A window into UN ‘micro-bloc’ politics

The Wiesenthal Centre attempts to thwart the Palestinian statehood bid in Central America and the Caribbean.

September 7, 2011 21:26
United Nations Security Council chamber

United Nations Security Council chamber 311. (photo credit: Patrick Gruban/WikiCommons)


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At the Organization of American States’ June assembly in El Salvador, we were told that “every tiny island state in the UN has a vote the size of China.” We had raised Jewish diaspora concerns regarding the September Palestine status vote, and, in turn, were invited to visit with government chiefs and foreign ministers in their respective capitals.

The 15 members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the eight members of the System for Integration of Central America (SICA) are micro-blocs within the 33-state Group of Latin America and Caribbean Countries (GRULAC), which holds 17 percent of UN votes and two seats on the United Nations Security Council.

That region was vital for the 1947 resolution on Jewish sovereignty.

To contain attempts to reverse history, the Wiesenthal Centre has just completed a tour of ten countries (6 CARICOM and 4 SICA). Our mission aimed to create a core of support in New York at the forthcoming General Assembly by commending and reinforcing the political will of those countries sharing Israel’s interests, and providing arguments for reconsideration among those who support Palestinian unilateral independence, yet oppose the inclusion of final status issues (e.g. borders) in the resolution.

As to those determined to see such a resolution pass, in whatever form, we apprised them of the possible negative repercussions of their vote, repercussions for which they may be held responsible. As the Wiesenthal Center’s over 400,000 members speak for a large percentage of world Jewry, we stressed the probability of a renewed outbreak of global anti-Semitic violence consequent to a vote that would galvanize radicals in the region and their cheerleaders in the diaspora.

We claimed that endowment of virtual Palestinian sovereignty, subject to a Hamas takeover, would be a prize to terrorism and intimidation thereby threatening world peace. We also argued that a non-negotiated, one-sided, back-door recognition of Palestine as a “UN non-member state” – even though it does not maintain effective government in all its territory – sets a legal precedent, creating a snowball effect for other regional conflicts where non-state entities assert sovereignty e.g. the Kurds, ETA in Spain, Chechnya, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, the Sahara Republic and the status of Taiwan and Belize.

Indeed, Belize, considered both Caribbean and Central American, is a case in point. A Guatemalan spokesman stated: “Britain imposed the Belize border on us. We cannot allow the UN to impose a border on Israel.” A Belizean response was to show us their map upside down, thereby emphasizing the resemblance of their non-negotiated frontiers and – despite a huge difference of scale – that “both peoples have their backs to the sea.” Regional policies toward Israel are a function of political, commercial or ideological affinities with Chavez’ Venezuela. Growing Muslim and diminishing Jewish communities factors in, as does the appearance of Jihadist support groups.

Guyana and Surinam were the first in CARICOM to recognize Palestine. While former British Guyana’s population is heavily Pakistani, formerly Dutch Surinam has large Malay/Indonesian communities.

Above all, the desire for regional bloc consensus and aspirations for appointment to prestigious seats on UN commissions set the vote trading rules.

We crossed paths in the Dominican Republic with veteran Qatari Ambassador – now president-designate of the UN General Assembly – who is both lobbying for the Palestine unilateral declaration of independence and will be its adjudicator.

He unabashedly told us that his next stop was the EU Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Poland to address this issue.

We shared with our hosts published details of Iran’s Shahab 3 missile installation, in construction on the Venezuela Caribbean coast. With a range of 2,000 kilometers, their realization that they were in the direct line of fire sparked refreshing comments. A Dominican official: “Chavez is a troublemaker... Israel cannot lose a single battle... This vote has no place in international organizations...”; a Trinidad observation: “Syrian radical groups are present.here... Any recognition of Palestine must be linked to Palestinian recognition of the Jewish State of Israel”; a Guatemalan columnist: “Not voicing our position on the vote is in itself a pro- Israel statement”; a Belizean media analyst: “Some elements in Belize are claiming that Israel supports Guatemala, but Israel is in a similar position to ours, fighting for survival”; a Mexican spokesman: “This Palestinian move follows the expectations created by President Obama’s over-optimistic declarations on welcoming a Palestinian state into the UN in 2011. In turn, the Palestinians have promised not to embarrass Obama by forcing a veto in the Security Council, but the Palestinians love surprises.”

The bottom line came from a high official of one of the smallest islands: “Recognition of the Jewish state was already made by the international community in 1947, and is a fact. There can be no rollback! ... We will not support a biased resolution or one that blocks a relaunching of the peace process ... Having said that, is this vote going to help or is it going to be an obstacle to ending the conflict?” The bargaining in New York is about to begin. Central America/ Caribbean microbloc politics are a template for the entire UN General Assembly.

In raising the Jewish perspective, we have identified some friendly voices. If they are silenced or suborned at the Palestine vote or the related “Durban III” travesty in New York, the UN will be exposed, once more, as an instrument to scapegoat Israel and to erode Jewish sovereignty.

At each stop on our tour, we repeated Simon Wiesenthal’s dictum: “What begins with the Jews never ends with them.” So it was with Nazism, and so it is with jihadist terrorism.

The Palestine vote will likewise be a signpost for caution and danger in disputes and conflicts throughout the international system.

Shimon Samuels is Director for International Relations and Sergio Widder Latin America Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

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