Issues relating to the State of Israel, the State of Palestine and other aspects of the Arab–Israeli conflict occupy repeated annual debate times, resolutions and resources at the United Nations. Since its founding in 1948, the United Nations Security Council, as of January 2010, has adopted 79 resolutions directly critical of Israel for violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions, the U.N. Charter, the Geneva Conventions, international terrorism, or other violations of international law. Lebanon is the subject of 15 Israeli violations of UNSC resolutions, including resolutions condemning the use of military force, condemning the violations of cease-fire agreements, and demanding withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon.
The adoption on November 29, 1947 by the United Nations General Assembly of a resolution recommending the adoption and implementation of a plan of partition of Palestine was one of the earliest acts of the United Nations. This followed the report of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine. Since then, it has maintained a central role in this region, especially by providing support for Palestinian refugees via the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and by providing a platform for Palestinian political claims via the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the United Nations Division for Palestinian Rights, the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People, the United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine (UNISPAL) and the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The UN has sponsored several peace negotiations between the parties, the latest being the 2002 Road map for peace.
In recent years, the Middle East was the subject of 76% of country-specific General Assembly resolutions, 100% of the Human Rights Council resolutions, 100% of the Commission on the Status of Women resolutions, 50% of reports from the World Food Programme, 6% of United Nations Security Council resolutions and 6 of the 10 Emergency sessions.
These decisions, adopted with the support of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) countries, often criticize Israel for its “occupation of Palestinian land and its oppression of Palestinians.” A number of observers have described this criticism as excessive. For example, according to the UN Association of the UK, General Assembly resolutions in the period 1990–2003 show bias against Israel, condemnation of violence against Palestinians, but only occasional discussion of violence against Israelis. In addition, the UNHRC was criticized in 2007 for failing to condemn other alleged human rights abusers besides Israel.
The United States has been criticized as well by the OIC and other Arab organisations, for vetoing most Security Council decisions critical of Israel, the so-called Negroponte doctrine. Since 1961, Israel has been barred from the Asian regional group. In 2000, it was offered limited membership in the Western European and Others Group. On 29 November 2012, the UN General Assembly adopted United Nations General Assembly resolution 67/19 changing Palestine’s “entity” status to “non-member state” by a vote of 138 to 9, with 41 abstentions. This implicitly recognized its sovereignty.
In his speech to open the 61st General Assembly of the United Nations in September 2006, then-Secretary General Kofi Anan admitted that Israel is often unfairly judged by the international body and its various organizations. “On one side, supporters of Israel feel that it is harshly judged by standards that are not applied to its enemies,” Annan said. “And too often this is true, particularly in some UN bodies.”1
Despite being the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel routinely faces more criticism and condemnation at the United Nations than any other country, including those that systematically kill their citizens or deny them the most basic of human rights. Even today, both the General Assembly and Security Council continue to pass one-sided resolutions that single out and condemn the Jewish State. Additionally, an overwhelmingly powerful bloc led by the Arab nations promotes a narrow and slanderous agenda meant to isolate Israel that has met little resistance.
Arab-Soviet-Third World Bloc
Since the mid-1970s, when an Arab-Soviet-Third World bloc joined together to form what amounted to a pro-PLO lobby at the United Nations, this accusation has rung poignantly true. Particularly in the General Assembly, these countries — nearly all dictatorships or autocracies — frequently vote together to pass resolutions attacking Israel and supporting the Palestinians.
In 1974, for example, the General Assembly invited Yasser Arafat to address the body. Arafat gave his speech and spoke of carrying a gun and an olive branch while famously having his gun holster attached to his hip.
In 1975, the Assembly awarded permanent representative status to the PLO, which then opened an office in midtown Manhattan. Later that year, at the instigation of the Arab states and the Soviet Bloc, the Assembly approved Resolution 3379, which slandered Zionism by branding it a form of racism.
