George Orwell, in his seminal essay "Politics and the English Language," penned a scathing attack on what he termed "meaningless words." These terms, he said, "are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different."
Orwell's description could equally apply to many who sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Never has a term been so misused and appropriated than in this body, bearing the term "human rights," which promised so much and delivered so little. Last week, the council once again showed its disdain for human rights by ignoring real ongoing abuses worldwide and instead focused on investigating Israel, a habitual obsession of the UNHRC.
Only 20 of the 47 nations on the UNHRC, a minority, are considered "free" by the independent NGO Freedom House. The majority of nations currently represented on this self-styled "human rights" body do not allow basic freedoms for their own people, let alone concern themselves with global civil liberties.
The current roster of the UNHRC is a virtual who's who of global human rights offenders: It includes Cuba and Saudi Arabia -- not to mention Mauritania, where modern-day slavery is an entrenched phenomenon. Last year, while Libyan despot Muammar al-Qaddafi was massacring his own people, the Human Rights Council drafted a report full of praise for the former dictator's regime for its "protection of human rights."
In fact, many repressive countries seek a seat on the council -- not to advance the vision of Eleanor Roosevelt, chair of the committee that drafted and approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- but to serve as a barrier against the possibility of investigation and condemnation. It's a strategy that has worked well for countries like Saudi Arabia, where there is no freedom of religion, protections for minorities, or women's rights.
It is in this theater of the absurd that Israel was once again singled out last week for an investigation into Israeli communities in the West Bank, another opportunity for the Palestinians and their non-democratic supporters to commandeer the agenda as part of their diplomatic front against the Jewish state. This is a continuation of a policy that has seen 46 out of a total of 82 country-specific decisions directed against Israel. Meanwhile, there have been no investigations or decisions made against the likes of Saudi Arabia or Cuba.
This latest diplomatic attack on Israel has done no more justice to the discredited body. After all, there's no clearer sign that the UNHRC has lost the moral high ground than when the Syrian representative takes time out from defending the Assad regime's massacre of its own people to attack Israel.
It gets worse. The U.N. special rapporteur for Israel and the territories is none other than Richard Falk, an American professor, who has promoted conspiracy theories about the Sept.11 attacks on the United States. These outrages prompted U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice to say that Falk "should no longer continue in his position on behalf of the U.N." Falk, however, remains in his position. The problem is that, of the 10 appointed UNHRC rapporteurs, only Falk's one-sided mandate is not renewed annually.