Hussein Aboubakr: Hello, and welcome to another EMET webinar. My name is Hussein Aboubakr Mansour. I’m a project director here at EMET, and I have the honor of hosting today’s guest. Our regular host, of course, is our president founder, Sarah Stern who’s not available today, but I have the honor to fill in for her and conduct today’s webinar. The relationship between Israel and the United Nations has a long and complicated history. In the days of the founding of Israel, the UN served as a great platform for Zionism to obtain wide recognition for the Jewish people’s right of self-determination. Yet with time, various bodies of the UN became a platform to attack, delegitimize, and demonize the Jewish state, and deny Jews the very right the UN once recognized.
From UNESCO to the Human Rights Council, representatives of authoritarian and non-democratic countries turned the UN into a battleground in which Israeli and American diplomats constantly have to fight for Israel. The latest round of such a battle is happening on the guise of the UN Commission of Inquiry, on the occupied Palestinian territory in Israel, in which anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic opinions are institutionalized. One of the foremost figures in the fight against this Orwellian reality of such a UN institution is Hillel Neuer, an international lawyer and the executive director of the UN Watch, who dedicates his efforts to scrutinizing the international circus run by some of the worst human rights violators while targeting Israel. And it often ignores or separates inquiries into human rights violations by countries such as Russia, China, and Iran. His work tremendously added to public knowledge about the human bodies and their dynamics, and this made him the most hated man in Geneva on the subject of many campaigns to suppress his voice and stop his work. In this webinar, Hillel Neuer will explain what has been going on in the UNHRC, the Commission of Inquiry, and his own targeting by UN officials.
Just a very quick introduction, Hillel Neuer is an international lawyer, writer, activist, and executive director of UN Watch, a human rights organization in Geneva Switzer. Israel’s Ma’ariv newspaper named him one of the top hundred most influential Jewish people in the world. His speeches at the United Nations have been seen by millions around the world. Mr. Neuer has appeared in debates on CNN, BBC, and Al Jazeera. McGill University awarded Neuer an honorary doctorate for his work to advance human rights, and for being a voice for those without one. In 2016, the City of Chicago declared Hillel Neuer Day citing his role as one of the world’s for most human rights advocates. The Tribune de Geneve described Neuer as a human rights activist, who is feared and dreaded by the world’s dictatorships. The Journal de Montreal wrote that Neuer makes the UN tremble. It’s my honor and privilege to introduce to you today, Mr. Hillel Neuer. Hello.
Hillel Neuer : Thank you, Hussein. It’s a pleasure indeed for me to be here with EMET. The truth is that these days, I’m kind of zoomed out, since Covid and as a general rule, I decline all kinds of invitations on Zoom, and I much prefer to do them in person. I love to meet with a live audience, even if it’s just 15 teenagers, as I met with by chance a few days ago. That’s my general inclination. But when Hussein, when you invited me, I couldn’t say no. I am a huge fan of Hussein his writings and his work and his courage, and so I couldn’t say no. I’m on holiday, that’s why I’m not wearing a jacket and tie, so you’ll all forgive me. But I’m looking forward to speaking about important topics today.
As Hussein mentioned, I will be discussing the UN Human Rights Council and its treatment of Israel, and focusing on certain recent developments. I’ll say a few words. Well, I’ll talk about how Israel is treated, the latest reports and developments. I’ll say a few words about our work to expose and combat this discriminatory treatment. And I will also share a few words about how we are being retaliated against. I spoke in Congress a couple of weeks ago, and Hussein was there, and I told the hearing that if an alien from another planet were to visit Planet Earth and happened to walk into the United Nations headquarters in New York, or where I’m based in Geneva, at the UN European headquarters, where the Human Rights Council is. And if that extraterritorial were to walk in the halls and see the displays walk into one of the rooms and listen to the debates, or pass by the document section and request the latest resolutions, our extra-territorial observer would be justified in concluding that the World’s Assembly of Nations was created to single out a tiny state on the map of this, of our planet called Israel.
Likewise, Abba Eban, Israel’s legendary first ambassador to the United Nations and Foreign Minister famously equipped that if Algeria were to introduce a resolution declaring that the Earth is flat and that Israel was responsible, the resolution would pass by 154 to three with 11 abstentions. That quip was made some 30-odd years ago, if not more, but it remains equally true today. So the UN continues to discriminate against Israel. Not all of the UN but many of its key bodies, Certainly, its political bodies, the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, the World Health Organization, when it meets annually. I’m going to just focus on one body, the Human Rights Council, but I think it’s a good case study.
The Human Rights Council was founded in 1946. In its early years, they did great things. It was founded really right after the UN was founded. The founding chair was none other than Eleanor Roosevelt, the great humanitarian of the age. Fittingly, she was someone who was known for [inaudible]. She would speak out for the widow, the orphan black people in America who were suffering discrimination and oppression. And she was the founding chair of the UN Human Rights Commission, as it was then called her deputy. Her vice chair was Rene Cassin, a great French legal philosopher. The secretary at the time was a man named John Humphrey, was a Canadian law professor, who in his later years I happened to meet and at McGill University where he taught, and he drafted, he wrote the first draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Rene Cassin made it beautiful, and Eleanor Roosevelt fought for it against the Soviets and some others who were dissenting at 1948, 75 years ago, it’s the anniversary of this year, we marked the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
So in its early years, the Human Rights Commission included Rene Cassin, Eleanor Roosevelt, and it did good things. Over time, however, this body changed, it became a body composed not of eminent individuals, but of governments, and not of any governments, but ironically, paradoxically, absurdly, those governments that sought to join the world’s highest human rights body were not the champions of human rights but on the contrary, those whose expertise and interest regarding human rights lay primarily in systematically trampling human rights. Why did they want to join? Because this body became more important. In the early years, it adopted the Universal Declaration and adopted important conventions. But by the seventies and eighties, they began to point fingers at countries, to condemn countries. So it had the power, which you might think is nothing, but it’s actually not to condemn countries. It turns out no country wants to be condemned. And we see China, very powerful country, one of the world’s superpowers today, investing enormous resources, political, economic, diplomatic to economic, and to prevent themselves from ever being mentioned in a UN resolution or report. So it turns out that the Human Rights Council’s power of shame is significant, and countries do everything to avoid being condemned. That’s why today this body as it has been for some five decades, is composed of more than half of nondemocracies, or full-on authoritarian regimes. So the Human Rights Commission change became a body of governance, many dictatorships sought to join.
