|March 9, 2008 – New York – The American Jewish Committee, in a letter to Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, expressed its deep disappointment in Switzerland’s support of the UN Human Rights Council’s March 6 resolution condemning Israel for the situation in Gaza.|
“The Council has been derailed by countries that have little regard for human rights, and whose only agenda, it seems, is to single out and censure Israel,” wrote AJC President Richard J. Sideman and AJC Executive Director David A. Harris. “We deeply regret that your Government saw fit to join forces with such countries, to the detriment of efforts to rectify the situation in the Human Rights Council, and even more importantly, to promote peace in the Middle East.”
The letter details the failure of the resolution to mention Hamas’s onslaught against innocent civilians in southern Israel since taking power in Gaza as well as other Palestinian-backed terrorism. Additionally, the resolution made no mention of the horrific terrorist attack in Jerusalem last week when a Palestinian gunman killed eight students in a Jewish religious seminary.
“By some accounts, the Swiss delegation actively lobbied the EU and other countries to support the Arab-sponsored draft, in exchange for minor amendments,” said the AJC letter.
The full text of the letter follows:
Dear Madame Minister:
We write to express the American Jewish Committee’s profound disappointment over the position taken by Switzerland in the Human Rights Council in Geneva last week.
On Thursday, March 6, the Human Rights Council adopted an extreme and one-sided resolution, sponsored by the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the League of Arab States, condemning Israel’s military operations in the Palestinian areas, especially the Gaza Strip. The resolution also accuses Israel of “collective punishment” and of undermining international efforts aimed at invigorating the peace process. It calls for the cessation of the firing of “crude rockets" at Israel, but does not mention the firing of Katyusha missiles, recently imported to Gaza from outside the Palestinian areas, which have a longer range and greater potential to cause death and injury. Nor does the resolution mention the name of the terror organization responsible for such firing, i.e., Hamas. Indeed, the word “terrorism’’ is missing from the resolution.
Furthermore, the resolution ignores the context in which the recent escalation occurred. While Israel has demonstrated, time and again, its commitment to a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Hamas and other Palestinian organizations continue to smuggle weapons, build bomb-making factories, and use Palestinian areas, especially Gaza, to launch attacks against Israel and its citizens across the border. The repeated firing of rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot, and other towns adjacent to the Gaza Strip, has caused death and injury, and made daily life intolerable. As any sovereign state, Israel is obligated to protect its citizens. In carrying out military operations against Palestinian terrorists, Israel has exercised its right of self-defense, enshrined in the UN Charter. We deeply regret that the Human Rights Council ignored this universally accepted principle.
Most appallingly, the resolution fails to even mention the terror attack perpetrated last week by a Palestinian gunman against a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem, in which eight students were murdered, although this heinous crime was committed on the same day that the Human Rights Council adopted its resolution.
Last week’s resolution was adopted by a vote of 33 in favor, 1 against (Canada) and 13 abstentions. While the EU and other Western members abstained, Switzerland was the only European country to vote in favor. By some accounts, the Swiss delegation actively lobbied the EU and other countries to support the Arab-sponsored draft, in exchange for minor amendments.
In our various meetings with you over the past two years, we have shared with you our concerns regarding the situation in the Human Rights Council, which has totally betrayed the mandate given to it by the UN General Assembly in 2006. The Council, we have told you, has been derailed by countries that have little regard for human rights, and whose only agenda, it seems, is to single out and censure Israel. We deeply regret that last Thursday your Government saw fit to join forces with such countries, to the detriment of efforts to rectify the situation in the Human Rights Council, and even more importantly, to promote peace in the Middle East.
Richard J. Sideman
David A. Harris