Issue 74: Anti-Israel Politicization at the UN

UN Watch Chairman, Ambassador Alfred H. Moses, reminded the world about the abuse of Israel at the United Nations in an opinion piece, published 8 January 2002 in the International Herald Tribune and excerpted below.

Signatory countries to the Fourth Geneva Convention recently issued a declaration singling out Israel for condemnation. The convention, adopted after the Holocaust, had never been invoked in its 52-year history, during which the world witnessed, among other outrages, the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, ethnic slaughter in Rwanda, and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Kosovo. The declaration invoking the convention did not emerge from the present impasse between Israel and the Palestinians. Arab and Muslim countries first proposed it at a time when there was movement toward a permanent peace under the Oslo accords.

In Durban last September, Israel was singled out for opprobrium at a UN conference against racism, despite the fact that Israel since its creation has brought to its land persons of every race and color, including close to 50,000 Ethiopians. In Durban, and again in Geneva, the United States stayed away, recognizing that one-sided condemnation of Israel in international gatherings is no way to further Arab-Israeli peacemaking.

There have been remarkable achievements in the past 23 years, from the Egypt-Israel and Israel-Jordan peace treaties to the Oslo accords, which led to significant progress in Israeli-Palestinian relations. Although there is still a long way to go to achieve permanent peace, these agreements were reached through direct, bilateral negotiations, not by the actions of international bodies.

In Geneva, where most of the United Nations’ humanitarian agencies are headquartered, it is America’s main Muslim allies-Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia-that are leading the charge to politicize these specialized bodies.  The first step is to introduce extreme language condemning Israel that even the Muslim proponents know will not be accepted. Then, European Union countries, as they did in Durban and the lead-up to the Fourth Geneva Convention declaration, soften the edges but ultimately leave intact the central thrust of the language condemning Israel.

“We have to give something to the Muslim world; they have so little,” the ambassador of an important EU country in Geneva told me recently. What is being given, rhetorically at least, is Israel, presumably a small price to pay by a European country that attaches a high priority to its economic ties to the Arab world. But America’s Muslim and European friends should realize there is a high price to be paid for this ritualistic criticism of Israel.

First, these efforts erode U.S. support for the United Nations itself. Standing on principle, the United States withdrew from the Durban conference once it became clear that the focus had turned away from combating racism to a frontal attack on Israel. The United States was among the minority of signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention that refused to attend that anti-Israel gathering. Second, politicizing international bodies and turning their agendas away from rightful concerns of racism, refugees, and human rights deprive the world’s most needy of assistance, including tens of millions of Muslims […]

Secretary-General Kofi Annan should put an end to the anti-Israel politicization of the specialized agencies by calling on member countries to return these agencies to their humanitarian purpose as envisioned in the UN Charter.

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