Famously, in 2003, the chair became Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s Libyan regime. So, in 1946, founding chair Eleanor Roosevelt, 2003, the chair is Colonel Gaddafi’s Libya, the Rise and Fall of Human Rights at the UN. Kofi Annan said, “It’s not working. We need to do something. We need something new.” He proposed creating a new body in February 2005. This body he proposed to call it the Human Rights Council, and that the members would actually have a solid record on human rights. Sadly, the new body called the Human Rights Council was created in June 2006. But the realities of life at the UN of politics did not change. The dictators want to be there, they trade things, they vote trade, and they get elected. So the current members, two-thirds of the current membership, there are today 47 member states on the Human Rights Council. It meets three months a year in Geneva and September, March, and June. Three-quarters sorry, two-thirds of the membership are either full-on authoritarian regimes or other forms of nondemocracies. They include China, member of the Human Rights Council, Cuba, member of the Human Rights Council, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Qatar, Libya. These are the members of the Human Rights Council. America is also there, the UK, Germany, France but they are in the minority. So what does the Human Rights Council do when it meets three times a year?
Sadly, most of the world’s worst dictatorships are ignored. There’s never been a single resolution, special session, or commission of inquiry on Cuba, on China, on Pakistan, on Saudi Arabia, on Zimbabwe, on Lebanon, on Jordan, on so many other countries around the world. The vast majority of the world’s worst abusers have never been condemned. A handful of countries do rightly get condemned when America and the European Union join forces and take the initiative, they can hold some countries to account. So there have been some resolutions in maybe about a dozen countries. They tend to be the exception. We’ve had two on Sudan. This is going back in 17 years, from 2006 until 2023, 17 years. We’ve had two resolutions on Sudan, we’ve had three on Venezuela, we’ve had 12 on Eritrea, we’ve had 14 on Iran, 16 on North Korea, 42 on Syria, and 103 on Israel. So more on Israel than on Iran, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Sudan combined. That is the reality at the Human Rights Council. When they meet the vast majority of resolutions or a large amount of the resolutions are focused on one country, Israel. And it’s not just the numbers, it’s also the language.
If you open the resolutions, the resolutions on Sudan, when they did adopt solutions on Sudan, they might condemn the regime a little bit, but they’ll also have diplomatic language, welcoming some agreement that was signed, commending some cooperation with the UN official. They typically open with lots of diplomatic praise. The annual resolution on Iran at the General Assembly used to have nine paragraphs of some kind of praise, recognizing this, welcoming that. But the resolutions on Israel are distinct. They are unique. There is not never one word of praise. Even if Israel welcomed the High Commissioner for human rights or UN special repertoire signed an agreement, withdrew from Gaza, it doesn’t matter what Israel did. They never put in any positive acknowledging language. Because if the goal is to demonize something or someone, if something is truly evil, then nothing good can be set of it. And at the UN Human Rights Council, nothing good can be said of Israel, because their purpose is to cast Israel as the world’s worst violator. Those are the resolutions.
Then before we even begin the resolution, there’s an agenda item, special agenda item only on Israel. They have one agenda item, item 4 on the world, human rights situations around the world. Then you have item 7. Israel is the only country which has its own agenda item. It’s called the violations of the occupied Arab Territories, including Palestine. It means Israel and no other country, not China. One and a half billion people denied any form of human rights, not Syria, half a million people killed by barrel bombs against hospitals and schools by their own regime, not Russia, which is massacring. People in Ukraine, not North Korea, one of the most horrific places on the planet. Not one of these countries is the object of its own agenda item. If you want to talk about them, you do it in item 4. Only Israel has its own special day, special agenda item. I call it Hate Israel Day. And you see all the hatred come out.
Finally, I’ll mention how Israel is singled out, is you have these special investigators or inquiries. Here I’ll bring you up to date on what’s the latest. There is a special rapport Rapporteur on Palestine. The Human Rights Council has about 55 special investigators, many of them on subjects like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, climate change. You pick it. Then they have about a dozen that are investigators on a country. Of those one dozen or so, one of them is on the Palestinian Territories. It’s called the Special Rapport Rapporteur on Human Rights in Palestine, supposedly looking at both sides. But actually, if you read the mandate, despite the title, if you read the mandate, the mandate is only to look at Israel’s violations. So Israel’s actions are presumed violations and the mandate is only to look at Israel. So unlike the special rapporteur on Sudan or some other country, where they’ll look not only at the government but also at the rebels, rebels might also commit violations in the Palestinian Territories, they only look at Israel in the mandate to investigate is Israel’s violations. They will not look at Hamas, the Jihad, or Fatah, or anyone else, which is against human rights. If you care about victims and violations, if Israel does something wrong, let’s talk about it. Let’s expose it. But if Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad does something, we should also look at it. It should focus on the violation and the victim, not who the perpetrator is. But that’s the expert on Palestine.
