High schoolers tackle serious global issues with humor at Model UN event

"I like big butts and I cannot lie," the Russian delegate began to the amazement of her fellow delegates.

united nations UN 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
united nations UN 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Israel Middle East Model United Nations conference kicked off three days of activities in Even Yehuda Sunday with a blend of humor and seriousness. The model UN, now in its eighth year, attracted more than 400 high school students from 30 schools around Israel and the Palestinian Authority to debate and try to resolve issues ranging from trade opportunities for landlocked countries to Iran's nuclear intransigence. They were once again hosted by the American International School, at its sprawling new campus in Even Yehuda. The delegates first heard from several real ambassadors to Israel. Then the real business of the day began with 50-second speeches from each country. While most delegates used their time to spread goodwill, some chose a more creative path. The delegate from Iran outlined a vision of a "Jerusalem governed by Islamic law" and lamented that that this would only become reality when "the Zionist entity disappeared." The entire Iranian delegation, all Jewish Israelis in actuality, walked out of the General Assembly when the delegate from Israel came to the podium. The delegate from Russia took an interesting approach to discussing sex and human trafficking. "I like big butts and I cannot lie," she began to the amazement of her fellow delegates, and she continued to recite the entire first verse of the popular rap song from the '90s. She then underlined her point by saying that that song objectified women and that "no human being should ever be sold." The French delegate added a bit of humor by congratulating French President Nicolas Sarkozy on his recent marriage to singer Carla Bruni and then wished "for a baby very soon, a boy." He received an extended round of applause from the crowd. While each delegate spoke, the delegates on the floor were allowed to pass substantive notes to the secretariat or each other. Some took the opportunity to abuse the privilege for the sake of humor by passing such notes as "Down with the capitalist pigs" or "Delegates for sale - 25% off." Despite the jokes that periodically enlivened the proceedings, the students took themselves and their tasks seriously, negotiating hard-to-get co-signers for their resolutions and debating their merits. The computer laboratories turned into impromptu bargaining tables as each set of delegates sought to craft a resolution that would be acceptable to at least seven others so it could be passed to the commission heads. Meanwhile, the Security Council called the Iranian delegate on to the carpet for Iran's failure to abide by its resolutions and proceeded to grill him intensely, if ever so politely. And in what may differentiate this UN from the one in NY, the members of the Security Council gave the delegate from Iran a round of applause after the grilling for holding his own so well. The conference introduced a new feature this year - an eighth commission. Unlike the other seven where delegates play-act their roles, this commission comprised Israelis and Palestinians who were not acting. They came together behind closed doors, with trained student mediators, to talk seriously about Israeli-Palestinian issues. The eighth commission was the brainchild of Model UN Founder and Director Sara Jane Shapira, who told The Jerusalem Post the conference provided an opportunity for the future leaders of Israel and the Palestinian territories to meet and talk. Totally student organized and run, with occasional assistance from faculty advisers, it was clear from the outset that the delegates were both happy to be participating and stimulated by the issues at hand.