UN panel to hear Palestinian race case against Israel

GENEVA (AFP) – A United Nations (UN) committee will hear a Palestinian complaint accusing Israel of racial discrimination, in a decision criticised by Washington.

The committee of independent experts, which has the power to name and shame members of the UN convention on racial discrimination who break the rules, decided it could handle a complaint filed by the Palestinians in 2018 – details of which have not been released.

But the United States (US) expressed “profound disappointment”, arguing that Israel did not recognise Palestine as a state or as a party to the convention – as a result, the committee had no jurisdiction.

The Palestinians signed the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in 2014 as the State of Palestine.

“The Committee’s disregard for treaty law raises serious questions about the legitimacy of this process,” said Andrew Bremberg, US envoy to international organisations.

“The US will continue to advocate for fair treatment for Israel in this and other international fora.”

Five of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s 18 experts made the unusual move of publicly disagreeing with the committee’s decision.

They published a statement arguing that Israel’s objection to entering treaty relations with the State of Palestine meant the committee had no jurisdiction.

The committee had engaged in a drawn-out debate over jurisdiction before deciding last month that it could hear the case – a decision not made public at the time.

Their conclusions, sent to AFP, showed that 10 experts voted in favour, three opposed and the others abstained or were absent.

In a statement published last December, Israeli Ambassador Aviva Raz Shechter said “as far as Israel is concerned, the Committee has lost credibility, and the cause of the Convention has regrettably been gravely undermined by the very body entrusted with protecting it”.