I’ll say a few words about the current mandate holder. One of the previous mandate holders was Richard Falk. You may know him. He is a law professor at Princeton, an international law professor, and also a famous anti-western anti-Israel activist. He used to defend the bomb throwers during the Vietnam era. He was their lawyer or he supported them. In modern times in the past two decades, he has supported 9/11 conspiracy theories. He supported Hamas. He was made a special repertoire in Palestine in 2008. His successor today is a lady named Francesca Albanese. She’s an Italian lawyer. The UN Human Rights Council is supposed to pick objective experts. But when it comes to this position, they don’t. They deliberately pick the most biased people they can find. We have gone to the Human Rights Council to suggest who not to take. Actually, a number of years ago, the Canadian chair of the vetting committee, suggested taking someone who had no bias. Not pro-Israel, not pro-Palestinian. Her name was Christina Cerna, worked on Latin American human rights issues, accomplished. She was recommended. But the Arab State said, no, no, no, she’s not expert enough, which they meant she’s not biased enough. So they rejected her, even though you were supposed to ratify the committee vetting choice, human rights council president was pressured and chose someone else instead.
Last year, they chose Francesca Albanese. We told the council in advance, this is the most biased person you can take. She used to be a lawyer for [inaudible]. She’s a longtime anti-Israel activist. She has accused Israel of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and apartheid on repeated occasions. She repeatedly equates the suffering of the Palestinians, the fight of the Palestinians, with the Nazi Holocaust. So that means the Israelis are like the Nazis. She’s done this numerous times. A year ago before she took the position, she gave an interview on a podcast in Italian. And she said she said, “It’s great there are these human rights groups like Amnesty that have now called Israel Apartheid in these reports.” It’s so wonderful that these groups have called Israel an apartheid state because she said in Italian, she looked up to the sky and she said, “[inaudible]”. They liberated the word. They liberated the word. And indeed, since she’s taken office, she has repeatedly accused Israel of Apartheid. She has spoken at Hamas conferences, and she said, you have a right to resist. She told Hamas conferences and she’s the Rapporteur. She’s been denounced by the US, the US special envoy for antisemitism. But she has the position, and no one is trying to remove her. She just issued a report a few weeks ago, last week. In fact, the report is about incarceration in Israel. And it’s all against Israel. There’s no condemnation of Hamas or the Jihad. There’s no condemnation of terrorism or the threat on Israel faces.
With her report, as I was interviewed about it recently, and I said, the sad thing is, is that there may well be certain things there that are true. I’m sure that in Israel’s dealing with the Palestinians the Israeli army and the Palestinians, of course, you’re going to have abuses and excesses. You’re going to have them in every police, military situation. There’s a conflict with Israel and the Palestinians. So there will be abuses and things that we should know about. But when you read Francesca Albanese, the most biased person in the world, you don’t know what’s true or not. You know she’s just out to get Israel. You know that a decade ago, she wrote a fundraising Facebook post for UNRWA, and she said that America is subjugated by the Jewish lobby. Europe is subjugated by Jewish guilt over the Holocaust. So everything that she writes, you really don’t know what’s true. And she says it in such an extreme way with such intense emotion that it actually does the Palestinians a disservice. If you would have a serious person, we could take it seriously and could actually look into genuine abuses, which there may be some in her report, but because it’s so inflammatory, you just don’t know. Her report is about the incarceration of Palestinians. So that’s a special repertoire in Palestine.
Finally, there is the Commission of Inquiry. I’ll say a word about that as this educated audience probably knows. There have been a number of commissions of inquiry against Israel, about 10 more than in any other country in the world. There’s been zero on China, zero on Cuba, zero, and back then zero in Saudi Arabia, zero on Zimbabwe. There’s been one now in Russia, one on Syria. There have been like 10 on Israel. In the past, the commissions of inquiry lasted for about six months or a year, not much more than that. They delivered their report, and they’re done a bit of follow-up, but they’re done. This time In May 2021, after the war with Israel and Hamas, they created a commission of inquiry that was distinct, and unprecedented. This commission of inquiry had no end date. It was not going to end after the report. It would be perpetual. They would give every year report to the General Assembly, and every year report to the Human Rights Council. Two reports a year. The mandate was not only the war of May, 2021 between Israel and Hamas, and Hamas fired 4,000 rockets at Israel. But the mandate actually extended to much more than that.
The mandate extended to include looking at the root causes of the conflict, whatever that means. It could go back 40 years, 50 years, 100 years, 4,000 years, or maybe want to go back to the Canaanites, to Abraham and Lot, and maybe go back to Cain and Abel, going back to root causes. So whatever you want, root causes. And to look at systemic racism, which was plugging in language that was fashionable in America at the time. This is the time of Black Lives Matter. So we’re going to look at systemic racism. Actually, they wrote, systematic racism. They meant to say systemic, but they wrote systematic. Clearly, the idea was to accuse result of apartheid. Now if you read the mandate of May 2021, the emergency session creating the commission of inquiry, ostensibly, it’s going to look at both sides. It’s supposed to gather evidence that will be used in international tribunals, meaning the ICC and other tribunals. But then look at who they appointed in case you’re wondering that maybe it’s going to be both sides. The mandate is created in May. In July, they appoint their three commissioners. One is Miloon Kothari, the other is a gentleman by the name of, he’ll come to me in a second. He’s from Australia. And he used to work in my building. And the chair was Navi Pillay.
