Thursday, January 24, 2008

UN Rights Body Condemns Israel Over Gaza

But who stands opposed to critisizing Israel?

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N.'s top human rights body on Thursday condemned Israeli military action in Gaza and the West Bank.

The resolution, which also demands the lifting of the blockade on Gaza and calls for international action to protect Palestinian civilians, was proposed by Arab and Muslim countries and passed by 30 votes in favor, one against and 15 abstentions, during an emergency session of the 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council.

Canada voted against the measure.

European countries abstained on the grounds that the resolution did not address the firing of rockets by Palestinian militants into Israel.

"We believe that this council should deplore the fact that innocent civilians on both sides are suffering," Slovenia's ambassador, Andrej Logar, said on behalf of the seven EU members of the council.

The United States is not a member of the council. (But hinted opposition)

The Palestinian representative in Geneva said the resolution was intended to highlight abuses committed by Israel.

"We recognize Israel, but we are against what Israel is practicing against our people," Mohammad Abu-Koash told journalists after the meeting.

During a debate Wednesday on the situation in Gaza, a majority of countries lined up to denounce the closure of Gaza's border by Israel. The U.N.'s top human rights official, Louise Arbour, said the closure had caused "desperation" among Palestinians.

Israel, which is not a member of the council, did not take part in the two-day special session.

"I am glad that Israel did not participate in this circus," said Itzhak Levanon, Israel's ambassador to the U.N. office in Geneva.

"I hope that in the future special sessions will only be called for matters which need to be discussed seriously, and to find solutions," Levanon told The Associated Press.

The resolution is the third to explicitly condemn Israel — and the 10th to address Israeli actions in the region in some form — since the council was created two years ago.

The council, which lacks enforcement powers, has been accused of spending excessive amounts of time focusing on Israel since replacing the widely discredited and highly politicized Human Rights Commission in June 2006.

The U.S. Senate voted in September to cut off funding to the council, accusing it of bias.

Here is a list of US Vetoes on resolutions critical of Israel.

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