U.S. Ambassador Daniel Moynihan called the resolution an “obscene act.” Israeli Ambassador Chaim Herzog told his fellow delegates the resolution was “based on hatred, falsehood and arrogance.” Hitler, he declared, would have felt at home listening to the UN debate on the measure.1a
On December 16, 1991, the General Assembly voted 111-25 (with 13 abstentions and 17 delegations absent or not voting) to repeal Resolution 3379. The repeal vote was marred by the fact that 13 of the 19 Arab countries — including those engaged in negotiations with Israel — Syria, Lebanon and Jordan — voted to retain the resolution, as did Saudi Arabia. Six, including Egypt — which lobbied against repeal — were absent. No Arab country voted for repeal. The PLO denounced the vote and the U.S. role.
The Arabs “voted once again to impugn the very birthright of the Jewish State,” the New York Times noted. “That even now most Arab states cling to a demeaning and vicious doctrine mars an otherwise belated triumph for sense and conscience.”2
Less than a week before repealing the measure, the General Assembly approved four new one-sided resolutions on the Middle East. On December 11, 1991, it voted 104-2 for a resolution calling for a UN-sponsored peace conference that would include the PLO. Also that day, it voted 142-2 to condemn Israeli behavior toward Palestinians in the territories. On December 16 — the very day it repealed the Zionism measure — the UN voted 152-1, with the U.S. abstaining, to call on Israel to rescind a Knesset resolution declaring Jerusalem its capital, demand Israel’s withdrawal from “occupied territories,” including Jerusalem and denounce Israeli administration of the Golan Heights. Another resolution expressed support for Palestinian self-determination and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
As Herzog noted, the organization developed an Alice-In-Wonderland perspective on Israel. “In the UN building…she would only have to wear a Star of David in order to hear the imperious Off with her head at every turn.” Herzog noted that the PLO had cited a 1974 UN resolution condemning Israel as justification for setting off a bomb in Jerusalem.3
Bloc voting also made possible the establishment of the pro-PLO “Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People” in 1975. The panel became, in effect, part of the PLO propaganda apparatus, issuing stamps, organizing meetings, preparing films and draft resolutions in support of Palestinian “rights.” Today, approximately 20 committees are dedicated to the Palestinian issue. In 2004-2005, the UN allocated $5.5 million to the Division for Palestinian Rights, $255,000 for the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, $60,000 for the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and $566,000 for Information Activities on the Question of Palestine.3a
In 1976, the committee recommended “full implementation of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including their return to the Israeli part of Palestine.” It also recommended that November 29 — the day the UN voted to partition Palestine in 1947 — be declared an “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.” Since then, it has been observed at the UN with anti-Israel speeches, films, and exhibits. Over the objections of the United States, a special unit on Palestine was established as part of the UN Secretariat.
The U.S. has reacted forcefully to efforts to politicize the UN. In 1977, the U.S. withdrew from the International Labor Organization for two years because of its anti-Israel stance. In 1984, the U.S. left UNESCO, in part because of its bias against the Jewish State. From 1982-89, the Arab states sought to deny Israel a seat in the General Assembly or put special conditions on Israel’s participation. Only a determined U.S. lobbying campaign prevented them from succeeding.
The U.S. consistently opposed PLO attempts to upgrade its status in the General Assembly and UN-affiliated bodies. This was particularly true in 1989, when Arafat tried to have the PLO admitted as the “State of Palestine” and otherwise elevate its status in the World Health Organization, the World Tourist Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Because of the determined opposition of Congress and the Administration, the PLO was defeated everywhere but the FAO. Given that organization’s decision to provide agricultural aid through the PLO, the U.S. withdrew.
UN Bias Continues In New Millennium
In 2003, the UN called an unprecedented three emergency sessions to discuss Israel — two to condemn Israel’s security fence and one criticizing Israel for openly considering the expulstion of Arafat.
In September 2003, the UN held a two-day International Conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People with the theme “End the Occupation!” During the event, which began with a statement of support from the UN Secretary-General, the Palestinian observer to the UN, Nasser al-Kidwa, said that “violence in self-defense in the occupied Palestinian territories is not terrorism.” Other speakers complained about Israel’s security fence, suggesting a variety of conspiratorial reasons for its construction, such as a lust for Palestinian trees (which were supposedly uprooted from the West Bank and replanted on Israel’s side of the fence) and a desire to control the West Bank ground water.4 This was just one of many such conferences held under UN auspices over the years.