When they pointed Navi Pillay, I knew the thing was a joke because Navi Pillay, despite being an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa, she’s a Tamil descent. Despite having been a judge in South Africa, which was impressive, being a woman of color in that generation, despite having been an international judge, Navi Pillay, when she was UN high commissioner, was Virulently anti-Israel. When the [inaudible] happened, incident happened, the [inaudible] on May 31st, 2010 hours after it happened, before anyone had any real sense of what had gone on that day, she said, Israel treats international law with perpetual disdain. Israel treats international law with perpetual disdain. Something she’s never said of China, Russia, Cuba, any other country. But she said it of Israel hours after an incident that happened at four o’clock in the morning when pictures began to come out. But no one really knew exactly what had happened. Since that time, she was the champion of the Durban two conferences, where [inaudible] was the keynote speaker, and Gaddafi was the vice chair. Two years before being appointed, meaning just three, four years ago, she signed petitions to governments along with others, to lobby governments to quote sanction Apartheid Israel. I’ll say that again. The headline is Sanction Apartheid Israel. She signed this.
So she’s being appointed the chair supposedly of an impartial inquiry. The UN Human Rights Council has rules. You’re supposed to look at people at their background. And because we protested vice people, they put in more detailed rules that prior prejudicial statements are disqualifiers. So, it’s just ludicrous. I used to be a lawyer in New York. If I represented a client and I went before a judge, and it turns out that she had lobbied against my client, not just had some views or some statements, that itself would be sufficient. I would bring a request that the judge recuse herself. And if she would not, within a day, I’d get the appellate court to disqualify her, because it would be an obvious breach of basic rules of due process and impartiality. But Navi Pillay lobbied governments to sanction apartheid Israel, quote-unquote, signed a letter in June, 2021, right after that war, and a few weeks before being appointed, where she joined other people in writing to President Biden saying, you need to punish Israel, which is to blame for the recent war.
So in a commission of inquiry that’s going to look in systematic racism, she has already gone on record saying, sanction apartheid Israel. In an inquiry that was at its initial focus, was about the war of May, 2021, she signed a letter weeks later saying, Biden needs to punish Israel. Because it is to blame in that war without mentioning that Hamas fired 4,000 rockets in Israel and that Israel, though I’m sure it’s war, was not perfect, targeted Hamas things. There was, I’m sure collateral damage, but they were targeting Hamas terrorist centers. So it’s a circus and a joke. She’s the chair. And we submitted a petition for her to step down. She ignored it. I went up to her a few months later and said, I handed it to her. She said, “No, no, I’ve seen it.” I’ve seen it. I said, “Well, you didn’t respond.” She said, “Well, we can’t respond to everything.” First they accused, Israel and it’s friends of not engaging. You’re not joining UNESCO, you’re not joining the Rights Council. You don’t want to join. But when you do engage and you do send a diplomatic letter with a hundred footnotes and cite legal principles, they throw it in the garbage and say, well, you can’t respond to everything.
So the most substantial request outlining her bias against the UN’s own rules, they have never answered it in any meaningful way other than to just wave their hand. They want to be able to appoint the most virulent anti-Israel activists. And if anyone complains to say, oh, well there you go again, you’re just trying to distract us. And it’s not smart from their perspective, it’s not smart for the Palestinians. Because you could appoint someone. There are a lot of smart people who are pro-Palestinian and who would not be easily dismissed. Very serious law professors around the world. You can find hundreds of them about whom I could have no substantial objection because they don’t have that kind of a past but who would be very sympathetic to the Palestinian plight and who would write a very serious report. It would have some things about Hamas. But the PLO representatives in the UN don’t even want to go there. They just pick the best people from their perspective or the most anti and they thought that she’s a woman and she’s a woman of color, so it would fit their thing. So that’s the commission of inquiry.
I’ll only mention that we focused on Navi Pillay without focusing on the other two members. But one of her colleagues is a man named Miloon Kothari. He had been a UN expert years ago. He had done some things that were biased against Israel. He actually visited Israel 20 years earlier. He was a UN expert. He said, “I’m only going in my personal capacity. “Then he came back and he said, ah, well, I decided to write a report in my capacity as UN expert on housing, and Israel is violating housing rights. So he breached his own commitments. That was him 20 years ago. But we didn’t focus on him. But then he gave an interview at an anti-Israel website called [inaudible] And he said, “This commission of inquiry is amazing. It never ends. It goes on forever. And we just got to meet with the International Criminal Court, and we’re giving them information, and we’re going to Europe and we’re going to parliament. So we’re going to capitals. And it’s really amazing.” The whole hour, he doesn’t say anything about what he’s going to do to hold Hamas, the Jihad and fat to account only Israel. So again, despite whatever’s in the mandate, his only focus is Israel. Then he says, “You know there’s a problem. There’s a problem. The Jewish lobby is coming after us. The Jewish lobby is coming after us, and they control social media. ” He didn’t mean they control all social media, but he meant the social media about them. But that’s what he said. And then he said, ” Israel, we have to ask whether Israel should be a member of the UN.”
