Talia Bidussa, the president of the Italian Union of Jewish Students (UGEI), addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday afternoon. She spoke on behalf of the European Union of Jewish Students, an umbrella organization of 35 national Jewish student unions based in Brussels. Bidussa delivered her oral statement under Item 7 of the agenda: About “the Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories”.
The main point of Bidussa’s speech was asserting the biased nature of controversial Item 7: “There is no other country on the Human Rights Council that has had as many reports and resolutions directed against it as Israel: the amount of energy, money, attention involved in discussing the situation in Israel is clearly, at this point, discriminatory. Especially considering the mass violations currently going on [in other countries], which this Council ignores,” she said. “Item 7 is being used as a political tool against Israel – Bidussa added – causing the parties involved in the conflict to break further away rather than to come together. It does not help the peace process, as it does not condemn the terror of Hamas and Hezbollah against whom Israel protects their citizens. Item 7 serves as a justification for movements that make violent anti-Zionism their flag.” This is the reason why Bidussa urged the Council to remove the Item from the agenda, claiming the necessity of discussing any concerns with the State of Israel’s human rights record under Item 4: “About human rights situations that require the Council’s attention.”
The day after Bidussa’s speech, it was EUJS executive director Jonathan Keyson’s turn to address the UN Human Rights Council, speaking under agenda Item 9: About “Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.”
Keyson expressed his concern for the growing number of anti-Semitic attacks and the new wave of hatred and violence directed against Jews, only 70 years after the Holocaust: “With heavy hearts, Jews in Europe are wondering: at what price can I keep living as a Jew in my country? Will I be attacked if my university fellows find out that I am Jewish? Am I a responsible parent for sending my child to a Jewish school? Can I walk down the street wearing a Kippah or star of David?”
“I would like us to recall that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created and adopted by the United Nations in the wake of the monstrous crimes of the Second World War,” he stressed. “Make no mistake: The universality of Human Rights is absolute and non-negotiable,” he added. “However, we cannot ignore that Europe’s Jews are once again questioning their future. This symbolizes an overall failure in safeguarding and promoting Human Rights everywhere in world”.
And since the report on the “Rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities” failed to mention anti-Semitic attacks, he urged the Council to install a special rapporteur on anti-Semitism. He then ended his presentation stating that “Jewish people should be able to live their lives as any other people of the world without having to fear constant threats.”