A great diplomatic flurrying around the latest vote by the UN Human Rights Council in effect condemning Israel.

The resolution passed seems to be this one. The resolution welcomed the earlier Goldstone report which condemned human rights abuses by Israel and Hamas alike. But it also contained a long list of condemnations of Israel’s policies, with nothing by way of ‘balance’.

The vote was, as far as I can see, thus:

Adopted by a recorded vote of 25 to 6, with 11 abstentions. The voting was as follows:

In favour: Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia;

Against: Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia, Ukraine, United States of America.

Abstaining: Belgium, Bosnia Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gabon, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Uruguay.

The UK and France created a new category of vote: Nothing.

This Times piece describes the machinations which led to this miserable outcome.

Richard Beeston thereupon has a strong go at David Miliband, although it is not clear from his article why Miliband is blamed more than eg PM Brown who was prevailed upon to negotiate in person by telephone with the Israeli Prime Minister to try to broker a text which might be acceptable to more countries:

Like an improbable episode of Yes Minister, David Miliband and the finest minds in the FCO decided simply not to vote. No official opinion was registered on a matter of great consequence not only to Israel and Hamas — the two parties involved in the conflict — but also to the future of peace efforts in the region.

Many well-crafted arguments will no doubt emerge to justify the British indecision. There was not enough time to study the text, consult capitals, win concessions. In short, the British have pioneered a new form of diplomacy — “the dog ate my homework”.

As I always say, issues are like Shrek the Ogre. They have layers:

Shrek:     Ogres are like onions.
Donkey:   They stink?
Shrek:      Yes. No.
Donkey:   Oh, they make you cry…
Shrek:      NO. Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.

As with Shrek, so with the Human Rights Council. This grouping has in its midst many countries whose commitment to human rights is at best, hem, modest. So it makes no sense negotiating with them on the subject. Any compromise will be skewed in favour of cynicism or worse.

Or, as someone once wrote:

It’s a good basic axiom that if you take a quart of ice cream and a quart of dog feces and mix ’em together, the result will taste more like the latter than the former. That’s the problem with the UN…

In this case, the UK and France should have voted No, as did three honourable countries who have escaped from oppression to enjoy some human rights, and so understand the subject: Hungary, Slovakia and Ukraine.

Our No vote would have made no difference to anything in practice. If there is to be some sort of serious sustained peace as between Israel and the Arabs, it will come despite not because of the majority of members on the UN Human Rights Council, whose overriding ambition is to cut ‘Western’ ideas of human rights down to nothing.

In fact, the only reason for joining the Human Rights Council at all is to vote No to more or less everything it proposes, just to register in an important way a principled objection to the underlying hypocrisy of the whole business.

Why? Because the Council has a pseudo-legitimacy to intone about human rights only because some countries who actually take human rights seriously are on it.

Which means that racing round and round as London did this week trying to broker texts likely to win approval by these countries is a total waste of time, not to mention undignified.

Issues have Layers.

If your opponents choose to operate on the layer that suits them, you need to operate on the layer that suits you.

Basic technique. And because we lost sight of that, we ended up literally Nowhere.