So this is a guy who’s never asked whether Pakistan, one of the most active members, but sponsors all the resolutions, including his own, whether they should be a member of the un. Doesn’t ask whether Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, North Korea, you pick it. Yes, we should ask whether Israel should be a member of the UN. And he talks about the Jewish lobby. He was condemned because he said the quiet part out loud. He should have just said Zionists or Israel. He said the quiet part out loud. He was condemned by 18 countries, not just America and Canada, but by Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Brazil, countries that had never ever condemned an expert condemned for anti-Semitism. And he’s still there. So, one of the commissioners has been condemned by 18 countries for anti-Semitism. It happened a year ago. He’s still there. They just presented their latest report. It’s about how Israel harasses NGOs. That’s the whole report. You don’t really know if these NGOs are fronts for terrorist groups. All of those claims by Israel are dismissed. Again, there could be some serious unsubstantiated things in there about how Israel mistreats human rights activists, but because you have a commissioner who is anti-Semitic, you have a chair who is overtly biased. It’s impossible to take anything, you know as credible. So that was their latest report they did not mention. When they talked about NGOs being harassed, they didn’t mention actually an NGO that’s being harassed for speaking out on these issues, which is my own NGO.
Here, I’ll segue to the final part, and I’ll conclude because our organization, which is UN Watch founded 30 years ago in Geneva by a great American named Morris Abram. He was a civil rights leader, worked very closely with Martin Luther King, was head of the American Jewish Committee, eventually was US Ambassador in Geneva, retired, created UN Watch 30 years ago. We speak out on universal human rights issues. We bring dissidents from China, Russia, Cuba, and many other countries to testify at the UN, and we speak out against the double standards and discrimination against Israel. We don’t think Israel should get a free pass. They should be held to account, but not in the way that happens that I’ve described, which is a breach of the UN Charter guarantee that all nations be treated equally. Because we speak out and because we hold dictators to account, we are being targeted. There is the head of the Human Rights Council staff. His name is Eric Tistounet. He’s French. He’s been there forever, 25 years. He created the Human Rights Council. He’s the man behind the scenes. So if you ever see some speeches of mine that have gone viral 2007, the chair said, if you ever give that speech again, I’m going to delete it from the records.
Well, there’s a guy handing him notes in advance. And whenever you see the chair banging on the thing saying,” I’m going to stop you, and don’t you dare say that”, it’s someone handing him a note, a guy with a little mustache. His name is Eric Tistounet. He tells the chair what to say. The chair rotates. Eric Tistounet is always there. It turns out Eric Tistounet has a campaign to harass us, discriminate against us, and censor us. In the past three years, every June there’s a session, he doesn’t let us speak three years ago. The reason he can do it is because only the first 10 on the list of NGOs of non-governmental organizations, only the first 10 get to speak. If you’re number 12, number 50, number 35, you don’t get to speak. So what he does is every time we register according to a computer, we give our priorities. We register right away. He cuts and pastes, puts our name on the bottom so that we don’t get called on. In June 2021, we requested to speak 31 times. We should have gotten about 20-plus slots. Out of 31 requests, we got one. One out of 31. Clearly, he was doctoring the list. Last June 2022, we requested 36 slots. Should have gotten over 20. We got zero, zero out of 36. It’s harder for him to do it in March, but in the June session, because it’s only 10 NGOs each time he can cheat. In this June so a few weeks ago that just ended, June-July we requested only 10. We thought maybe it’d be different if we request 10. We only got one. Amnesty got 20 slots. The groups he likes get to speak groups, he doesn’t get silenced.
So the numbers are very compelling, but don’t believe the numbers believe his own employee. [inaudible] used to sit with him on the podium. She used to ask me for my speeches in advance. She became a whistleblower, state’s witness, if you want to call it that way. She produced a five-page affidavit where she describes in detail how Eric Tistounet gives orders to staff to target you in watch to delete us from the speaker’s list. And it’s been happening for years. We knew it was happening in some ways. But to read the evidence you can go on our website unwatch.org/abuse. We’ve detailed it in compelling detail. He also tells the staff to go on the internet and defame me at an internet cafe. We have internal emails where he tells his staff to target me and to imagine ways how UN security could detain me and keep me from the U. We have internal emails that were leaked by another righteous person inside the UN.
So we put all this together, send it to the Secretary General in October, nine months later, they’ve done nothing. He has complete impunity and he targeted us again in this session. So we got a hundred human rights activists to sign an appeal. We’re calling on the United States and other friendly democracies to urge the US Secretary General, and the High Commissioner to remove Mr. Tistounet immediately. If the UN wants to have any credibility, they have to put an end to his harassment of the only group that is a watchdog on the UN. With that, I’ll conclude. Thank you.
Hussein: Wow, Hillel. Thank you very much. I think I’ll be not just speaking for myself when I say that we’re all extremely thankful to have you doing this task because otherwise, I don’t know how would we find out about what happens in these places. I had some questions prepared, but now I don’t know where to begin from. What you just described to me doesn’t sound like a respectable international institution, but a fiefdom of anti-western and anti-Israel dictatorships supported by corrupt bureaucrats. Are there any mechanisms of oversight of accountability that can be used in order to reform this institution?
Hillel: Well, that’s a good question. The Human Rights Council itself was created by the General Assembly.In theory, the General Assembly could make institutional reforms. In reality, it’s not going to happen anytime soon. And to be honest, the institutional changes are not so much what we need. We don’t need to change the structure. We need to change the policies and actions of government. So the current structure would allow the US and the EU to bring resolutions on China, on Cuba, on Pakistan, they don’t do it. So they do in some countries, I mentioned a number of them do get criticized. There have been resolutions on Syria, there have been in North Korea. So a number of countries do get criticized, but not enough. So for that to change, we need to begin with our democracies, to hold them to account.
