report that Ayalon is on board with the Arab Spring.  Let’s keep on hoping for spring in Israel.

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