Even when Israel is not directly involved in an issue, UN officials find ways to interject their biases against the Jewish State. For example, in April 2004, the UN envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, called Israel’s policies “the great poison in the region.” The remark reflected a lack of professionalism and impartiality expected of representatives of the organization.5
In March 2005, the Security Council issued an unprecedented condemnation of a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv carried out by Islamic Jihad. Unlike Israeli actions that provoke resolutions, the Security Council issued only a “policy statement” urging the Palestinian Authority to “take immediate, credible steps to find those responsible for this terrorist attack” and bring them to justice. It also encouraged “further and sustained action to prevent other acts of terror.” The statement required the consent of all 15 members of the Security Council. The one Arab member, Algeria, signed on after a reference to Islamic Jihad was deleted.5a
In July 2005, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People sponsored a conference in Paris that urged the international community to sanction and boycott Israel.
In August 2005, just as Israel was prepared to implement its disengagement from the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Authority produced materials to celebrate the Israeli withdrawal. These included banners that read, “Gaza Today. The West Bank and Jerusalem Tomorrow.” News agencies reported that the banners were produced with funds from the UN Development Program and were printed with the UNDP’s logo. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said “Funding this kind of activity is inappropriate and unacceptable.”5b
In 2005, even after a series of positive changes at the UN, a series of public events in support of Palestinian cause were held on November 29, including a conference to mark “an international day of sympathy with the Palestinian people” and a press conference attended by members of the Palestinian delegation to the UN, held under the title, “Promoting the Palestinian cause through dance and cultural events.” A Palestinian exhibition was displayed at UN headquarters and the General Assembly held a special session to discuss a report by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People on “The Question of Palestine.”5c During the celebratory events, a map of the Middle East was exhibited that did not have the UN member state of Israel. Instead it was replaced by “Palestine.”
Similar problems arose on November 29, 2007, when the UN again held its “day of solidarity with the Palestinian people.” This coincided with the 60th anniversary of the General Assembly vote to partition Palestine and create a Jewish and Arab state. The day was marked by speeches from all UN leaders in a room adorned with just two flags, the UN flag and a Palestinian flag.5d
In December 2007, the General Assembly passed its first ever non-political resolution introduced by Israel. The resolution on the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa called on member states to assist in the agricultural growth of developing nations in need of agricultural infrastructure and stability. The resolution ensures that bringing agricultural technology to nations in need will remain a top priority of the United Nations.
In March 2013, the United States sent a letter to the president of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in which the U.S. lamented what they see as blatant ant-Israel bias within the council.
“The United States remains extremely troubled by this Council’s continued biased and disproportionate focus on Israel. The Human Rights Council must treat all countries by the same standards. This standing agenda item exemplifies the blatantly unfair treatment that one UN member state receives in this body. The legitimacy of this Council will remain in question as long as one country is unfairly and uniquely singled out under its own agenda item. The absurdity and hypocrisy of this agenda item is further amplified by the resolutions brought under it including, yet again, a resolution on the “human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan” motivated by the Syrian regime, at a time when that regime is murdering its own citizens by the tens of thousands. The United States implores Council members to eliminate these biased resolutions and permanent agenda item seven.”5d-2
In October 2013, at the 192nd session of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the 56-member executive board voted in favor of at least six resolutions explicitly condemning Israel.5d-3 Led by the Arab & Islamic bloc, UNESCO voted in favor of resolutions condemning Israel over a variety of issues including the preservation of archaeological sites in the Old City, the construction of a visitors’ center, plans to build an elevator by the Western Wall, accusations of archeological excavations said to be damaging Muslim sites atop the Temple Mount, the alleged deterioration of educational and cultural institutions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and plans to invest in sites its considers national heritage sites, like the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
The Israeli envoy to the organization, Nimrod Barkan, blasted the decisions, calling UNESCO’s “preoccupation” with Israel “obsessive.”
The worst example of how the UN is used by the anti-Semites rather than standing against them, is the Human Rights Council. The HRC was established in 2006 to replace the former Commission on Human Rights, which had become a travesty after allowing some of the worst human rights violators to participate in deliberations and to adopt a steady stream of one-sided condemnations of Israel. The General Assembly created a new body ostensibly to erase the stain on the UN created by the original organization. In the first months of operation, however, the new Council proved to be worse than the original. Of the 47 members, 17 are members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and repressive dictatorships such as China and Cuba are also members.
