Why the United Nations’ policies on Israel matter now

We must not only focus on BDS movement when considering anti-Israel policies.

United Nations Human Rights Council 370 (photo credit: Reuters)
United Nations Human Rights Council 370
(photo credit: Reuters)
When asked to name the greatest threat to Israel’s international legitimacy today, most casual observers will instantly refer to BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) or other related efforts to commercially boycott the Jewish state. Only much further down the list will they reference the United Nations, and the decades-old effort to demonize Israel and its supporters.
Yet, recognizing the fact that the anti-Israel campaign in what should be the world’s preeminent international organization has continued largely unchallenged for years, I would argue that countering the UN deserves to be among our most pressing public diplomacy agenda items – even more so than fighting BDS.
While those familiar with the issue know that the UN exhibits unmitigated bias, bordering on outright hatred toward Israel, most of the world does not share this recognition. They firmly believe that Israel is illegitimate because they believe that the UN is entirely legitimate – and that therefore what the UN says must be the truth. Allowing such ignorance to prevail provides the haters with ammunition wholly based in rhetoric rather than fact – but rhetoric that is spewed against us from every direction.
Out of its bases in New York and Geneva and supported by missions across the globe, the UN has succeeded in rising out of the shadow of World War II to be viewed as THE organization of record advocating for world peace and human rights. Were this to be the honest mandate of the UN, we could rally behind this effort and support their efforts.
Yet, this mission is only a small part of what the United Nations is about, while on the diplomacy level it focuses primarily on one issue over and over again – unabashedly castigating Israel.
What makes these policies fall even further into the realm of the absurd is how the UN almost completely ignores the brutal actions of some of the world’s most depraved regimes. While dictatorships in Syria and Iran are given a free pass and their leaders lauded as visionaries and freedom fighters, the UN General Assembly continues to pass anti-Israel resolutions.
If we take a look at the numbers in 2013 alone, 85 percent of the General Assembly resolutions directed at particular nations were critical of one country: Israel.
This in a year when the Syrian regime repeatedly attacked its citizens resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians, Iran spat in the face of international sanctions in expanding its nuclear program and North Korea continued to impose a regime of terror on its citizens.
While this trend is deeply disturbing, it’s not difficult to explain. Following its creation in the post-WWII world with the best of intentions to maintain a bloc of nations committed to human rights and world peace, the UN became inundated with member states who shared no such common vision. Today, a majority of UN members are non-democracies, many with pitiful human rights records.
This majority falls victim to the interests and ideologies of the Muslim bloc, who use their political and economic might – in the form of the all-powerful oil lobby – to sway most member nations in their direction.
The losers in this absurd construct are the US and its handful of staunch allies in the UN – and most notably, Israel, whose very existence is viewed as a major insult to the Muslim world.
This perverse way the UN is built has resulted in some developments that would be funny if they weren’t so sad – and if hundreds of thousands of lives weren’t at issue. As recently as 2003, the United Nation Commission on Human Rights was chaired by none other than Libya. So the world was being lectured on human rights by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, an admitted dictator whose regime was defined by extrajudicial killings, torture of its own citizens and silencing of its own media.
The Commission on Human Rights was eventually replaced with the better-supervised Human Rights Council that had been restructured to limit these absurdities.
Yet, the number one target of the Council continues to be Israel. This despite the fact that we are the only true democracy in the Middle East and the only nation in the region to afford all its citizens, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, equal human rights under the law.
Arguably, this anti-Israel rhetoric is not new and some would say we should no longer be surprised. But particularly today when the international arena has become increasingly hostile to Israel, we cannot give the United Nations a free pass to continue with this lunacy.
As the Palestinians and their international backers look to delegitimize Israel in the face of stalled peace negotiations, they routinely point to the UN to justify their claims as to why the Jewish state is deserving of global condemnation, boycott and isolation.
The world therefore cannot be allowed to accept the United Nation’s charade.
To do so is not simply an insult to Israel, it is an insult to the intelligence of all good and peace-seeking people the world over.
It is for this reason that I felt the need to expose this policy of systematic bias against the Jewish state. The world needs to know that despite its international reputation, the United Nations has chosen to embrace policies with no legal or moral standing, and allows itself to be deftly manipulated by an Arab Lobby whose primary interest is none other than to delegitimize and denigrate the State of Israel.
The author is the founder of The Truth About Israel (www.thetruthaboutisrael.org.il) and the Rennert Family Visiting Professor of Foreign Policy Studies at Yeshiva University. He previously served as Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Israel’s ambassador to the US and in the Israel Mission to the United Nations.