he Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) convened a seminar last week on humanitarian assistance to Palestinians.  For a day and a half, UN officials, Palestinian representatives, government delegates and some non-governmental organizations discussed how Israel — and Israel alone — was responsible for the Palestinian economic crisis.

Analysis: For 28 years the CEIRPP has convened regular meetings in various cities around the world to highlight Palestinian rights and Israeli responsibilities, while ignoring Israeli rights and Palestinian responsibilities.  That’s its mandate.  The CEIRPP is one of the most egregious examples of institutionalized bias at the United Nations.  Fortunately, few people take seriously this vestige of the UN’s “Zionism is racism” era, which opposed the Camp David peace agreement between Israel and Egypt.

Respect for UN meetings is often measured by attendance and the CEIRPP seminar scored miserably.  Of the fifty-nine sub-Saharan African and Latin American Missions in Geneva, only seven sent representatives: Senegal (CEIRPP President), Cuba (Vice-President), Cote d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Madagascar, Mauritius, and Namibia.

Ten members of the EU attended, which is quite understandable, since a European Commission representative told the seminar that the EC donated to the Palestinians EUR 320 million, over 70% of its total 2002 humanitarian aid budget.  And that does not include aid from individual EU states.  In the next presentation, a representative of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) announced that the Palestinians were receiving USD 1 billion per year in total international assistance, or USD 320 per capita, the most humanitarian aid per capita since World War II.  That’s half the total GDP per capita of Tanzania, which unsurprisingly did not show up to the meeting.

Quartet member, Russia, was present, as were Afghanistan (Vice-President), Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, China, Egypt, Iran, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, Malta (Vice-President), Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Korea, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, and Viet Nam.  Altogether, only 41 countries sent a representative to at least one session of the seminar, despite the presence of senior UN officials, including Peter Hansen, the head of UNRWA, and Francis Okelo, the deputy to Terje Roed-Larsen, Kofi Annan’s representative in the region.

Those delegates that did attend heard some interesting comments.  Merwat Tallawy of the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia made the “even-handed” comment: “We hope every party will fulfill its obligations, especially Israel.”  While chairing one of the sessions, the Afghan ambassador announced that “the Committee hopes for the delivery of Marwan Barghouti,” who is on trial in Israel, facing 26 counts of murder.

Noted left-wing Israeli columnist, Danny Rubinstein, an invited participant, was taken aback by the clear bias: “Everybody talks about what Israel has to do.  What about the Palestinians?  The Palestinians need to, but are not capable of, making a dramatic step: giving up the right of return.”  In the next day’s press release, the UN secretariat misreported Rubinstein as being in favor of a Palestinian right to return to Israel.  However, we may have been the only ones who read the press release.

UN Watch