The UN against Israel
Israel has been singled out in other ways as well. In the UN bureaucracy, it is the only country with its own standing inter-state monitor: the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories. Established as long ago as 1968, this body has issued annual reports ever since. Another committee, on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, was established in 1975, on the same day the General Assembly passed the Zionism-is-racism resolution. Still going strong almost three decades later, with 24 members and 25 observers, it too summarizes its findings every year while at the same time sponsoring a full program of meetings, conferences, and publications. In 2003 alone, the UN bureaucracy generated 22 reports and formal notes on “conditions of Palestinian and other Arab citizens living under Israeli occupation.”
The UN’s response to an Israeli military incursion into the West Bank town of Jenin in April 2002 typifies the organization’s treatment of the Jewish state. At the time, even a report by Yasir Arafat’s Fatah movement recognized Jenin as “the suicider’s capital,” a place where organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad had sought shelter, among civilians, for their ongoing murderous operations. But the UN saved its venom for Israel’s armed response to the violence directed against its citizens. Terje Roed-Larsen, the organization’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, described the scene after Israel’s strike—a strike expressly designed to limit civilian casualties—as “horrific beyond belief.” Peter Hansen, commissioner general of the UN Relief and Works Agency, called it “a human catastrophe that had few parallels in recent history.” A UN press release was headlined, “End the horror in the camps.” Only much later, in mid-summer, did the UN Secretary General release a report on Jenin noting that the Palestinian death toll from this “massacre” was 52, approximately 35 of whom were armed combatants.
Israel’s policies are, of course, fair game for legitimate criticism. But the UN’s outrage is grossly selective, especially when one considers the record of any number of other member nations. In 2003, the General Assembly passed eighteen resolutions that singled out Israel for criticism; human-rights situations in the rest of the world drew only four country-specific resolutions. Nor, despite serious and well-documented charges of abuse reported to the UN over the years from, among others, the organization’s own special rapporteurs, has any resolution of the UN Commission on Human Rights ever been directed at China, Syria, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Pakistan, Malaysia, Mali, or Zimbabwe.
Consider the case of Sudan. This past year, members of the UN Commission on Human Rights had before them the report of their own special rapporteur on torture, which described the articles of the Sudanese penal code mandating “cross amputation”—the amputation of the right hand and the left foot—for armed robbery and, for other offenses, “death by hanging crucifixion.” The report also took note of various cases in which Sudanese women had been stoned to death for adultery after trials conducted in a language they did not understand and in which they were denied legal representation.
The response to these gruesome findings? On behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Pakistan vehemently objected to a draft resolution condemning this sort of “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment,” declaring such views “an offense to all Muslim countries.” The resolution went down to defeat; for good measure, the commission terminated the ten-year-old position of rapporteur on human rights for the long-suffering people of Sudan.
The justifications that are typically given for turning a blind eye to human-rights violations in 95 percent of UN states are predictable enough. In 2003, teaming up to defeat a resolution condemning Russian behavior in Chechnya, Syria and China called it “interference in the internal affairs of that country.” India said that “every state had the right to protect its citizens from terrorism.” When it came to reproving Zimbabwe, South Africa objected to “naming and shaming,” while Libya, complaining that the resolution was “an attempt to make the commission a forum to settle differences between countries,” declared its preference for “the language of cooperation and dialogue.”
How is it, one might wonder, that such reservations never give the UN a moment’s pause when it comes to the organization’s relentlessly one-sided prosecution of Israel—a democratic state with an independent judiciary that, unlike all these others, can point to a long and distinguished record of respect for human rights? The demonization of Israel would seem to be about something else entirely.
What that something is has become too clear to deny: over the past several decades, the UN has fashioned itself into perhaps the foremost global platform for anti-Semitism.
Worse still, organs of the UN have taken to glorifying terrorist violence against Israeli targets. In 2002, John Dugard, a special rapporteur for the Commission on Human Rights, could barely contain his admiration for the murderous enemies of the Jewish state: “The Palestinian response is equally tough: while suicide bombers have created terror in the Israeli heartland, militarized groups armed with rifles, mortars, and Kassam-2 rockets confront the IDF [Israeli army] with new determination, daring, and success.”
In 2003, as Israel suffered successive waves of attack against its civilians, the commission itself put forward a resolution affirming the legitimacy of suicide bombing, declaring that movements against “foreign occupation and for self-determination” were entitled to “all available means, including armed struggle.” The only members to vote against the resolution were Australia, Germany, Peru, Canada, and the United States. (France and the United Kingdom abstained.) The American and Canadian delegates protested that the resolution was “contrary to the very concept of human rights” and “deeply repugnant to the commission’s core values.” It carried by a wide margin.
It is no accident that a UN apparatus which, for decades, has ignored anti-Semitism and distorted beyond recognition the idea of Zionism would seek to isolate Israel from the global community. At the UN, Israelis and Jews are, by definition, oppressors, as are the nations and organizations that rally to their cause. The energy with which these hateful views are expressed has ebbed and flowed over time, but there is no reason to think that the underlying reality will change anytime soon.