Of course, even when they do try, in many cases, like America did try to bring a resolution to have a debate on the Uyghurs in October that was the first time that was attempted, and it was shot down. We were not even allowed to have a debate on the Uyghurs at the Human Rights Council. America tried, but the majority said no. So then the question is, how do you deal with the membership? That happens every year in October, there are votes. Again, our democracies there are very weak. Europe rarely speaks out to say, oh, you shouldn’t elect China, Russia, Cuba, they’re all running this year. In very rare instances after Russia invaded Ukraine, then the EU said, ah, yeah, we should remove Russia from the council. But when they were running, they didn’t say anything. So you have a lot of go along to get one and our democracies are very weak at the UN. And the moment you don’t stop the membership, then you get a situation where you’re not going to get the right resolutions.
Finally, I’ll say with respect to the individuals that I mentioned, for example, this guy Eric Tistounet, top bureaucrat, demon rights counsel, he answers to the high commissioner whose name is Volker Turk, who’s an Austrian Volker Turk could remove him. The evidence is compelling. We hope he will do so. We will be writing to him this week that he do so, even though we made a complaint in October, they didn’t do anything. The Secretary General can remove him. Finally, the United States, France, the UK, Germany, they’re members of the Human Rights Council. They should be speaking out. So who should be holding into account? There aren’t really any institutions. There is no court to go to. If this kind of thing was happening in Canada or America or Switzerland, I’d go to court and you’d have the evidence and something would happen. With this kind of extreme case, here, there is no court. The only court is if our democracies say something. And if anyone wants to help, they should ask their representative to speak out. We have all the information on our website. Thank you.
Hussein: I want to ask you about something very troubling that I actually read on the UN Watch website. By the way, I invite all our audience to go to unwatch.org. It’s an amazing resource of constant reporting on all of these things in the UN. It was about, actually, I think it was Tistounetthat is accused of handing the names of Chinese dissidents to China before they testified at the HRC. Is that correct?
Hillel: That is correct. Actually, when Emma Riley his employee went public, her main issue was that indeed he was handing names of Chinese dissidents to China. What this means is that in advance of the Human Rights Council session where we meet for month, let’s say the session will be in March. So in January or February, the Chinese mission in Geneva, the embassy would write to the UN office, Mr. Tistounet’s office and say, “Hey any of these 15 names registered to speak, [inaudible], activist Yang, Jan Lee, former political prisoner, [inaudible] activist, any of them registered to speak.” And the answer legally was supposed to be, go to hell. We’re not going to tell you, you’ll find out when they speak. But instead, they said, oh yeah, this one’s registered, this one’s with that group, allowing China to put pressure on their relatives back home. These people are in exile, but allowing them to potentially torture their relatives back home. And a number of activists believed that indeed happened. Eric Tistounet was giving the orders to do it. Emma Riley tried to stop it. She resisted, she fought, he made her life miserable, eventually fired her, and no action been taken. It’s been covered in the BBC documentary, been reported on in Lamont. But no country to my knowledge has taken any action on this or on Eric Tistounet.
Hussein: I’m going to start fielding and asking the questions from the audience. We’ve received a lot of questions. I don’t know if we’re going to have time to get to all of them. But one of the questions that we’ve received is asking about the role of the members of the organization of Islamic Cooperation is a block of 56 Islamic countries. Usually, they try to coordinate. How do they tend to vote and how come they for example, did not try to push the Uyghur Muslim issue in regards to China.
Hillel: Yeah, well, look, the Muslim countries, was asked specifically about the Muslim group?
Hillel: Yeah. So the Muslim group is known as the OIC, organization for Islamic Cooperation, to be called Islamic Conference at the UN. They represent 56 UN member states in addition to the Palestinians, which is non-member state at the un. They often vote as a block, not always on some issues, they might divide, Iran, Islamic countries do not agree on Iran. There are some who are pro-Uranian, some who are anti-regime, but very often they vote as a block, certainly on the Israel issues. They not only vote as a block, they sponsor resolutions. So the average resolution targeting Israel is typically sponsored by the Islamic group, the Arab Group of States, which is about 22 countries and together with the Palestinians. So they do vote as a block and there’s vote trading.
One of the reasons that there are countries that may not be anti-Israel or anti-Jewish, which vote against Israel is because they are presented with the prospect of getting vote trading. Fifty-six is Islamic countries who vote for you if you vote for them. And if you don’t, you could lose 56 votes. They could go against you. It’s very powerful. Regarding the Uyghurs, it’s quite astonishing. We have documented and exposed the terrible reality that at the UN. Many Muslim states will not only decline to support the Uyghurs, but much worse they will actually sign letters and join in speeches where they actually praise China for treatment of the Uyghurs. I’m going to read one of the quotes of these. Give me just a second. I’m just pulling it up as we speak here.
Just an example. A few years ago, so this is in August 2019, a letter was submitted by 50 ambassadors signed a letter. So the letter dated 12 July, 2019. The document is HRC/41 /g /17, an official document submitted to the UN. It says “We, the following 50 ambassadors signed the joint letter. In the letter, they praise China for its for its treatment of the Uyghurs.” And they say, how wonderful China is on human rights and treating the Uyghurs. And anything they do of security-wise is counter-terrorism. And you have countries that sign that include, and I’ll give you some of the countries. The countries include, the signatories to the letter include Iran. So the Islamic Republic of Iran on paper has signed praise of China for how they treat the Uyghurs. As people know, China has put an estimated 1 million Muslim Uyghurs in camps, destroys their religion, their identity, their culture, their language. So Muslims are being persecuted for being Muslims. Iran signed a letter defending China, Pakistan signed a letter, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, the Palestinians, Algeria, Egypt, Somalia, and the list goes on, as well as North Korea. And Russia signed the letter praising China. So very cynical. As people know, China is very powerful. Pakistan gets a lot of economic benefits from China and they betray their own people. It’s very cynical and disgusting.