While Western nations struggled to focus the Council’s attention on the genocide in Darfur, the majority chose instead to produce a series of reports criticizing Israel. To give one example, the Council did not criticize Hizballah for attacking Israel, kidnaping its soldiers, indiscriminately firing missiles at Israel, or using Lebanese civilians as shields, but it did condemn Israel for “violations of human rights and breaches of international humanitarian law in Lebanon.” When a report was produced in October that criticized Hizballah as well as Israel, the Muslim members of the Council rejected it.
In November 2006, the council voted 32-1 to declare Israel’s presence in the Golan Heights illegal and 45-1 to condemn Israel’s settlement construction. Canada cast the lone nay vote.
After these votes, the Council had become so embarrassing that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned the Council might be discredited as was its predecessor. He noted that in its first five months the Council had focused heavily on the Arab-Israeli conflict, holding three special sessions to approve resolutions condemning alleged violations by the Jewish state. “There are surely other situations, besides the one in the Middle East, which would merit scrutiny at a special session,” he said. “I would suggest that Darfur is a glaring case in point.”5e
In March 2007, the United States announced that for the second year in a row it would not to seek a seat on the Council because of its anti-Israeli bias and failure to scrutinize countries such as Cuba, Myanmar and North Korea. The United States will continue to have only an observer role.
In May 2008, Richard Falk is scheduled to start work as the UN’s monitor of human rights violations by Israel in the Palestinian territories. He has no mandate to investigate Palestinian human rights abuses against Israelis. In addition, Falk comes to the position with a well-known bias, having compared Israel’s treatment of Palestinians with Nazi treatment of Jews during the Holocaust.5f
In March 2010, the council passed three resolutions condeming Israel and a fourth calling on Israel to compensate Palestinians in Gaza for damage and loss incurred during Operation Cast Lead. The United States opposed the resolutions.5g
In September 2012, Yuval Shany, an Israeli international law expert and dean of the law faculty at Hebrew University, was named to serve on the Human Rights Committee for a four year term. The Committee, separate from the Human Rights Council which is so scrutinized for its bias against Israel, is a body of 18 independent experts that monitor implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by its 162 member states. Shany, who was approved with the support of 112 member nations, is the second Israeli to serve on the Committee after Professor Dan Kretzmer served from 1995 to 2002.5h
In January 2013, the Human Rights Council presented a fact-finding report on the implications of Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The report, submitted pursuant to resolution 19/17 in which the Council decided to establish the independent mission, called Israeli settlements illegal and went so far as to promote the international boycotting of goods produced in the settlements. The report states:
Private companies must assess the human rights impact of their activities and take all necessary steps — including by terminating their business interests in the settlements — to ensure they are not adversely impacting the human rights of the Palestinian People in conformity with international law.5i
The Israeli government, which had already cut ties with the Council in March 2012 as a result of its aggressive anti-Israel reports, reacted angrily at the report’s not-so-tacit encouragement of a boycott. The following is a quote from Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor:
“The report is so utterly misguided that it steps widely out of line in recommending a boycott that would harm Palestinians and Israelis alike … The authors seem so enraged that they forget they have no authority on such issues, and their hubris leads them to decree as states, rather than opine as individuals.”5j
The Refugee Issue
Through November 2003, 101 of the 681 UN resolutions on the Middle East conflict referred directly to Palestinian refugees. Not one mentioned the Jewish refugees from Arab countries.6
The United Nations took up the refugee issue and adopted Resolution 194 on December 11, 1948. This called upon the Arab states and Israel to resolve all outstanding issues through negotiations either directly, or with the help of the Palestine Conciliation Commission established by this resolution. Furthermore, Point 11 resolves:
that refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which under principles of international law or in equity should be made good by Governments or authorities responsible. Instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of refugees and payment of compensation… (emphasis added).
The emphasized words demonstrate that the UN recognized that Israel could not be expected to repatriate a hostile population that might endanger its security. The solution to the problem, like all previous refugee problems, would require at least some Palestinians to be resettled in Arab lands.
