Skip to main content

Blinken calls on UN Human Rights Council to end 'unacceptable bias against Israel'

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the Biden administration would seek full membership on the Geneva-based council.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to staff at the US State Department during the first visit of US President Joe Biden(L) in Washington, DC, February 4, 2021. - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken voiced concern over jailed opposition figure Alexei Navalny and imprisoned Americans in a telephone call Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Wednesday that the United States would seek a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, where Washington would counter what he called the rights body’s “unacceptable bias against Israel." 

“I’m here to reaffirm America’s commitment to respect and defend the human rights of all people, everywhere,” Blinken told the 47-member body in a video. 

Earlier this month, the Biden administration announced it had rejoined the council as an observer, in keeping with the president’s pledge to put human rights at the forefront of his foreign policy. The US will run for a three-year, full-member seat on the council during elections held by the wider UN General Assembly in October. 

"Institutions are not perfect," Blinken said. "As the United States reengages, we urge the Human Rights Council to look at how it conducts its business. That includes its disproportionate focus on Israel."

America’s top diplomat called on the Geneva-based body to abolish Agenda Item 7, which requires that Israeli violations in the Palestinian territories be discussed at every meeting. Israel, which is regularly condemned in resolutions put forward by the council, is the only member state whose rights record is a permanent agenda item. 

Blinken said membership should reflect “high standards for upholding human rights,” noting the council's history of granting rights-abusing countries a seat at the table. Current members include China, Cuba, Eritrea, Russia and Venezuela. 

The Trump administration withdrew from the rights council in 2018, in part over what Nikki Haley, then the US ambassador to the United Nations, described as the council’s “chronic bias against Israel.” 

Blinken’s comments come days after his phone call with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. The secretary on Monday “emphasized the Biden administration’s belief that the two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace alongside a viable and democratic Palestinian state,” according to the US readout of the call.  

President Joe Biden waited nearly a month to reach out to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in what was seen as a sign of his tougher approach to Israel compared with his predecessor. Although Biden intends to build on the Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and several Arab countries, his administration is expected to roll back a number of Trump-era policies that critics said undermined the changes of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

The Biden administration plans to resume relations with Ramallah and restore aid to the Palestinians, but the US Embassy — which Trump controversially moved from Tel Aviv — will remain in Jerusalem. 

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

Already a Member? Sign in

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial