The U.N. Relationship with Israel
by Mitchell Bard
(Updated March 2016)
In his speech to open the 61st General
Assembly of the United Nations in September 2006, then-Secretary General Kofi Anan admitted that Israel is
often unfairly judged by the international body and its various organizations. “On
one side, supporters of Israel feel that it
is harshly judged by standards that are not
applied to its enemies,” Annan said. “And
too often this is true, particularly in some
Despite being the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel routinely faces more criticism and condemnation at the United Nations than any other country, including those that systematically kill their citizens or deny them the most basic of human rights. Even today, both the General Assembly and Security Council continue to pass one-sided resolutions that single out and condemn the Jewish State. Additionally, an overwhelmingly powerful bloc led by the Arab nations promotes a narrow and slanderous agenda meant to isolate Israel that has met little resistance.
- Arab-Soviet-Third World Bloc
- U.N. Bias Continues into New Millenium
- Human Rights
- The Refugee Issue
- Anti-Semitism in the U.N.
- The Security Council
- Organizational Representation
- Breakthrough on Holocaust Remembrance
- A Hostile Bloc
- The American Veto
- Israel: America's Most Reliable U.N. Ally
- Notes & Sources
Arab-Soviet-Third World Bloc
Since the mid-1970s, when an Arab-Soviet-Third World
bloc joined together to form what amounted to a pro-PLO lobby at the United Nations, this accusation has rung poignantly true. Particularly in the General
Assembly, these countries nearly all dictatorships or
autocracies frequently vote together
to pass resolutions attacking Israel and supporting the Palestinians.
In 1974, for example, the General Assembly invited Yasser Arafat to address
the body. Arafat gave his speech and spoke of carrying a gun and an olive branch while famously having his gun holster attached to his hip.
In 1975, the Assembly awarded permanent
representative status to the PLO,
which then opened an office in midtown Manhattan. Later that year, at the
instigation of the Arab states and the Soviet Bloc, the Assembly approved Resolution 3379, which slandered Zionism by branding it a form of racism.
U.S. Ambassador Daniel Moynihan
called the resolution an obscene
act. Israeli Ambassador Chaim
Herzog told his fellow delegates the
resolution was based
on hatred, falsehood and arrogance. Hitler,
he declared, would have felt at home listening
to the UN debate on the measure.1a
On December 16, 1991, the General Assembly voted
111-25 (with 13 abstentions and 17 delegations absent or not voting)
to repeal Resolution 3379. The
repeal vote was marred by the fact that 13 of the 19 Arab countries
including those engaged in negotiations with Israel Syria, Lebanon and Jordan voted to retain the resolution, as did Saudi
Arabia. Six, including Egypt
which lobbied against repeal were absent. No Arab country voted
for repeal. The PLO denounced the vote and the U.S. role.
The Arabs voted once again to impugn the very birthright
of the Jewish State, the New York Times noted. That
even now most Arab states cling to a demeaning and vicious doctrine
mars an otherwise belated triumph for sense and conscience.2
Less than a week before repealing the measure, the
General Assembly approved four new one-sided resolutions on the Middle
East. On December 11, 1991, it voted 104-2 for a resolution
calling for a UN-sponsored peace conference that would include the
PLO. Also that day, it voted 142-2 to condemn
Israeli behavior toward Palestinians in the territories. On
December 16 the very day it repealed the Zionism measure the
UN voted 152-1, with the U.S. abstaining, to call
on Israel to rescind a Knesset
resolution declaring Jerusalem its capital, demand Israel's
withdrawal from occupied territories, including Jerusalem and
denounce Israeli administration of the Golan Heights. Another resolution expressed support for Palestinian self-determination and the right of
return for Palestinian refugees.
