Issue 124: Report by UN Association of United Kingdom finds that world body adopts biased approach toward Middle East

News:    In a new 76-page report analyzing 13 years of United Nations resolutions on the Arab-Israeli conflict, the United Nations Association of the United Kingdom (UNA-UK) has concluded that UN resolutions are markedly slanted against Israel.  In light of the study’s conclusions, Malcolm Harper, speaking on behalf of the UNA-UK (of which he was director until recently), called for an examination into how, if at all, these lopsided resolutions contribute to the Middle East peace process.  The report, made public here for the first time, makes the following principal findings:

  •  The texts of UN General Assembly and Security Council resolutions are often unbalanced in terms of the length of criticism and condemnation of Israeli actions in the Occupied Territories as against Palestinian actions such as suicide bombings.
  • The United Nations is palpably more critical of Israeli policies and practices than it is of either Palestinian actions or the wider Arab world.
  • In resolutions of the UN General Assembly, [v]iolence perpetrated against Israeli civilians, including the use of suicide bombers, is mentioned only a few times and then in only vague terms.

Analysis:  At a September 2003 meeting of the Executive Committee of the World Federation of UN Associations, Rena Shashua-Hasson of Israel asked her fellow members to sign a statement criticizing the imbalance of UN resolutions on the Middle East.  Several balked, claiming they first needed to look into the issue.  The UNA-UK volunteered to do the necessary research, and produced its report one year later.

The report, together with UNA-UKs recommendation for action, boldly confronts one of the UN’s most egregious inequities.  Bold, because most individuals from the diplomatic, NGO and academic establishments prefer to ignore this prickly issue or, at most, to make due with a vague reference to the general problem of politicization.  The UNA-UK report sheds light on the outrageous situation whereby each year Israel is targeted in half the country-specific resolutions at the Commission on Human Rights, and then by some 20 resolutions at the General Assembly.

The UNA-UK appears to have grasped that the original vision of the UN will have little resonance so long as the principal UN organs grossly violate the UN Charters guarantee of equal rights of nations large and small.  And that the astonishing amount of time devoted to lopsided resolutions on the Middle East directly detract from the time and resources the UN ought to spend on confronting hunger in the Ivory Coast or mass rape in Darfur, both of which continue unabated.

True, the bulk of the report is a laundry list of UN resolutions, and the study comes up long on textual citations and short on analysis.  Despite these flaws, the report makes it abundantly clear that the UN needs to change its ways.

As it happens, UN Watch, under the chairmanship of Ambassador Alfred H. Moses, has been charting the way forward.  UN Watch spearheads a diplomatic campaign to replace the lopsided and counter-productive annual resolutions with a single balanced resolution that would address Israeli and Arab obligations.  In April 2004, a proposed text for just such a balanced resolution was presented to the Commission on Human Rights by the head of the U.S. delegation, to consider for the future.

The future is now.  Significantly, as Mr. Harper learned from the U.K. Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, the European Union group at the UN is currently seeking to establish a broad discussion of the utility of the annual anti-Israel resolutions.  To be sure, moving to a single balanced resolution will incur the wrath of the 57-strong Islamic group at the UN, and hence require a good dose of political will.  The UNA-UK has shown its courage. Will European states, whose role is determinative here, now do the same?

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