For decades, Israel has been the target of widespread condemnation and criticism, out of all proportion to the severity of its actions in comparison with other countries, and with little to no consideration of the context within which the condemned actions were taken.
The UN Commission for Human Rights, whose members represented some of the most repressive regimes in the world, dedicated such disproportionate efforts to criticizing Israel at the expense of other causes that it was dismantled and replaced, with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan stating that "the politicization of its sessions and the selectivity of its work [...] cast a shadow on the reputation of the United Nations system as a whole”. Its replacement, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), turned out to be even more biased than its predecessor, and has dedicated overwhelming attention to Israel, while ignoring and blocking criticism of human rights abuses of equal or greater severity – often committed by the council’s own members. Massacres committed by Palestinians against their own population, and war crimes routinely perpetrated by Palestinians against Israelis, are similarly ignored.
The UNHRC has been strongly criticized for its overwhelming bias against Israel, both by Annan and by current UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, as well as by independent NGO’s such as Freedom House, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. HRW, however, has come under the exact same criticism from its own founder (among others), while AI is also demonstrably guilty of the same double standard.
Discrimination against Israel at the United Nations is not limited to the UNHRC, and has long been prevalent in several other UN bodies, including the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Commission on the Status of Women, and UNESCO.
The UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, established by the UNHRC in response to the 2008-2009 Gaza War, was so biased from the outset that Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, refused to lead it. Richard Goldstone also initially refused for the same reason, and only accepted after requiring that it also include an investigation into Palestinian crimes. The resulting report, however, was still extremely one-sided, with only one-twentieth of the document dedicated to the eight years of rocket attacks that prompted the Israeli response, and a similarly gross understatement of Hamas's intentional practice of sacrificing its own civilians. Goldstone himself wrote an editorial in 2011 in which he retracted and corrected several of the report's conclusions, and criticized the UN Human Rights Council for its bias against Israel.
The claim implicit in this bias, that Israel is the "prime example of human rights violators in the world", is particularly insidious in light of efforts Israel has made to avoid harming civilians, and the Palestinians' deliberate policy of provoking Israel into doing just that.
Israel has dropped millions of leaflets, made hundreds of thousands of phone calls, and broadcast messages by TV, radio and loudspeaker, all warning civilians to leave areas that were to be attacked. It has aborted military strikes in order to avoid civilian harm, invented new procedures aimed at getting civilians to leave before an attack, and even given medical treatment to enemy fighters. These and other efforts taken by the IDF to avoid harming civilians greatly exceed the measures taken by western military forces in areas such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Mogadishu, among others.
During the early years of the conflict (1920-1937), the Jewish community in Palestine employed an official policy of restraint and purity of arms ("Havlagah") in response to the repeated attacks inflicted upon it by the Arab population. Jewish terrorist groups that later carried out attacks on civilians were forcefully disbanded by Israel upon creation of the State, and were strongly condemned by the Zionist World Congress and prominent Jews worldwide.
The Israeli Supreme Court has issued several rulings restricting IDF activity, including banning the use of human shields and torture, and prohibiting attacks on ambulances (even though these have repeatedly been used to transport terrorists and weapons). Israeli soldiers and officers who have violated these rulings and the IDF code of conduct have been investigated, tried and imprisoned. Israelis who commit acts of terrorism against Arabs are also arrested, tried and imprisoned.
“During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”
- Col. Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, speaking before the UN Human Rights Council in 2009