As Herzog noted, the organization developed an Alice-In-Wonderland
perspective on Israel. In the UN building...she would only have
to wear a Star of David in order
to hear the imperious Off with her head at every turn. Herzog
noted that the PLO had cited a 1974 UN resolution condemning Israel
as justification for setting off a bomb in Jerusalem.3
Bloc voting also made possible the
establishment of the pro-PLO Committee
on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in
1975. The panel became, in effect, part of the PLO
propaganda apparatus, issuing stamps, organizing meetings,
preparing films and draft resolutions in support of
Palestinian rights. Today, approximately 20
committees are dedicated to the Palestinian issue.
In 2004-2005, the UN allocated $5.5 million to the
Division for Palestinian Rights, $255,000 for the Special
Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting
the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other
Arabs of the Occupied Territories, $60,000 for the
Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights
of the Palestinian People, and $566,000 for Information
Activities on the Question of Palestine.3a
In 1976, the committee recommended full
implementation of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian
people, including their return to the Israeli part
of Palestine. It also
recommended that November 29 the day the UN
voted to partition Palestine in 1947 be declared an International
Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Since
then, it has been observed at the UN with anti-Israel
speeches, films, and exhibits. Over the objections
of the United States, a special unit on Palestine was
established as part of the UN Secretariat.
The U.S. has reacted forcefully to efforts to
politicize the UN. In 1977, the U.S. withdrew from the International
Labor Organization for two years because of its anti-Israel stance. In
1984, the U.S. left UNESCO, in part because of its bias against the
Jewish State. From 1982-89, the Arab states sought to deny Israel a
seat in the General Assembly or
put special conditions on Israel's participation. Only a determined
U.S. lobbying campaign prevented them from succeeding.
The U.S. consistently opposed PLO attempts to upgrade
its status in the General Assembly and UN-affiliated bodies. This was
particularly true in 1989, when Arafat tried to have the PLO admitted
as the State of Palestine and otherwise elevate its status
in the World Health Organization, the World Tourist Organization and
the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Because of the determined
opposition of Congress and the Administration, the PLO was defeated
everywhere but the FAO. Given that organization's decision to provide
agricultural aid through the PLO, the U.S. withdrew.
UN Bias Continues In New Millennium
In 2003, the UN called an unprecedented three emergency
sessions to discuss Israel — two to condemn Israel’s security
fence and one criticizing Israel for openly considering the expulstion
In September 2003, the UN held a two-day International
Conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People with
the theme “End the Occupation!” During the event, which began
with a statement of support from the UN Secretary-General, the Palestinian
observer to the UN, Nasser al-Kidwa, said that “violence in self-defense
in the occupied Palestinian territories is not terrorism.” Other
speakers complained about Israel's security
fence, suggesting a variety of conspiratorial reasons for its construction,
such as a lust for Palestinian trees (which were supposedly uprooted
from the West Bank and replanted on Israel's side of the fence) and
a desire to control the West Bank ground water.4 This was just one of many such conferences held under UN auspices over
Even when Israel is not directly involved in an issue,
UN officials find ways to interject their biases against the Jewish
State. For example, in April 2004, the UN envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi,
called Israel's policies “the great poison in the region.”
The remark reflected a lack of professionalism and impartiality expected
of representatives of the organization.5
In March 2005, the Security
Council issued an unprecedented condemnation of a suicide
bombing in Tel
Aviv carried out by Islamic
Jihad. Unlike Israeli actions that provoke resolutions, the Security
Council issued only a “policy statement” urging the Palestinian
Authority to “take immediate, credible steps to find those
responsible for this terrorist attack” and bring them to justice.
It also encouraged “further and sustained action to prevent other
acts of terror.” The statement required the consent of all 15
members of the Security Council. The one Arab member, Algeria,
signed on after a reference to Islamic Jihad was deleted.5a
In July 2005, the Committee
on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights
of the Palestinian People sponsored a conference
in Paris that urged the international
community to sanction and boycott Israel.