Hussein: We’ve received a number of questions asking about the actual effect and power of a body like this. I’m not a fan of quoting Stalin, but I can’t resist myself. Well, when, when he was told that the Pope was very upset about what was happening, in Czechoslovakia, he had this very famous code of, how many divisions does Pope have? And here’s the question. How much power does these institutions really have? I mean, it seems to me that they have no credibility. You said that they are very successful in shaming. So I don’t know how, if it’s very obvious to anybody how corrupt this institution is how could they actually negatively affect Israel or harm Israel?
Hillel: Well, great question. When come back to that quote, which I also cite Stalin was told, as you say, mentioned that the Pope has criticized his actions. And how many divisions does the Pope have? Well, fast forward a few decades later, and the Stalinist regime collapsed, the USSR collapsed and the Pope was still there. Why did the USSR collapse? It was the most mighty regime in the world matched with America, I suppose. But it had any number of divisions, tanks, nuclear weapons, everything that Stalin might want, and it just collapsed. Not a single bullet was fired. No one believes in it. It was a big lie. And at one point, they weren’t willing to shoot their own people, and it just fell apart. Obviously, Putin is trying to recreate it but it did fall apart, in 1991, approximately.
The Human Rights Council has no divisions and nothing they write is binding, but indeed it is perceived as legitimate. Now, the things that I mentioned may be well known to certain people in America, maybe certain people in Israel, and some select other audiences around the world. But the vast majority of people around the world, including in democracies, when they see a headline, the UN Human Rights Council declared certainly in Europe where I live in, the UN Human Rights Council declared for most people that is, and the Lord spoke to Moses on Sinai. The UN Human Rights Council, people imagine men with long white beards dressed in white robes, walking along, strolling along Mount Olympus, making their decisions based on facts, logic, and morality.
When based on what you heard, nothing could be further from the truth. Sitting around the table with the Rights Council is not as most people think, Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato, but Gadafi [inaudible]. So the perception around the world is most news reports, Reuters, AP, and so forth, their narrative is not highlighting the things that I told you. So most people are not aware that the simple fact that two-thirds of the Human Rights Council are either full-on authoritarian regimes or some other form of non-democracy, they’re just not aware of it, and therefore, their decisions do carry enormous weight. Therefore, China invests enormous resources not to be criticized. If the Human Rights Council didn’t matter, they wouldn’t do it. They send letters to countries, they warned them, they cancel. Ireland once joined a speech against China, criticizing China, not a resolution, just a speech. And the next day, China said, we’re reconsidering our order of 25 million of Irish beef, big scandal in Ireland. So you’ll get punished if you say a word against these countries.
When you are unelected, and I mean, Husain is a bigger expert than I am on all this because he lived in a regime that is unelected and authoritarian, but in those kinds of regimes, in my understanding, they are particularly sensitive. when you’re elected, you have people banging pots and pans, it’s unpleasant. But you go to sleep knowing you are elected by the majority, and you’re going to be there and the institutions of state will respect that. When you’re not elected, you have no legitimacy. Therefore, when the UN Human Rights Council shows that you’re a violator, it can seriously undermine you. Human rights access will waive that report. Word can get out. So it’s very damaging, and they do everything not to be condemned. So it turns out that the power of shame coming from the United Nations can be very worrying for the world’s risk regimes. We see it by the evidence of how much resources they put in to prevent being condemned.
Hussein: Let me ask you about the US mission. Have they been of any help to you trying to stop the harassment of UN watch and how do they generally behave in this atmosphere? How does the US try to operate in such an environment?
Hillel: Well, look, I’ve been dealing with the US government for nearly 20 years. So there have been different approaches. Obviously, the Republican administrations are more critical and skeptical of the UN Democratic administrations in recent years are much more engaged with the UN. So clearly you’re going to get different attitudes in that regard. When it comes to Israel, they continue to vote against the anti-Israel resolutions. The current ambassador at the Human Rights Council led 27 countries to condemn the Commission of Inquiry for its bias. So I welcome that. I am going to decline to comment on what the US is doing or has done in regard to our issue of being discriminated against and harassed at the UN. We’re going to keep that behind closed doors. But we have raised the issue before the Congress, and certainly we do want the US to intervene strongly.
Hussein: Well, we’ve received a number of questions. That’s actually the most common recurrent question from the audience. So I’m going to combine all of these questions and rephrase them which is basically about US policy. Here, we’re going to bring you right into US policy debates. As you know, this is your field of expertise. There are a lot of divisions among us policymakers that generally tend to conform to party lines about the use of full use engagement with the UN, the funding of the US to the UN. And as you said, there’s a disagreement that Democrats tend to want to engage more. The Republicans are very skeptical, they want to pull out of many of these places. Trump administration pulled itself out of the UNHRC. What is your own personal opinion? Do you believe that, let’s say an NGO like UN Watch and the case for Israel in general, the Case for Human Rights, in your own opinion, are they best served with the US present or absent in these platforms or could we be present but use our financial leverage to reform?
