June 3, 2024 | Flash Brief

Israeli Amendment Condemning Hamas and Demanding Release of Hostages Passed by World Health Organization Assembly

June 3, 2024 | Flash Brief

Israeli Amendment Condemning Hamas and Demanding Release of Hostages Passed by World Health Organization Assembly

Latest Developments

The World Health Assembly, the governing forum of the World Health Organization (WHO), passed an Israeli amendment on May 31 that called for the release of all hostages held in Gaza and highlighted Hamas’s militarization of hospitals. Israel’s amendment “calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held in Gaza … and condemns the use, by armed groups, of health facilities, including hospitals and ambulances, that endangers the civilian population.” Fifty countries voted for Israel’s amendment, while 44 voted against it and 84 abstained. Each year, the WHO, a United Nations agency, reviews an anti-Israel standing agenda item, guaranteeing criticism of the Jewish state at the World Health Assembly.

Israel attached its amendment to a resolution drafted by Algeria and supported by Iran, Russia, and China that accused Jerusalem of “the wanton destruction of health facilities including hospitals and ambulances” and of engineering “the catastrophic humanitarian conditions that have been inflicted to the public health system in the occupied Palestinian territory.” In response, the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Meirav Eilon Shahar, argued that “a decision that does not also condemn the militarization of health facilities by terrorists in Gaza has no intention of improving the health conditions on the ground. A decision on health that does not demand the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, who are held by a terrorist organization, raped and tortured, is an unforgivable moral failure.”

The amended WHO resolution passed with 102 votes, while several countries, including Israel and the United States, voted against it.

Expert Analysis

“The WHO’s recognition of Israelis’ humanity doesn’t erase the organization’s unhealthy bias against Israel. While the WHO turned a blind eye to Hamas turning Gaza’s hospitals into military command centers, it puts Israel under the microscope with a permanent agenda item dedicated to scrutinizing the Jewish state.” — David May, FDD Research Manager and Senior Research Analyst

“The fact that the WHO Assembly, in common with the UN Human Rights Council, has a standing agenda item to condemn Israel means that the Jewish state is held to be guilty unless proven otherwise. The latest vote is a small, yet encouraging sign that a large section of the international community rejects this approach.” — Ben Cohen, FDD Senior Analyst and Rapid Response Manager

Yearly Anti-Israel Bias Displayed at World Health Assembly

The WHO has long singled out Israel through its annual assembly, which convenes the WHO’s 194 member states. Every year since 1968, the assembly has passed a resolution that criticizes Israel’s approach to Palestinian public health issues. The Israeli delegation to the WHO said on May 31 that the reoccurring resolution, to which no other country is subject, “has never been about the health of the Palestinian people — as they have claimed since 1968 — but always about hatred for Israel.”

These resolutions are informed by WHO reports that routinely fail to condemn Hamas and its use of human shields or its co-opting of medical infrastructure to support terrorist activities. For example, the May 17 WHO report entitled “Health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem” does not mention Hamas once. The report recommended that authorities “safeguard and restore the health system, including the full functionality of hospitals” yet failed to acknowledge Hamas’s takeover of the Palestinian Shifa Hospital for military purposes during the Gaza War.

The Urgent Need For UN Reform,” by Alan Goldsmith

U.S. Abandons Israel at the World Health Organization,” FDD Flash Brief

End the WHO’s Unhealthy Obsession With Israel,” by David May


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