The farce of UNHRC Agenda Item 7

Ramona Wadi

Middle East Monitor  /  April 6, 2023

The UN and its affiliated institutions have come up with various futile initiatives purportedly aimed at holding Israel accountable for its human rights violations. Agenda Item 7 is no exception, despite being a standing agenda item for every UN Human Rights Council meeting. On Monday, the council voted in favour of two draft resolutions regarding the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and independence, and on Israel’s settler-colonial settlements built since 1967. The Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Ministry once again treated the votes as triumphs and employed its own double standards by differentiating between countries that voted in favour and those against, with little consideration for the ultimate result regardless of voting preference; that is, Israeli impunity.

According to WAFA news agency, the ministry rejected the positions of member states voting against the draft resolution and their refusal to help hold Israel accountable. However, the main issue lies with draft resolutions being non-binding, which means that countries voting in favour are under no obligation to turn their votes into action. The result, like that of other non-binding resolutions, is a time-wasting diplomatic exercise which gets the Palestinian people no closer to any of their political rights being restored.

Agenda Item 7 has been called out on many occasions by Israel for its alleged bias. Yet for all Israel’s condemnations of all UN initiatives, be it at the Human Rights Council, the General Assembly or the Security Council, the international community has perfected its protection of Israel through many initiatives purporting to hold it accountable. No consideration is spared for the fact that since the 1947 Partition Plan, the UN has managed and consistently lowered Palestinian expectations for a political resolution by protecting Israeli colonisation. The focus on human rights, rather than colonial expansion, entrenchment and violence, has provided an excellent veneer for the international community in this respect.

Human rights violations have become normalised globally. Yet human rights discourse prevails almost as if it were the only comprehensible framework from which to argue against violations. The generic, universal appeal of human rights rhetoric prevents political scrutiny from taking place, even as it allows political actors to promote the lack of any distinction between the human rights violation and the context from which it emanates.

Hence, in Israel’s case, the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination without the colonial context, or the ongoing settlement expansion on Palestinian territory, are merely seen as issues that can be remedied through international good will, or effort, or any other idealistic notion devoid of the historical and political context of Zionist colonisation and international complicity.

Palestinians do not need any more non-binding resolutions; the decades-long debacle of pretence should be abolished. While Israel bleats complaints against Agenda Item 7 which are registered as opposition to a UN initiative that is pro-Palestine — which it is not — the colonial enterprise in Palestine does not pause its expansionist plans one iota. Palestinians, meanwhile, are fed rhetoric without action, which is the intention behind non-binding resolutions. It is more than hypocritical that Israel says it is singled out by the international community, when in reality, Palestinians have been forcibly tethered to the humanitarian paradigm in order for the colonisation process to continue unabated. Agenda Item 7 is nothing but a farce.

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger; her writing covers a range of themes in relation to Palestine, Chile and Latin America