The resolution met most of Israel’s concerns regarding the refugees, whom they regarded as a potential fifth column if allowed to return unconditionally. The Israelis considered the settlement of the refugee issue a negotiable part of an overall peace settlement. The Arabs were no more willing to compromise in 1949, however, than they had been in 1947. In fact, they unanimously rejected the UN resolution.
The General Assembly subsequently voted, on November 19, 1948, to establish the United Nations Relief For Palestinian Refugees (UNRPR) to dispense aid to the refugees. The UNRPR was replaced by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) on December 8, 1949, and given a budget of $50 million.
UNRWA was designed to continue the relief program initiated by the UNRPR, substitute public works for direct relief and promote economic development. The proponents of the plan envisioned that direct relief would be almost completely replaced by public works, with the remaining assistance provided by the Arab governments.
UNRWA had little chance of success, however, because it sought to solve a political problem using an economic approach. By the mid1950s, it was evident neither the refugees nor the Arab states were prepared to cooperate on the large-scale development projects originally foreseen by the Agency as a means of alleviating the Palestinians’ situation. The Arab governments and the refugees themselves were unwilling to contribute to any plan that could be interpreted as fostering resettlement. They preferred to cling to their interpretation of Resolution 194, which they believed would eventually result in repatriation.
While Jewish refugees from Arab countries received no international assistance, Palestinians received millions of dollars through UNRWA. Initially, the United States contributed $25 million and Israel nearly $3 million. The total Arab pledges amounted to approximately $600,000. For the first 20 years, the United States provided more than two-thirds of the funds, while the Arab states continued to contribute a tiny fraction. Israel donated more funds to UNRWA than most Arab states. The Saudis did not match Israel’s contribution until 1973; Kuwait and Libya, not until 1980. As recently as 1994, Israel gave more to UNRWA than all Arab countries except Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Morocco.
The United States is still by far the organization’s largest contributor, donating nearly $90 million in 2000, approximately 31 percent of the organization’s $293 million in receipts. Meanwhile, for all their rhetorical support for the Palestinians, the Arab states contributed only 2 percent of the UNRWA budget.7
Anti-Semitism at the UN
The UN’s continuing anti-Israel bias was exemplified by its sponsorship of the eighth “North American NGO [Non-governmental organization] Symposium on the Question of Palestine” in 1991. “The ensuing parade of luminaries repeated, ad nauseam, virtually every anti-Israel canard imaginable,” wrote an observer who attended the conference.8
Since the early 1970s, the UN has become permeated with anti-Semitic and Anti-Zionist sentiment. The following comments illustrate how ugly the atmosphere has become:
“Is it not the Jews who are exploiting the American people and trying to debase them?”—Libyan UN Representative Ali Treiki.9
“The Talmud says that if a Jew does not drink every year the blood of a non-Jewish man, he will be damned for eternity.” —Saudi Arabian delegate Marouf al-Dawalibi before the 1984 UN Human Rights Commission conference on religious tolerance.10 A similar remark was made by the Syrian Ambassador at a 1991 meeting, who insisted Jews killed Christian children to use their blood to make matzos.11
On March 11, 1997, the Palestinian representative to the UN Human Rights Commission claimed the Israeli government had injected 300 Palestinian children with the HIV virus. Despite the efforts of Israel, the United States and others, this blood libel remains on the UN record.12
In 2003, the first resolution explicitly condemning anti-Semitism was offered in the General Assembly, but its sponsor, Ireland, later withdrew it due to lack of support.
In July 2005, Jean Ziegler, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, called the Gaza Strip “an immense concentration camp” and compared Israelis to Nazis. A year earlier (May 28, 2004), Ziegler sent on official UN stationery a demand that the Caterpillar company boycott Israel.
In response to complaints, UN spokesman Farhan Haq said, “His views are his own, not those of the United Nations. The United Nations believes any comparison between conditions in Gaza and those of Nazi concentration camps is irresponsible. Such a comparison does not reflect the views of the secretary-general.” Dissatisfied by the failure to take punitive action against Ziegler, 70 members of Congress wrote to Secretary-General Annan to express their concern and call on him to take steps to end anti-Semitism within the UN and to fight against anti-Semitism worldwide.12a
The Security Council
Because the Security Council established the diplomatic parameters for solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, UN Resolutions 242 and 338, many people outside the UN still believe it can play a useful role in bringing peace to Middle East. A careful analysis of the Security Councils actions on the Middle East, however, shows it has been little better than the General Assembly in its treatment of Israel.
