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(photo credit: AP [file])
"The United Nations is not a forum to protect human rights, nor peace and security," said Anne Bayefsky, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and one of the organizers of a Sunday conference across the street from the UN billed as the first to target UN discrimination against Israel.
The conference, "Hijacking Human Rights: The Demonization of Israel by the United Nations," which included professors, ambassadors, and members of Congress, coincided with the General Assembly's upcoming annual adoption of over 20 anti-Israel resolutions. The speakers touched on themes of anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and double standards in the history of the UN.
"This is the first direct challenge to the annual ritual of condemnation of Israel in a manner totally different from the treatment of every other country," Bayefsky told The Jerusalem Post.
Ironically, the one speaker to offer words of encouragement with regards to the UN was Deputy Permanent Representative of Israel Daniel Carmon. While acknowledging the atmosphere of "cynicism" that confronts the Israeli mission to the UN on a daily basis, Carmon said many have mistakenly approached the international body as "one black box."
"The automatic majority accompanies us with every step in the building, but this is not all that the UN represents," said Carmon. "The UN is a more complicated, complex body."
Unlike other countries who participate in that "automatic majority," which adopts processes and resolutions less for their content and more for who has signed on, Israel does not have a group with which to affiliate, nor will it in the near future, Carmon said.
"And being part of a group coalition is strength," he said.
Still, the UN has a role to play when it comes to the process with the Palestinians, the prevention of a nuclear Iran and the situation in South Lebanon, said Carmon. Though Israel has a "long way to go" on all fronts, Israel is working with the different bodies at the UN to see that the three processes are "going along and evolving in a way that satisfies us."
Carmon urged the group of about 200 participants to admit that the UNRWA was "doing a good job" providing humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in the Palestinian territories.
"We encounter hypocrisy and cynicism on the one hand, and we are all witness to that when we walk into the building, but we are also trying with relative success to identify how within the existing mandate, [to find] parallel paths of working with the world body," he said.
Earlier in the day, former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton was more critical of the international body.
"The UN was marginal during the Cold War and is well on its way to marginalizing itself when it comes to the world's greatest threat, terrorism," said Bolton. The UN, he said, has failed to come up with a definition of terrorism, and without a definition, little can be done to stop it.
Regarding Israel, he noted that "there are permanent members of the Security Council and non-permanent members, but Israel is the only permanent non-member."
Focusing heavily on Israel's recent raid on a facility in Syria, Bolton used the incident to showcase the need for concern over the involvement of North Korea and Iran in nuclear proliferation.
"Many thought North Korea was not as pressing as Iran. That was a mistake," said Bolton. "Based on my conversations with officials, the facility was a nuclear facility under construction with North Korea, and perhaps financed by Iran."
The incident points to a larger question about Iran's role in the region, he said. "There is enough cooperation between North Korea, Syria and Iran that these countries form an axis of evil."
Bolton criticized the US government's silence surrounding the raid, and the possibility that they might remove North Korea from their list of state-sponsored terrorism.
Bolton said he was concerned that "the motivation of our own government's silence is not legitimate intelligence concerns, but rather political concerns."
"There are legitimate security concerns, but little or no reason to withhold what facility was attacked," said Bolton. "If there was no North Korean involvement, it would be an advantage for the administration to say so, and if it wasn't a nuclear facility, it would make sense to have that out."
When Israel is criticized for responding "disproportionately" to an attack, this is an underlying attack on the US as well, said Bolton. "The conflation of Israel and the US we will see in a number of ways in the coming years."
If and when the US and Israel use military force in response to Iran, "you can bet there will be a couple of lonely countries," said Bolton. "But we will be a safer world without Iran and North Korean nuclear weapons."
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