Hillel: Well, that’s a great question. Historically, we have wanted the US to be present. No one serious has ever advocated the US pulling out of the Security Council or the General Assembly. Actually, the Security Council of the US enjoys an advantage, the veto, so America can be certain that nothing terrible of a binding nature will be adopted. So the veto is a good thing for America. Even George W. Bush, even Trump, they’d never seriously considered pulling out of the General Stumble or the Security Council. But the question has come up. For example, the Human Rights Council at UNESCO in Paris, that’s the cultural agency, America has gone in, gone out a couple of times. Currently, they’re out, but they’re apparently coming back in soon. On the whole, we think America should be there, that the UN is not going away.
If you could say the UN is going to disappear, and it’s not going away, and to a degree reflects the world that we have to some degree because the China nameplate doesn’t reflect one and a half billion Chinese people. But it reflects the fact that there’s a regime that is in control there. The UN is not going away. Given that it’s not going away, we want good people to speak out and show leadership and speak out and take action. We saw when the US did pull out the Human Rights Council under George W. Bush from oh six to oh nine, it did not get better. The resolutions continued to be adopted, they continued to do damage and it didn’t get any better. And I don’t think they were really delegitimized very significantly, yes, in some, some American circles, perhaps the fact that they weren’t there meant something, but.
Many of us liked seeing Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1975 speak so eloquently to call out Zionism as racism resolution. It was a brilliant moment in history, gave probably the most important speech ever delivered at the United Nations. And people were very happy that he was there to go on record. He couldn’t stop the vote, but we wanted the US to go on record. No one that I know of, that I’m friends with, wanted to see Nikki Haley leave the UN. She was very outspoken about the UN and its role in dictatorships and its mistreatment in Israel.
The same with even Rights Council. We want the US to be there to do the right thing if they do the right thing. The problem can happen sometimes is that some democratic administrations, their narrative is very pro-UN. It’s very, you could say cheerleading for the Human Rights Council and sometimes in our opinion, too much. If they do the right thing and if they speak out against the special agenda item and the commission of inquiry, which they’ve done in a number of cases, if they speak out when NGOs are silenced and harassed in discriminating games, the US is not publicly spoken out, I hope that they do. Then they can show that even though they can’t stop everything, a major nation, the world’s leading superpower has spoken out and gone on the record, the world will hear that. If they don’t speak out, and so, if you ask me currently this administration, I would say, the jury is still out. If they do the right thing, if they say that we’re going to go there to make a difference as happened, Hussein was there when I spoke in Congress, and there was some debate among the Congress people, and one of the Democrat members of Congress debating these issues said, “We need to be there so our voice will be heard so we can make a difference.” If that happens, if the voice is heard, and if they do speak out, then it can be justified. But if they don’t speak out against so many injustices whether it’s against countries, whether it’s against NGOs in my case, then perhaps it’s not justified. So I’d say that the jury is out.
Hussein: Hello. We still have so many questions, but we ran out of time. I had no idea that you’re doing the webinar while you’re recovering from Covid, so thank you.
Hillel: I’m not recovering. Who said that? No, I’m not.
Hussein: Oh, I thought you said that earlier.
Hillel: No, no, no, no, no, no.
Hussein: Well, again, thank you. I’m going to ask you the last question. This is an American audience that’s very committed and very passionate and always wants to be engaged and wants to help. What can we do in order to, first of all, help you help a wider understanding of what goes on in the UN and bring a possibly positive change?
Hillel: Well, I think Americans who are following here and people around the world in whatever way you, can let your elected representatives know what’s going on, how you feel about it. So certainly anything about the un you could find it by following us, UN Watch. I’m on Twitter, I’m on Facebook, either Hillel Neuer or UN Watch, can sign up on our website, unwatch.org. You will know about the latest votes, you’ll know about petitions and campaigns. You’ll get the basic information. We have a terrific tool, unwatch.org/database where you can get all the numbers and facts that you need. Let your elected representatives know that you care about a certain vote happening and so forth. In our own case, our ability to function effectively at the UN is being shut down. If you belong to an organization, then ask your organization to send a letter to Secretary of State Tony Blinken, or to the Ambassador to the UN in New York, Linda Thomas Greenfield. Send a letter from your organization, say, we’ve read this complaint. There is the top official of the Human Rights Council is systematically harassing the only watchdog group because they speak out against anti-Semitism and dictatorships, and the US needs to speak out. That would make a huge difference. If Secretary of State, Blinken gets 10, 20, 30 letters from major organizations, I think it’ll make a big impression and they’ll take an important position. And if America speaks out, they can make a difference. Thank you.
Hussein: Thank you very much. Hillel. Again, I recommend to all of our audiences, first of all, follow Hillel on social media. He constantly updates on this issue. Use the website and the resources of unwatch.org and of course, support UN Watch. UN Watch is a great NGO that does a very unique and extremely needed job, as Hillel said otherwise, people just read this great body called the United Nations Human Rights Council, which is kind of like a fantasy out of the Marvels movie. Found out this and that and not know how really that body functions or how much credibility, it actually doesn’t have. So support UN Watch and of course support EMET. We rely on supporters like yourself for us to do our job. Thank you very much for joining us today. Thank you very much, Hillel. It was a real pleasure and honor.
Hillel: My pleasure as well. Thank you.
PRESS RELEASE: EMET EXPRESSES DEEP GRATITUDE TO THE U.S. CONGRESS FOR ITS OVERWHELMING SUPPORT OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL DEMONSTRATED OVER AND OVER AGAIN THIS WEEK
PRESS RELEASE: EMET Profoundly Thanks Senator Ted Cruz and 14 of His Senate Colleagues for a Letter to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken Highlighting the Discriminatory Practices against the State of Israel
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