In 2006, the United Nations created the Human Rights Council, intended to replace its corrupt Human Rights Commission. The Commission had been infamous for its all-star membership of abusive dictatorships and authoritarian regimes, who used the body not to protect human rights, but to protect their violations of them. The Human Rights Council was meant to change all that. But on the eve of its opening, The New York Times called on President George W. Bush to reject the council, charging that its purported reforms had been “so watered down that it has become an ugly sham, offering cover to an unacceptable status quo.”
The United States did not join the council, and the Times predictions proved prescient. Two years later, Rhodes Scholar and future Obama administration official Ronan Farrow would call for the council to be abolished due to the rampant abuses of its members and its obsession with Israel to the exclusion of all other human-rights violators. The following year, the Obama administration tried a different tack and instead joined the council in an effort to salvage the body through engagement. Like its predecessor’s boycott, however, this policy was not particularly successful. To date, the council has condemned Israel more than all other countries combined, even as horrors have continued to unfold in Syria, and abuses have proliferated everywhere from North Korea to Saudi Arabia, a fact ruefully noted by Obama’s own U.N. ambassador Samantha Power.
Since the inauguration, the Trump administration has been grappling with what to do about the council, mindful of the failed policies of both of its predecessors. Critics of the council are divided: Israeli centrist party leader Yair Lapid is visiting Washington to lobby for the U.S. to cut ties with the body, even as U.N. Watch, an NGO which has cataloged the council’s corruption since its inception, testified before Congress that the U.S. would better assist Israel by remaining on it and fighting back.
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