The UN’s main human rights body is to meet to discuss launching an investigation into “systematic discrimination and repression” in Israel and Palestine, with the aim of identifying what it said were the root causes of recent Gaza bloodshed.

A draft proposal that calls for unprecedented levels of scrutiny of alleged abuses, called at the request of Muslim states, will be put before the 47-member UN human rights council on Thursday.

Opening the session in Geneva, the UN rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, said Israel’s attacks on Gaza this month could constitute war crimes if they were found to be disproportionate, and accused Hamas of firing indiscriminate rockets on Israel.

Eleven days of the worst fighting in years claimed more than 250 lives in Gaza, including 66 children, and 12 in Israel, including two children.

However, according to a draft of the resolution, seen by the Guardian ahead of a Thursday vote, the UN agency will call to urgently establish a commission to investigate all “violations”, not only in Gaza but also in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Israel.

The text said the commission would investigate “all underlying root causes of recurrent tensions, instability and protraction of conflict, including systematic discrimination and repression based on national, ethnic, racial or religious identity”.

Meirav Eilon Shahar, Israel’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, criticised the body.

Their sole purpose, she said on Wednesday, was “to blame Israel, whitewash the crimes committed by Hamas, and for the Palestinian Authority to avoid assuming its responsibilities towards its own population”.

The commission follows moves by some diplomats and international bodies to reframe the crisis amid an evolving global debate on racism, and to present violence within the context of Israel’s decades-long control over millions of Palestinians.

On Sunday, France’s foreign minister said the status quo would lead to a “risk of apartheid”, an accusation that has largely been levelled by activists and rights groups rather than governments.

On Wednesday, Ireland’s government supported a motion that condemned Israel’s “de facto annexation” of Palestinian land in what it said was the first use of the phrase by an EU government in relation to Israel.

Ireland’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, described what he said was Israel’s “manifestly unequal” treatment of the Palestinian people. He added that the “strategic nature of Israel’s actions on settlement expansion and the intent behind it have brought us to a point where we need to be honest about what is actually happening on the ground”.

Israel has strongly denied allegations of apartheid. The foreign ministry spokesman, Lior Haiat, tweeted that Ireland’s “outrageous and baseless position” reflected a “blatantly one-sided and simplistic policy”.

The French and Irish statements contrast starkly with that of the US and UK, which have kept in line with longstanding policy. The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, and the UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, toured the region this week and repeated their countries’ commitment to a two-state solution.

The Palestinian foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, was among those expected to address the session in Geneva on Thursday.

Israel and its allies, including the US and UK, have accused the body of a disproportionate anti-Israel bias. The council, elected by the UN general assembly, has a permanent feature on its annual agenda related to Israel and Palestine. No other issue has a dedicated item.

If Thursday’s resolution passes, it would also create the council’s first-ever open-ended commission of inquiry.

Khalil Hashmi, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, told reporters the recent violence was only the latest in a long cycle and said an investigation should have a “standing status”.

Share:

administrator