commission concerns

State Department criticizes ‘one-sided’ U.N. human rights report on Israeli-Palestinian conflict

The Biden administration has criticized the U.N. Human Rights Council’s stance on Israel since rejoining the body last year

MANUEL BALCE CENETA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during a news conference at the State Department, March 10, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

A report released on Tuesday by a United Nations Commission of Inquiry on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that blamed Israel for recent tensions in the region drew criticism from the State Department for its targeting of Israel. 

The State Department “firmly oppose[s]” the “open-ended and vaguely defined” Commission of Inquiry, a State Department spokesperson told Jewish Insider. “The Commission released its first report today, and its content gives us no reason to re-evaluate our position on this COI.” 

The COI “represents a one-sided, biased approach that does nothing to advance the prospects for peace,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a separate public statement. “The report of the Commission, released today, does nothing to alleviate our concerns.”

The report was the first released by the Commission of Inquiry, which was established last year following last May’s 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. It criticized Israel for seeking “complete control” over the “occupied Palestinian territory,” and said that “ending the occupation of lands by Israel…remains essential in ending the persistent cycle of violence.” 

The Commission of Inquiry is housed under the U.N. Human Rights Council, which also maintains a permanent item about Israel on its 10-item agenda. 

“The HRC plays a crucial role in promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms globally, but this COI does not work towards this goal,” the State Department spokesperson told JI. The Biden administration re-joined the Human Rights Council last year, following the Trump administration’s departure from the body over concerns about its bias against Israel. 

“The Commission of Inquiry and standing Agenda Item 7 are a stain on the Council’s credibility, and we strongly reject them,” Secretary of State Tony Blinken said in March, speaking at the first Human Rights Council meeting since the U.S. rejoined the body. “We will continue to counter anti-Israel bias and the unfair and disproportionate focus on Israel on the Council.”

A group of House Democrats — Reps. Brad Schneider (D-IL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Elaine Luria (D-VA), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Dean Phillips (D-MN) and Lois Frankel (D-FL) — released a joint statement calling the Commission “unquestionably just another attempt by the United Nations Human Rights Council to unjustifiably target Israel.”

“The Biden Administration has rightly stood with our ally Israel, opposed this COI, and worked to minimize its impact. However, we must not stop there,” the statement reads. “We look forward to working with the Administration to end this one-sided COI and reform the Human Rights Council, including through the institution of membership standards and the removal of the standing agenda item on Israel, the only country-specific agenda item.”

More than 40 House members and 70 senators wrote separate letters to the administration urging it to work to shut down the commission. 

More than half a dozen senators who signed the Senate letter, from both parties — including Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH), who organized the letter — told JI Tuesday afternoon that they had not yet seen the commission’s report.

Portman said later that “this report… is simply yet another baseless attack by the UN against the legitimacy of our ally Israel” which “reinforces previous biased UN reports on the conflict, whitewashes Palestinian terrorism, and places blame for the current conflict on Israelis.”

Marc Rod and Jacob Miller contributed to this report.