Exclusive

House letter urges Blinken to ‘prioritize’ better UNHRC treatment of Israel

The letter focuses in particular on the UNHRC’s commission on Israel founded last year

Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) speaks during a news conference with a group of bipartisan lawmakers to unveil a COVID-19 emergency relief framework in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020.

A bipartisan group of more than 40 members of Congress is urging Secretary of State Tony Blinken to “prioritize reversing” the United Nations Human Rights Council’s “discriminatory and unwarranted treatment of Israel.”

The lawmakers — led by Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) sent a letter, obtained by Jewish Insider, to Blinken on Monday urging him to work to shut down the UNHRC’s open-ended Commission of Inquiry on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which was created in May 2021.

“COI’s mandate is designed to accelerate the political, economic, and legal challenges to Israel and undermine its legitimacy by pressuring international legal institutions to take action against Israeli leaders,” the letter reads. “This COI is outrageous and ought to be cancelled. With the UN budget in crisis, stretched by the COVID pandemic which affects all humanity, it is irresponsible to spend precious resources on yet another unjustified UN investigation of Israel.”

The letter calls on Blinken to “lead the effort” to eliminate the COI and requested that the administration pressure Congress not to provide funding the COI.

The letter enumerates several concerns about the COI in particular, including that the resolution that created it did not mention violence emanating from Hamas or Israel’s right to self-defense, that the U.N. already has six other bodies investigating Israel and that the COI is permanent, unlike other UNHRC investigative bodies. The letter’s authors also express concerns about several of the officials selected for the COI, whom they allege “have records of anti-Israel bias.”

“This reflects the UNHRC’s continued broader bias against Israel,” the letter reads. “The UNHRC should be using its resources to fulfill its mission of promoting human rights around the world – not singling out a country that was attacked by more than 4,000 rockets aimed indiscriminately at civilian populations,” a reference to last May’s round of intense fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The lawmakers also applauded the administration for voting at the U.N. to defund the COI in December 2021.