Jewish groups decry Libyan's appointment as head of UN General Assembly

Israeli officials say they will reserve judgment until Ali Abdessalam Treky takes office.

UN general assembly 248.88 (photo credit: Channel 1)
UN general assembly 248.88
(photo credit: Channel 1)
Concerned about Israel's treatment in the United Nations - and on the world stage - Jewish groups are voicing opposition to the election of a Libyan diplomat last week as the new president of the United Nations General Assembly. The General Assembly elected Libya's minister of African Union affairs, Ali Abdessalam Treky, on Wednesday. Treky, who has served three times as an ambassador to the UN, will assume the post in September, during the new session of the General Assembly. He takes over for Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, a Roman Catholic priest from Nicaragua, who was also a polarizing figure among Israel supporters during his tenure. Israeli officials said they would reserve judgment until he took office, and prior to the election, UN observers said they knew a representative from Africa would be elected. But Jewish organizations had a worried response. Treky's election "does not bode well for a more balanced and fair approach in the international body," the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said in a statement. "Libya has been using its status as a member and rotating president of the UN's Security Council to promote anti-Israel resolutions, including a resolution draft proposal in May that contained a series of severe condemnations of Israel following the Gaza war," wrote the group's chairman, Alan Solow, and its executive vice chairman, Malcolm Hoenlein. According to Anne Bayefsky, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, the election undermines the mandate of the General Assembly under the UN charter to protect fundamental human freedom and to promote dignity. She also noted other recent UN elections had been equally problematic, such as Iran becoming a vice chair of the General Assembly's Legal (Sixth) Committee. Critics pointed to Libya's record in the United Nations as grounds for their concern. Since joining the Security Council in January 2008, Libya has blocked a statement condemning a terror attack on Jerusalem's Mercaz Harav yeshiva. Officials have also compared the situation in Gaza to Nazi concentration camps, and Libya chaired the Durban Review Conference Preparatory Committee before Durban II. Treky has served three times as his country's ambassador to the UN, most recently in 2003. As minister of African Union affairs, his responsibilities include issues like the situation in Darfur. But critics have also focused on the fact that in 2003 in the Security Council, he condemned terrorism, but said violence toward Israelis was resistance to occupation. "Libya's history of hostility toward Israel should preclude its officials from leadership in the General Assembly that is home to all nations," said the president of B'nai B'rith International, Moishe Smith. "His position will require fairness that Treky is unlikely to demonstrate."