Candidates for the Security Council are proposed by regional blocs. In the Middle East, this means the Arab League and its allies are usually included. Israel, which joined the UN in 1949, has never been elected to the Security Council whereas at least 15 Arab League members have.13 In fact, for a long time, Israel was the only one of the U.N. member states ineligible to serve on the Security Council.
Every UN member state belongs to one of the five regional groups. Geographically, Israel should be part of the Asian bloc, but Arab states successfully prevented Israel’s inclusion. A breakthrough in Israel’s fifty-year exclusion from these bodies occurred in May 2000, when Israel accepted an invitation to become a temporary member of the Western European and Others (WEOG) regional group in New York. This historic step helped end at least some of the UN’s discriminatory actions against Israel and opened the door to the possibility of Israeli participation in the Security Council.
The WEOG is the only regional group which is not purely geographical, but rather geopolitical, namely a group of states that share a Western-Democratic common denominator. WEOG comprises 27 members: all the West European states; and the “others” — Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.
Israel’s membership to the WEOG was initially limited. Israel was not allowed to present candidacies for open seats in any UN body for two years and was not permitted to compete for major UN bodies, such as the Economic and Social Council, for a longer period. Also, Israel agreed it would not seek membership on the UN Security Council through WEOG.
In 2003-2004, Israel was successful in presenting candidates for six UN posts. Israel also twice assumed the rotating chairmanship of WEOG. Israel was originally asked to reapply for membership every four years, but, in 2004, the first time Israel reapplied, it was granted an indefinite extension.
In November 2013, Israel was admitted into the WEOG in Geneva as well, giving it more power to help shape UN policy on sit on more UN bodies, most especially the Human Rights Committee. Before its inclusion in the Geneva WEOG, Israel was only an observer not accorded the rights of full membership in discussions and consultation meetings. Israel is still not a full member of WEOG at UN headquarters in Nairobi, Rome and Vienna.
In the future, Israel still hopes to gain membership in the Asian group. In 2005, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman announced that Israel will, for the first time ever, seek a temproary seat on the Security Council.13a Even if their application is accepted by WEOG, Israel would not be able to hold any seat on the council until 2018, as every seat has already been reserved until that time.
In July 2012, Israeli attorney David Scharia was appointed as legal coordinator for the Counter-Terrorism Committee executive directorate, a position that oversees a team of international legal experts who advise the Security Council on its counterterrorism efforts. While the appointment would not be notable otherwise, the promotion of an Israeli and a former Israeli government worker is extremely uncommon in the UN and espeically in the Security Council. Of the more than 44,000 international employees within the United Nations, only 124 were Israeli as of the summer of 2012 and none serve in the top ranks of the most sensitive political jobs, which are responsible for maintaining international security, mediating peace deals and coordinating humanitarian assistance.
“I am very proud to welcome a very talented Israeli into the U.N’s senior ranks,” said Ron Prosor, Israel’s U.N. ambassador. “One of my priorities is to bring many more bright minds from the Holy Land into the U.N.’s halls, where Israelis have long been underrepresented.”13b
Though Israel was admitted for U.N. representation almost immediately after its establishment, it has time and again been rejected for membership in U.N. committees and official organizations.
In 2002, Israeli candidates lost votes for positions on the UN Human Rights Committee, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, and the UN Racial Discrimination Committee. Similarly, in early 2003, an Israeli candidate was defeated for a position on the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. In 2005, Israel submitted its first application to sit as a temporary member on the Security Council, but even if accepted they could not join the council until at least the year 2018.
A few breakthroughs have been achieved, however, through which Israeli officials hope a step toward normalizing Israel’s place at the UN can occur.14
In February 2003, when Israel was elected to serve on the UN General Assembly Working Group on Disarmament, its first committee posting since 1961 (after 1961, the UN split the membership into regional groups and that was when Israel became isolated). An Israeli representative was elected as one of the group’s three vice-chairmen and received votes from Iran and several Arab states.
