October 16, 2009 -- Some votes are eminently forgettable. Others are not.
Today's vote in the mistakenly-named UN Human Rights Council is the latter. Although denunciations of Israel have become commonplace in the Council, this vote provides a window into the souls of those 47 member states that currently belong to this Geneva-based body, and what we see will be long remembered.
In effect, the countries were asked a rather simple set of questions.
Could they distinguish between a democratic state, Israel, and a terrorist entity, Hamas?
Could they recall that one nation, Israel, had left Gaza completely in 2005, while another group, Hamas, had seized control two years later, ousting the Palestinian Authority and strengthening ties with terrorist-funding, weapons-supplying Iran?
Could they recognize the legitimate right of a nation, Israel, to self-defense against a non-state actor, Hamas, that openly declares a desire to obliterate it?
Could they differentiate between the arsonist in the conflict, Hamas, and the firefighter, Israel?
Could they grasp the inherent challenge for a military, in this case Israel's, to uproot a terrorist infrastructure, that of Hamas, which had deeply embedded itself in a civilian population?"
Could they acknowledge what was obvious to a top British military officer, Colonel Richard Kemp, that one party to the conflict, Israel, had gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid civilian casualties?
Click below to watch video of Colonel Kemp.
Could they admit that the UN Human Rights Council was so viscerally anti-Israel, as evidenced by the stunning fact that 80 percent of its resolutions adopted over the past three years have focused on Israel alone, that it could not be deemed an objective body?
Could they recognize that the mandate of Judge Richard Goldstone and his three colleagues, including one who had publicly convicted Israel before joining the group, was inherently biased, charged with investigating what were already deemed to be Israeli "war crimes," while ignoring the thousands of Hamas missile and mortar attacks that preceded Israel's entry into Gaza?
And could they accept that the resolution before them spoke only of Israel, not of Hamas?
The verdict is now in.
Twenty-five countries voted for the resolution.
In most cases, there were no surprises.
All the members of the Arab League and most of the Organization of the Islamic Conference voted in lockstep to condemn Israel. No news there.
And the worst offenders against human rights, quite naturally, supported the resolution, happy to have attention once again deflected from their own shameful records. Again, no news there.
But there were a few unhappy surprises, particularly Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.
As democratic countries, they should have known better. Was there more to gain by opposing Israel than supporting it, or, at the very least, abstaining? Or were they motivated by some fanciful notion of human rights in the abstract that was completely detached from the reality on the ground thousands of miles away in the Middle East?
Then there were the six countries - Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia, Ukraine and the United States - that stood up to the mob and voted against the resolution. Their moral clarity and political principle were on display. They deserve appreciation and recognition.
We should remember these six countries, just as we recall those that stood up to the herd mentality in Geneva at the so-called Durban II conference in April which similarly singled out Israel for denunciation--Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland and the United States.
And then there are the other 16 countries that did not vote in favor of the resolution, some abstaining, others absenting themselves.
In a multilateral setting, those actions can at times be acts of bravery. Not always, however.
It was regrettable that Britain and France, with their profound understanding of Middle Eastern realities, were not in the hall to cast a "no" vote. They should have been.
On the other hand, kudos to Mexico and Uruguay, the only Latin American countries on the Human Rights Council not to vote in favor.
And it was gratifying to see several African nations - Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, and Gabon - break group ranks and not endorse a one-sided resolution that even Richard Goldstone himself condemned today for its inherent unfairness.
Courage and principle are always in short supply.
When they're on display, as several countries demonstrated in Geneva, they should be acknowledged. But when they are overridden, and injustice and expediency become norms of the day, we must speak out loud and clear.
Related content: Goldstone Injustice
This article originally appearedinthe Huffington Post. Video courtesy of UN Watch.