In August 2005, just as
Israel was prepared to implement its disengagement
from the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Authority
produced materials to celebrate the Israeli
withdrawal. These included banners that read, “Gaza
Today. The West Bank and Jerusalem Tomorrow.” News
agencies reported that the banners were produced
with funds from the UN Development Program
and were printed with the UNDP's
logo. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said “Funding
this kind of activity is inappropriate and
In 2005, even after a series
of positive changes at the UN, a series of public
events in support of Palestinian cause were
held on November 29, including a conference
to mark “an international day of sympathy
with the Palestinian people” and a
press conference attended by members of the
Palestinian delegation to the UN, held under
the title, “Promoting
the Palestinian cause through dance and cultural
Palestinian exhibition was displayed at UN
headquarters and the General Assembly held
a special session to discuss a report by
the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable
Rights of the Palestinian People on “The
Question of Palestine.”5c During
the celebratory events, a map of the Middle
East was exhibited that did not have the
UN member state of Israel. Instead it was
replaced by “Palestine.”
Similar problems arose on
November 29, 2007, when the UN again held
its “day of solidarity with the
Palestinian people.” This coincided
with the 60th anniversary of the General
Assembly vote to partition Palestine and
create a Jewish and Arab state. The day was
marked by speeches from all UN leaders in
a room adorned with just two flags, the UN
flag and a Palestinian flag.5d
In December 2007, the General
Assembly passed its first ever non-political resolution introduced by Israel. The resolution on the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa called on member states to assist in the agricultural growth of developing nations in need of agricultural infrastructure and stability. The resolution ensures that bringing agricultural technology to nations in need will remain a top priority of the United Nations.
In March 2013, the United States sent a letter to the president of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in which the U.S. lamented what they see as blatant ant-Israel bias within the council.
“The United States remains extremely troubled by this Council’s continued biased and disproportionate focus on Israel. The Human Rights Council must treat all countries by the same standards. This standing agenda item exemplifies the blatantly unfair treatment that one UN member state receives in this body. The legitimacy of this Council will remain in question as long as one country is unfairly and uniquely singled out under its own agenda item. The absurdity and hypocrisy of this agenda item is further amplified by the resolutions brought under it including, yet again, a resolution on the “human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan” motivated by the Syrian regime, at a time when that regime is murdering its own citizens by the tens of thousands. The United States implores Council members to eliminate these biased resolutions and permanent agenda item seven.”5d-2
In October 2013, at the 192nd session of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the 56-member executive board voted in favor of at least six resolutions explicitly condemning Israel.5d-3 Led by the Arab & Islamic bloc, UNESCO voted in favor of resolutions condemning Israel over a variety of issues including the preservation of archaeological sites in the Old City, the construction of a visitors’ center, plans to build an elevator by the Western Wall, accusations of archeological excavations said to be damaging Muslim sites atop the Temple Mount, the alleged deterioration of educational and cultural institutions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and plans to invest in sites its considers national heritage sites, like the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
The Israeli envoy to the organization, Nimrod Barkan, blasted the decisions, calling UNESCO’s “preoccupation” with Israel “obsessive.”
Israel was the only country in the world singled out as a violator of “health rights” during the UN World Health Organization's (WHO) annual assembly in May 2015. Although Israeli hospitals provide health care for injured Syrians and Palestinians daily, the WHO decided to turn a blind eye to health crises in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, or North Korea, and instead single out Israel as a major violator of health rights. The WHO passed a resolution calling for “health-related technical assistance for the Syrian population in the Occupied Syrian Golan,” in a vote of 104-4, but considered no similar resolution for any other area in the entire world. 26 To read the full resolution, please click here.
