Is There Hope For Israel At The United Nations?
Why Israel’s ambassador believes that there is.
The United Nations (UN) as an institution is not known to be a paragon of virtue, nor is it friendly toward Israel or sensitive to Jewish concerns. In fact, antisemitism resides deep within its agencies. As a whole it is an organization whose majority members are not democracies, and many are oppressive regimes. The members of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) are a case in point of oppressive regimes whose voice at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) dominates. Israel has served for decades as the “whipping boy” or scapegoat of the UNGA and various UN agencies. In fact, the General Assembly passed Resolution 3379 on November 10, 1975 with the combined Soviet, Islamic and Third World blocs equating “Zionism (the Jewish national liberation movement) with racism.” The resolution was repealed on December 16, 1991.
The Arab/Muslim bloc used its power to establish and authorize funding for several UN committees and divisions of the Secretariat which primarily carry out the anti-Israel agenda. Among these are: The Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat, “The Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices in the Territories,” and “The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.” Today, these committees continue to be engaged in promoting programs and initiatives that are harshly critical of Israel.
On December 23, 2016, the Security Council passed Resolution 2334, which condemned Israeli settlement building, and labeled settlements as a “major obstacle” to peace. The resolution passed 14-0, with the U.S. abstaining. It was the first Security Council resolution to deal specifically with settlements in over 35 years. Israel rejected the resolution, and Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon said it was a reward for the Palestinians that encouraged them “to continue down a dangerous path they have chosen” of avoiding direct negotiations with Israel.” In December, 2017, the U.S. vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling on President Trump to reverse the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In June, 2018, the U.S. vetoed a resolution condemning Israel for using excessive force toward Palestinian protesters along the Gaza border. There was no mention of Hamas in the resolution. A second resolution that did reference Hamas’s role failed to pass.
Since its entry into the UN in 1949, Israel was barred by the Arab/Muslim bloc of states and their Third World allies from joining its natural region as all other UN member states do. In Israel’s case, it is the Asian Regional Group. Arab member states of the UN have used the UNGA as a forum to isolate and condemn Israel, with support from Non-Aligned Movement members. In May, 2000, Israel was finally granted admission into a group - the Western and Others Group (WEOG). In 2013, Israel was invited to join WEOG in Geneva, the seat of several UN bodies and subsidiary organizations.
The UN Human Rights Council was re-created in 2006. Since then, more resolutions condemning Israel passed than the entire rest of the world combined, with 45 resolutions, which amounted to 45.9% of all country-specific resolutions. With most of the 47 member UNHRC being non-democratic repressive regimes, those passing resolutions against Israel include Iran, Cuba, China, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, to name but a few.
The permanent agenda of the HRC specifically targets Israel. Its Agenda Item #7, titled, "Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, includes: Human rights violations and implications of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and other occupied Arab territories and the Right to self-determination of the Palestinian people.” Israel is the only country to appear on the HRC's permanent agenda, while other countries such as Iran and Sudan, notorious for their human rights abuses, are included as part of the general debate. U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley, declaring the U.S. withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), told the Heritage Foundation (July 18, 2018) that the UNHRC controversial Agenda #7 is “designed to undermine Israel’s existence.” She added, “No other country, not Iran, not Syria, not North Korea, has an agenda item devoted to it.”
The UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is another biased UN agency with its bias toward Israel. In July 2017, UNESCO World Heritage Committee voted to designate the old city of Hebron, including the Tomb of the Patriarchs, as a “World Heritage in Danger,” and listed the site as part of the State of Palestine. The U.S., along with Israel, withdrew from UNESCO membership.
Still, thanks to the likes of Nikki Haley, things have begun to improve a bit for Israel at the UN. Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, was elected in June 2017, to serve as the Deputy President of the United Nations General Assembly. He will begin his role with the 72nd General Assembly. Former Israeli ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, also served in the role in 2012.
In 2016, Danon was elected as chairman of the Legal Committee of the UN. The UN’s Legal Committee deals with all of the organization’s activities regarding international law, including the status of the additional protocols of the Geneva Convention and coordinating its fight against terrorism. One of Danon’s first tasks in his new position will be to further the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. It was the first time that Israel secured a victory at the UN. Responding to his election, Danon said, “I am proud to be the first Israeli elected to this position.” He added, “Israel is a world leader in international law and in fighting terrorism. We are pleased to have the opportunity to share our knowledge with the countries of the world.”
Together with the U.S., Israel brought up a resolution to condemn the Palestinian Islamist terrorist group Hamas, as a “global problem.” 87 states endorsed the resolution. Jewish heritage and culture are now part of the UN institutions, according to Danon. Yom Kippur has been recognized for the first time ever as a formal observable holiday, and Kosher food has been added to the UN cafeteria. Other major Jewish holidays are likewise marked by official celebrations.
Israel Hayom reported (September 24, 2019) that “Israeli, Jewish and pro-Israel groups all applauded the publication of an "unprecedented" UN report on anti-Semitism, which, among other issues, links anti-Semitism to criticism of Israel and the BDS movement.” According to Anne Herzberg, Legal advisor and UN Liaison at NGO Monitor, “This report marks one of the first times the UN has addressed the issue of anti-Semitism in any detail." She added, “The Special Rapporteur condemned the use of anti-Semitic tropes and denial of Israel’s right to exist by BDS activists.”
Danny Danon commented that “we welcome the release of this unprecedented report on the subject of anti-Semitism. The report reflects the organizational change toward Israel. The assertion that the BDS movement encourages anti-Semitism is an important UN statement. As I have said many times, anti-Semitism has no place in our society, and must be denounced everywhere and from every platform."
Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, is proud of Israel’s achievements. He observed that the UN is no longer the organization of the Goldstone Report with charges of Israeli “war crimes.” In 2019, the UN is no longer the home field of Israel-bashers. These days, Danon believes, many states support Israel’s initiatives in international forums.
Perhaps Danon is right, albeit, it is hard to believe that a leopard can change is spots. Unfortunately, it is not only the leopards who reside in the UN, there are snakes too.