In April 2003, Israel won its second post, joining the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs.
A further advance occurred in July 2005 when Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman, was elected as one of 20 vice presidents who set the agend for the next General Assembly session.
Shortly thereafter, Israel was tapped to serve as deputy chair of the UN Disarmament Commission (UNDC), a General Assembly sub-committee that serves as an advisory body on disarmament issues. Meir Itzchaki, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director for arms control, took up the UNDC post and was part of the Commission’s eight-member presidency.14a
In October 2005, Israeli architect Michael Turner, chairman of the Israeli World Heritage Committee, was chosen for the first time to serve as a member of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.
In May 2006, Israel was appointed to a spot on the United Nations committee on non-governmental organizations. The committee of the U.N. Economic and Social Council meets twice annually and reviews applications for special status with the commission.
In December 2007 when Israel was voted by WEOG to represent the grouping in consultations for two Nairobi-based UN agencies: HABITAT, the UN Human Settlement Program, and UNEP, the UN Environment Program.
In February 2012, Israel was granted its first ever seat on the executive board of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). “This is a milestone in Israel’s integration to the global agenda of the UN,” said Israel’s Deputy Permanent Representative Haim Waxman. “Furthermore, this is the expression of a journey that we have taken from being a developing nation born in adversity to becoming a developed nation, a member of the OECD and now a full member of the UNDP as a representative of the West.”
Breakthrough On Holocaust Remembrance
On January 24, 2005, the UN General Assembly held a commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. This marked the first time that the General Assembly convened to commemorate the Holocaust, and the first time that the General Assembly convened a Special Session at Israel’s initiative. The session was intended to strengthen international awareness of the Holocaust and the struggle against anti-Semitism, and the related significance of the rebirth of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Israel enlisted the assistance of 30 countries (the U.S., the 25 EU states, Russia, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) in presenting a joint request to the UN Secretary General to convene the special session.
In November 2005, the United Nations adopted a resolution establishing January 27 as Holocaust Remembrance Day at the United Nations. It also calls on member states to include the Holocaust in their educational curriculums and condemn manifestations of Holocaust denial. In addition, it calls on the secretary-general to create programs under the rubric of “The U.N. and the Holocaust” and report to the General Assembly on the programs’ progress. This was the first Israeli-initiated resolution the General Assembly has ever passed.
Israel also achieved a milestone in 2007 when for the first time the General Assembly passed a non-political resolution sponsored by the Jewish State. The resolution called for UN member states to assist in the agricultural growth of developing nations in need of agricultural infrastructure and stability.
A Hostile Bloc
Debates on Israel abound, and the Council has repeatedly condemned the Jewish State. But not once has it adopted a resolution critical of the PLO or of Arab attacks on Israel. What takes place in the Security Council “more closely resembles a mugging than either a political debate or an effort at problem-solving,” declared former UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick.15
The Arab League contingent on the Council has been reinforced by members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and “nonaligned” governments that do not recognize Israel. Since the end of 1991, leading nonaligned nations such as India and China have established diplomatic ties with Israel; the Soviet Union, which broke off relations with the Jewish State after the Six-Day War, was replaced on the panel by Russia, which has full diplomatic relations with Israel. Though it was hoped this might result in a more balanced handling of the Arab-Israeli conflict by the Security Council, that has not been the case as Russia has continued to vote consistently against Israel.
In 2003, Israel sought to gain support for a resolution of its own, the first it had introduced since 1976. The resolution called for the protection of Israeli children from terrorism, but it did not receive enough support from the members of the General Assembly to even come to a vote. Israel had introduced the resolution in response to the murder of hundreds of Israeli children in terrorist attacks, and after a similar resolution had been adopted on November 6, 2003, calling for the protection of Palestinian children from “Israeli aggression.” Israel’s ambassador withdrew the proposed draft after it became clear that members of the nonaligned movement were determined to revise it in such a way that it would have ultimately been critical of Israel.16
The American Veto
Many people believe the United States can always be relied upon to support Israel with its veto in the UN Security Council. The historical record, however, shows that the U.S. has often opposed Israel in the Council.
In 1990, for example, Washington voted for a Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s handling of the Temple Mount riot earlier that month. While singling out “the acts of violence committed by Israeli security forces,” the resolution omitted mention of the Arab violence that preceded it.