The worst example of how
the UN is used by the anti-Semites rather
than standing against them, is the Human
Rights Council. The HRC was established
in 2006 to replace the former Commission
on Human Rights, which had become a travesty
after allowing some of the worst human
rights violators to participate in deliberations
and to adopt a steady stream of one-sided
condemnations of Israel. The General
Assembly created a new body
ostensibly to erase the stain on the UN
created by the original organization. In
the first months of operation, however,
the new Council proved to be worse than
the original. Of the 47 members, 17 are
members of the Organization of the Islamic
Conference, and repressive dictatorships
such as China and Cuba are
While Western nations struggled
to focus the Council’s
attention on the genocide in Darfur, the
majority chose instead to produce a series
of reports criticizing Israel. To give one
example, the Council did not criticize Hizballah for
attacking Israel, kidnaping its soldiers,
indiscriminately firing missiles at Israel,
or using Lebanese civilians as shields, but
it did condemn Israel for “violations
of human rights and breaches of international
humanitarian law in Lebanon.” When
a report was produced in October that criticized Hizballah as
well as Israel, the Muslim members of the Council
The most egregious example of anti-Israel bias at the UNHRC is the yearly discussion of agenda item 7. Agenda item 7 mandates that at each UNHRC session, Israel's record of human rights must be debated. No other country in the world has a yearly reoccuring agenda item dedicated to it. For the second year in a row, in March 2015 the United States delegation to the UN chose not to speak at the agenda item 7 debate in protest of the obvious anti-Israel bias at the UNHRC. The U.S. Ambassador to the UNHRC, Keith Harper, stated in early March that “The United States strongly and unequivocally opposes the very existence of agenda item 7 and any HRC resolutions that come from it.”20
In November 2006, the council
voted 32-1 to declare Israel’s
presence in the Golan
Heights illegal and
45-1 to condemn Israel’s settlement construction. Canada cast
the lone nay vote.
After these votes, the Council
had become so embarrassing that UN Secretary-General
Kofi Annan warned the Council might be discredited
as was its predecessor. He noted that in
its first five months the Council had focused
heavily on the Arab-Israeli conflict, holding
three special sessions to approve resolutions
condemning alleged violations by the Jewish
are surely other situations, besides the
one in the Middle East, which would merit
scrutiny at a special session,” he
would suggest that Darfur is a glaring case
In March 2007, the United States announced
that for the second year in a
row it would not to seek
a seat on the Council because of its
anti-Israeli bias and failure to scrutinize
countries such as Cuba, Myanmar and North
Korea. The United States will continue to
have only an observer role.
In May 2008, Richard Falk
is scheduled to start work as the UN’s
monitor of human rights violations by Israel
in the Palestinian territories. He has no
mandate to investigate Palestinian human
rights abuses against Israelis. In addition,
Falk comes to the position with a well-known
bias, having compared Israel’s treatment
of Palestinians with Nazi treatment
of Jews during the Holocaust.5f
In March 2010, the council passed three resolutions condeming Israel and a fourth calling on Israel to compensate Palestinians in Gaza for damage and loss incurred during Operation Cast Lead. The United States opposed the resolutions.5g
In September 2012, Yuval Shany, an Israeli international law expert and dean of the law faculty at Hebrew University, was named to serve on the Human Rights Committee for a four year term. The Committee, separate from the Human Rights Council which is so scrutinized for its bias against Israel, is a body of 18 independent experts that monitor implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by its 162 member states. Shany, who was approved with the support of 112 member nations, is the second Israeli to serve on the Committee after Professor Dan Kretzmer served from 1995 to 2002.5h
In January 2013, the Human Rights Council presented a fact-finding report on the implications of Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The report, submitted pursuant to resolution 19/17 in which the Council decided to establish the independent mission, called Israeli settlements illegal and went so far as to promote the international boycotting of goods produced in the settlements. The report states:
Private companies must assess the human rights impact of their activities and take all necessary steps — including by terminating their business interests in the settlements — to ensure they are not adversely impacting the human rights of the Palestinian People in conformity with international law.5i
The Israeli government, which had already cut ties with the Council in March 2012 as a result of its aggressive anti-Israel reports, reacted angrily at the report’s not-so-tacit encouragement of a boycott. The following is a quote from Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor:
“The report is so utterly misguided that it steps widely out of line in recommending a boycott that would harm Palestinians and Israelis alike ... The authors seem so enraged that they forget they have no authority on such issues, and their hubris leads them to decree as states, rather than opine as individuals.”5j
The United Nations named experts in international law and human rights violations to a panel known as the Gaza Commission of Inquiry on August 11, 2014. The purpose of this commission was to investigate and determine whether war crimes were committed by either side during Operation Protective Edge. The commission included Doudou Diene from Senegal, and Canadian Professor Dr WIlliam Schabas. The choice made by the UN to put Schabas in charge of this investigation was met with harsh criticism from Israel and it's supporters. Schabas is openly anti-Israel and holds strong opinions on Israeli issues and people, stating at one point that he would love to see Benjamin Netanyahu “on the dock of the International Criminal Court”. Due to these views, Israeli government officials dismissed Schabas as a legitimate impartial investigator and claimed that no investigation needed to be done because the verdict was already decided by Schabas's vehement anti-Israel bias. In a letter to the UN Security General Ban Ki-Moon on August 12, Israel's ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor wrote 21:
“Mr. Schabas’s agenda is clear. He has repeatedly called for the prosecution of Prime Minister Netanyahu and former President Shimon Peres saying, “My favorite would be Netanyahu within the dock of the International Criminal Court.”
