Israeli delegate blasts WHO for ‘naming and shaming’ Israel

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( – An Israeli delegate lashed out this week at the World Health Organization for politicizing its annual assembly by singling out his country – the only one on earth condemned at the meeting for violating health rights.

Confronting what he called “the ritual of naming and shaming Israel,” Omer Caspi on Wednesday criticized member states which he said “turn their eyes, ears and hearts away from real health emergencies and devote precious time and resources to politics.”

“So, since you want politics, I will give you politics,” he told the gathering in Geneva, going on to recount some facts and statistics arising out of the civil wars in Syria and Yemen, as documented by the U.N. itself.

Among them:

–360 attacks on medical facilities in Syria, at the cost of the lives of more than 730 medical personnel. A U.N. commission of inquiry has called the attacks war crimes

–the closure of 600 health centers in Yemen and the deaths from preventable diseases of 50,000 children under the age of five over the past year

— 19 million people in Yemen lacking access to clean water and 14 million in urgent need of health care.

Neither Syria nor Yemen – nor any other country around the world – is the subject of a country-specific resolution at this year’s WHO assembly, which runs through Saturday.

The sole country-specific resolution, introduced by the Arab states and the Palestinian Authority, condemns Israel for “health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan (sic)”.

It commissions the WHO to carry out a “field assessment,” focusing among other things on “the impact of prolonged occupation and human rights violations on mental, physical and environmental health.”

Notwithstanding Caspi’s appeal for member-states to reject the resolution it was adopted by a large margin – 107-8, with 8 abstentions.

The eight “no” votes came from the United States, Canada, Australia, Israel, Guatemala, Paraguay, Micronesia and Papua New Guinea. Every member of the European Union voted in favor.

During his short statement Caspi contrasted the situation in Syria and Yemen to that in the Palestinian territories and the Golan Heights.

Among Palestinians, under-five mortality rates are down and life expectancy rates up, he said, claiming that the results were “far better” than the average for the Arab states’ group at the U.N.

Despite terror attacks by Palestinians against Israelis, Caspi said, almost 100,000 Palestinians from the West Bank were treated in Israeli hospitals over the past year.

And on the Golan Heights, he said, all residents including Druze “enjoy the same health care as all Israelis.”

He added that Israeli hospitals have treated almost 3,000 Syrian victims of the civil war.

Caspi concluded by saying the WHO should leave politics to the U.N.’s political institutions.

“It is absurd that we should sit here year after year, listening to a political harangue against my country as well as to my rebuttal,” he said. “This theatre of the absurd must come to an end.”

Assad regime touts conspiracy theories

Among the documents before the WHO assembly as it considered the resolution was one submitted by the Assad regime, which among other things accused Israel of deliberately infecting prisoners with disease and treating wounded al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists to enable them to return to Syria and continue fighting.

“The Israeli occupation authorities continue to experiment on Syrian and Arab prisoners with medicines and drugs and to inject them with pathogenic viruses, causing them to develop diseases and medical conditions that are potentially fatal,” it charged.

“The Israeli occupation authorities continue to set up field hospitals providing medical treatment for armed terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra and groups associated with it who, pursued by the competent Syrian authorities, flee to the territory of the occupied Syrian Golan,” the regime said in the document before the WHO gathering.

“The Israeli occupation authorities then return them to the Syrian Arab Republic so that they can resume their subversive terrorist activities directed against the country’s peaceful citizens and its infrastructure.”

In his remarks to the gathering, Syria’s delegate repeated the allegation about Israeli support for Jabhat al-Nusra, without elaborating.

Iran’s representative, meanwhile, fretted that some wording in the draft resolution “might be constructed as recognition of the Israeli regime.”

The U.S. representative said the draft resolution does not meet its objective for a WHO assembly “focused purely on public health and one that refrains from singling out countries on a political basis.”

U.N. Watch, a human rights-focused non-governmental organization based in Geneva, slammed European nations in particular for voting for the Arab-initiated resolution.

“The U.N. reached new heights of absurdity today by enacting a resolution which accuses Israel of violating the health rights of Syrians in the Golan, even as in reality Israeli hospitals continue their life-saving treatment for Syrians fleeing to the Golan from the Assad regime’s barbaric attacks,” said the group’s executive director, Hillel Neuer.

According to U.N. estimates more than 250,000 people have been killed and 12 million displaced in the civil war in Syria.

In Yemen, a Saudi-led military campaign against Shi’ite Houthi rebels has cost more than 6,000 lives, about half of them civilians including more than 900 children, U.N. agencies have reported.

— Written by Patrick Goodenough