Kerry decries ‘unbalanced focus’ on Israel in UNHCR

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — There is an “unbalanced focus” on Israel by the United Nations Human Rights Council, John Kerry told its members

“No one in this room can deny that there is an unbalanced focus on one democratic country,” Kerry said in an address to the council on Monday in Geneva.

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“It must be said the HRC’s obsession with Israel actually risks undermining the credibility of the entire organization,” Kerry said, citing the fact that only Israel is a permanent agenda item on the council’s schedule.

Kerry’s defense of Israel at the Human Rights Council comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to address a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, where he will criticize the Obama administration for the nuclear deal it is set to agree on with Iran and the world powers.

Kerry will not attend the speech, and instead will travel from Geneva to Switzerland where he will resume nuclear negotiations with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“We will oppose any effort by any group or participant in the U.N. system to arbitrarily and regularly delegitimize or isolate Israel,” Kerry told the council. “When it comes to human rights no country on earth should be free from scrutiny but neither should any country be subject to unfair or unfounded bias.”

During his speech, Kerry also denounced human rights abuses in Syria, North Korea and Ukraine.

Kerry on Monday in Geneva told reporters he was “concerned” unrevealed details about the proposed deal with Iran would become public. While he did not mention Netanyahu by name, Kerry’s comments came after an unnamed Israeli official was quoted as saying that Israel knows more about the proposed deal than Congress and that Netanyahu will reveal these details during his address to Congress on Tuesday.