In light of his hate-fuelled rants, one doesn’t need to be a fortune teller to predict the outcome of any inquiry led by Mr. Schabas. Furthermore, the exploitation of the UNHRC by some of the world’s worst human rights abusers is a grave misfortune for the millions of oppressed people around the world. While the Council is singularly focused on its anti-Israeli agenda, the world’s most murderous tyrants continue brutalizing their people.
I call on you to publically denounce the appointment of Mr. Schabas. His selection is a disgraceful stain on the values that the UN claims to stand for.”
Hamas members praised the appointment of Schabas to the commission; Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri stated “Hamas welcomes the decision to form an investigation committee into the war crimes committed by the occupation (Israel) against Gaza and it urges that it begin work as soon as possible”22. The Gaza Inquiry Commission was due to present it's findings to the UNHRC in March 2015.
On August 25, it was announced that former New York Supreme Court Judge Mary McGowan Davis was going to be the third member of the commission, alongside Schabas and Diene.
Israel refused entry into the country to the members of the commission on November 12, announcing that they will not be cooperating with the Human Rights Council and their appointed commission. Members of the commission arrived in the Jordanian capital of Amman and requested entry into Israel, but were denied by officials in Jerusalem.
Israel began a campaign against the commission of inquiry in mid January 2015, in an attempt to ensure that the 47 countries who established the commission will not be endorsing the report generated by the inquiry. The findings of the commission were due to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council on March 23 2014, less than one week after Israeli elections. The goal of this campaign by Israel was to get as many countries as possible to refute the findings, abstain from the vote, or just not show up for the vote altogether. The campaign also aimed to discredit the head of the investigation, William Schabas. Because Israel refused to cooperate with the commission and refused them entry into the country, the committee gathered information and testimony through technological means and conducting interviews in Jordan.23
Due to rampant accusations of bias, on February 2, 2015, William Schabas resigned as the director of the investigation. After facing much criticism for his involvement in 2012 as a consultant for the Palestine Liberation Organization, and for his blatant bias against Israel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Schabas conveyed his resignation from the Gaza Commission of Inquiry in a letter written to the UNHRC. He stated in the letter that although his views on Israeli-Palestinian issues had been well-known, he had pledged to serve the inquiry commission with “independence and impartiality.” He was replaced the following day with former New York State Supreme Court Justice Mary McGowan Davis, a member of the panel already. The council's acting president appointed McGowan Davis instead of bringing in an outside individual because the council had almost finished gathering their evidence.24 McGowan Davis was expected to be more balanced towards Israel, especially after it was evidence presented by her that caused Richard Goldstone to recant the conclusions of his investigation, titled the Goldstone Report.
