Spring cleaning at the UN

As we continue with our relentless insistence that the UN make real and palpable changes, we are beginning to see rays of light peeking through the darkness at Turtle Bay.

April 9, 2017 21:08
4 minute read.
The United Nations GA filled with Israeli flags

The United Nations GA filled with Israeli flags during anti-BDS summit. (photo credit: SHAHAR AZRAN)


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While the Jewish People officially celebrate their new year in the fall, our tradition also tells us to treat Passover as a new year as well. Passover provides us with an important opportunity to take stock of what we have accomplished and what we hope to achieve in the year to come.

Now, as Jews around the world have finished searching and removing chametz from their homes, it is the right time to reinstate our commitment to clean house at the United Nations. By doing so, we are clearing the way for real progress and the chance for the UN to return its focus to its original goals.

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We have already begun our spring cleaning.

Following the adoption of Resolution 2334, we put the UN on notice. After the Security Council declared that our presence at the Western Wall is “illegitimate,” we made clear that we would not allow business as usual and that the rules of the game had changed. This is why Israel is cutting $8 million from its contribution to the UN budget. This sum represents the portion of the budget allocated to anti-Israel UN bodies. Instead of supporting incitement and hateful propaganda, we will use these funds to directly assist and aid developing countries.

Our demand for change at the UN has already yielded real results. A few weeks ago, ESCWA, a UN body purportedly dedicated to bettering the economic reality in the Arab world, issued a report labeling Israel an “apartheid regime.”

We took action immediately, and together with America’s UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, demanded accountability. In a sign of progress, UN Secretary-General António Guterres had the report removed from UN websites. More importantly, Rima Khalef, an antisemite and promoter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, resigned as the head of ESCWA. She clearly recognized that a wind of change is blowing at the UN.

Over the past year, our mission to the UN has clearly demonstrated our “zero tolerance” policy for antisemitism and anti-Israel bias. When the Venezuelan and Ecuadorian ambassadors had the gall to compare Israel to the Nazi regime within the Security Council and General Assembly halls, we insisted on decisive condemnations from all relevant parties. Responding to our pressure, the Venezuelan ambassador called me to personally apologize for his hurtful remarks.

As we continue with our relentless insistence that the UN make real and palpable changes, we are beginning to see rays of light peeking through the darkness at Turtle Bay. Last May, right after Shavuot, I was elected to chair the UN’s legal committee by 109 countries. This was the first time ever that an Israeli was elected to chair a permanent UN committee.

Last month, the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) adopted an Israeli resolution focused on curbing sexual harassment in the workplace. This is the first new, Israeli-sponsored resolution at the UN in five years. Even more significantly, this resolution passed by consensus, an extremely rare occurrence for Israel-sponsored UN resolutions.

When you add these victories to the ongoing events we host at the UN highlighting Israeli technology, innovation and art, we are reminded of the possibilities for good at the UN. The founding charter of the organization calls on the nations of the world “to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.” If the UN would focus on the positive contributions Israel makes to the international community and shift away from its endless, biased obsession with our supposed faults, the whole world would benefit.

In the days leading up to Passover, we once again held a “model Seder” for UN ambassadors. Due to the popularity of last year’s Seder – the first held in the UN headquarters – we had to reserve an even larger room this time. As we planned this year’s Seder, we wondered why so many ambassadors from across the world were interested in attending this particular event.

We immediately realized that there is a profound reason. Of all of our wonderful holidays, Passover represents the desire that all people can connect with – freedom. While too many of the UN member states are oppressive dictatorships, we know that the peoples of these countries recognize in the story of our salvation the possibility for a better life.

Once we complete our holiday preparations and sit down for our Seders surrounded by family and friends, let us take a moment to appreciate all that we have accomplished and achieved, both as a people and as a country. Let us all be thankful that as a people, we are freer, more prosperous and more secure than we have been at any moment in history since we left the bondage of Egypt behind. Finally, let us conclude, as we have for thousands of years, by with the prayer to celebrate together as the Jewish people – next year in Jerusalem.

The author is Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.

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