In December 1990, the U.S. went along with condemning Israel for expelling four leaders of Hamas, an Islamic terrorist group. The deportations came in response to numerous crimes committed by Hamas against Arabs and Jews, the most recent of which had been the murders of three Israeli civilians in a Jaffa factory several days earlier. The resolution did not say a word about Hamas and its crimes. It described Jerusalem as “occupied” territory, declared that Palestinians needed to be “protected” from Israel and called on contracting parties of the Geneva Convention to ensure Israel’s compliance. It was the first time the Security Council invoked the Convention against a member country.
In January 1992, the U.S. supported a one-sided resolution condemning Israel for expelling 12 Palestinians, members of terrorist groups that were responsible for perpetrating violence against Arab and Jew alike. The resolution, which described Jerusalem as “occupied” territory, made no mention of the events that triggered the expulsions — the murders of four Jewish civilians by Palestinian radicals since October.
In 1996, the U.S. went along with a Saudi-inspired condemnation of Israel for opening a tunnel in “the vicinity” of the al-Aksa mosque. In fact, the tunnel, which allows visitors to see the length of the western wall of the Temple Mount, is nowhere near the mosque. Israel was blamed for reacting to violent attacks by Palestinians who protested the opening of the tunnel.
The Bush Administration has more aggressively sought to prevent UN bodies from unfairly targeting Israel and has been less hesitant to vote against resolutions singling Israel out for criticism. In July 2002, the United States shifted its policy and announced that it would veto any Security Council resolution on the Middle East that did not condemn Palestinian terror and name, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade as the groups responsible for the attacks. The U.S. also said that resolutions must note that any Israeli withdrawal is linked to the security situation, and that both parties must be called upon to pursue a negotiated settlement.17
Despite the Bush Administration’s stated resolve, it too has been unwilling to oppose every one-side anti-Israel resolution. In May 2004, the U.S. abstained on a resolution condemning Israel for its actions in Gaza during a military operation aimed at stopping terrorism and weapons smuggling.
The Arabs can also get around the United States by taking issues to the General Assembly, where nonbinding resolutions pass by majority vote, and support for almost any anti-Israel resolution is assured. In December 2002, for example, the United States voted for the first time (in the past the U.S. abstained) against a UN resolution calling on Israel to repeal the Jerusalem Law, but the resolution still passed 154-5.
The United States did not cast its first veto until 1972, on a Syrian-Lebanese complaint against Israel. From 1967-72, the U.S. supported or abstained on 24 resolutions, most critical of Israel. From 1973-2003, the Security Council adopted approximately 100 resolutions on the Middle East, again, most critical of Israel. The U.S. vetoed a total of 37 resolutions and, hence, supported the Council’s criticism of Israel by its vote of support or abstaining roughly two-thirds of the time.18
From 2004 to 2011, the Security Council issued no fewer than 55 resolutions related to Israel and the conflict in the Middle East, the majority being critical of Israeli policies or overly supportive of the Palestinian cause. Over that same period the United States vetoed just 5 critical resolutions – three that called for an immediate end to Israeli operations in Gaza, one that condemned Israel for assassinating Hamas leader Sheik Yassin, and a fifth that condemned all Israeli settlement building as illegal. The U.S. did voice their support for using the veto again in late 2011 to block a vote on unilateral Palestinian independence, but as of February 2012 no such vote has been brought for discussion in the Security Council.
America’s Most Reliable UN Ally
Israel has consistently been America’s top UN ally. In 2010, Israel voted with the U.S. nearly 92% of the time, outpacing the support levels of major U.S. allies such as the United Kingdom, France and Canada, which all voted with the United States on only 70% to 75% of the resolutions.
By contrast, in 2010, Morocco and Iraq led the Arab world in voting most often with United States, but they did so on less than 35% of all resolutions raised that year in the General Assembly. Other Arab countries, including allies Saudia Arabia, Kuwait, and Egypt, voted against the United States nearly 70 percent of the time. Syria rounded out the list, opposing the U.S. 84.2 percent of the time. As a group, in 2010, the Arab states voted against the United States on more than 68 percent of the resolutions.