The commission of inquiry requested more time to complete their investigation in March 2015, citing the need to re-evaluate and adjust their work due to the resignation of Schabas. In addition to the increased workload due to the departure of Schabas, McGowan Davis stated that they had received a significant amount of submissions, documents, and witness reports during early 2015 that slowed their process further. The commission was originally scheduled to present their findings to the UN Human Rights Council on March 23, 2015. The president of the UN Human Rights Council approved their request for more time to finish their investigation.
The UNHRC adopted the report prepared by the Gaza Commission of Inquiry on July 3, 2015, calling for investigations into war crime accusations directed at both the Palestinians and Israelis. The report was approved by a vote of 41-5-1, with fourty-one countries voting in favor of adopting the report and only the United States voting against. India, Kenya, Ethiopia, Paraguay and Macedonia abstained from voting. India's abstention from the vote reflects an increasingly warm relationship between Israel and the Indian subcontinent. This was the first time that India had not voted in favor of the Palestinian cause during a resolution vote at the United Nations. This abstention came on the heels of the June 2015 announcement that Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi was to become the first Indian Premiere to visit Israel later in 2015.
The UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) concluded their annual meeting on March 20, 2015, by issuing a condemnation of only one country's women's rights record: Israel. Instead of highlighting the gross treatment suffered by women all over the world in places such as Syria, Iran, Sudan, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia, the UNCSW chose to single out Israel and not even mention the violence and unfair treatment women sustain in these other countries. The commission repeated this again at the conclusion of their 2016 meeting.
The United States Ambassador to the UNHRC, Keith Harper, laid out staunch criticism of the council in March 2015 after the members discussed and adopted four anti-Israel resolutions under agenda item 7. While they discussed these four resolutions on Israel, the UNHRC discussed one resolution on Syria, one on North Korea, and one on Iran, some of the world's worst human rights violators. Harper told the members of the council that “we are disappointed that this council continually singles out Israel for criticism without acknowledging the violent attacks directed at its people, nor the obligations and difficult steps required of both sides. In short, such singling out undermines the credibility of the council.”25 Harper spoke out against a resolution calling for Israel to return the Golan Heights to Syria, despite the continued bloody civil war plauging the country. Resolutions voted on over the subsequent days also included topics such as Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders, the Palestinians right to self-determination, human rights violations committed by Israel in the Palestinian territories, and settlement building. The United States was the only country out of the 47 members of the UNHRC to vote against these resolutions, with many others abstaining but none taking a stand. Although the European Union has expressed disdain for the singling out of Israel by UNHRC agenda item 7 in the past, they in fact voted in favor of all of these resolutions.
In a 32-0-15 vote on March 25, 2016, the UNHRC approved a measure under agenda item 7 calling for a database to be established of businesses “involved in activities” in the occupied West Bank. The UNHRC decision mandated that a list of businesses and entities doing business in the West Bank be kept and updated yearly. Danny Danon, Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations, referred to the database as a “blacklist,” and accused the UNHRC of “obsessive” anti-Israel behavior. 27 The adoption of this measure was condemned by the United States on March 30, 2016. During his daily briefing on March 30, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby stated of agenda item 7, that “We [the United States] continue to unequivocally oppose the very existence of that agenda item and therefore any resolutions... that come from it.” 28
The UNHRC closed their month-long session on March 24, 2016, by proclaiming Israel the most egregious violator of human rights in the world: issuing five council resolutions on Israel and only one each on the human rights situations in Syria, North Korea, and Iran. Frequent human rights violators such as Saudi Arabia and China were not mentioned in a single resolution.
Through November 2003, 101 of the 681 UN resolutions
on the Middle East conflict referred directly to Palestinian
refugees. Not one mentioned the Jewish refugees from Arab countries.6
The United Nations took up the refugee issue and adopted Resolution 194 on December 11, 1948.
This called upon the Arab states and Israel to resolve all outstanding
issues through negotiations either directly, or with the help of the
Palestine Conciliation Commission established by this resolution. Furthermore,
Point 11 resolves:
that refugees wishing to return to their homes and
live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so
at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be
paid for property of those choosing not to return and for loss of
or damage to property which under principles of international law
or in equity should be made good by Governments or authorities responsible.
Instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of refugees
and payment of compensation... (emphasis added).
The emphasized words demonstrate that the UN recognized
that Israel could not be expected to repatriate a hostile population
that might endanger its security. The solution to the problem, like
all previous refugee problems, would require at least some Palestinians
to be resettled in Arab lands.
The resolution met most of Israel's concerns regarding
the refugees, whom they regarded as a potential fifth column if allowed
to return unconditionally. The Israelis considered the settlement of
the refugee issue a negotiable part of an overall peace settlement.
The Arabs were no more willing to compromise in 1949, however, than
they had been in 1947. In fact, they unanimously rejected the UN resolution.
The General Assembly subsequently voted, on November 19,
1948, to establish the United Nations Relief For Palestinian Refugees
(UNRPR) to dispense aid to the refugees. The UNRPR was replaced by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency
(UNRWA) on December 8, 1949, and given a budget of $50 million.
UNRWA was designed to continue the relief program initiated
by the UNRPR, substitute public works for direct relief and promote
economic development. The proponents of the plan envisioned that direct
relief would be almost completely replaced by public works, with the
remaining assistance provided by the Arab governments.
UNRWA had little chance of success, however, because
it sought to solve a political problem using an economic approach. By
the mid1950s, it was evident neither the refugees nor the Arab states
were prepared to cooperate on the large-scale development projects originally
foreseen by the Agency as a means of alleviating the Palestinians' situation.
The Arab governments and the refugees themselves were unwilling to contribute
to any plan that could be interpreted as fostering resettlement. They
preferred to cling to their interpretation of Resolution 194, which
they believed would eventually result in repatriation.
While Jewish refugees from Arab countries received
no international assistance, Palestinians received millions of dollars
through UNRWA. Initially, the United States contributed $25 million
and Israel nearly $3 million. The total Arab pledges amounted to approximately
$600,000. For the first 20 years, the United States provided more than
two-thirds of the funds, while the Arab states continued to contribute
a tiny fraction. Israel donated more funds to UNRWA than most Arab states.
The Saudis did not match Israel's contribution until 1973; Kuwait and
Libya, not until 1980. As recently as 1994, Israel gave more to UNRWA
than all Arab countries except Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Morocco.
The United States is still by far the organization's largest contributor,
donating nearly $90 million in 2000, approximately 31 percent of the
organization's $293 million in receipts. Meanwhile, for all their rhetorical
support for the Palestinians, the Arab states contributed only 2 percent
of the UNRWA budget.7
Anti-Semitism at the UN
The UN's continuing anti-Israel bias was exemplified
by its sponsorship of the eighth North American NGO [Non-governmental
organization] Symposium on the Question of Palestine in 1991.
The ensuing parade of luminaries repeated, ad nauseam, virtually
every anti-Israel canard imaginable, wrote an observer who attended
Since the early 1970s, the UN has become permeated
with anti-Semitic and Anti-Zionist sentiment. The following comments illustrate how ugly the atmosphere
Is it not the Jews who are exploiting the American
people and trying to debase them?Libyan UN Representative
The Talmud says that if a Jew does not drink
every year the blood of a non-Jewish man, he will be damned for eternity.
Saudi Arabian delegate Marouf al-Dawalibi before the 1984 UN
Human Rights Commission conference on religious tolerance.10 A similar remark was made by the Syrian Ambassador at a 1991 meeting,
who insisted Jews killed Christian children to use their blood to
On March 11, 1997, the Palestinian representative
to the UN Human Rights Commission claimed the Israeli government had
injected 300 Palestinian children with the HIV virus. Despite the
efforts of Israel, the United States and others, this blood libel
remains on the UN record.12
In 2003, the first resolution explicitly condemning anti-Semitism was
offered in the General Assembly, but its sponsor, Ireland, later withdrew
it due to lack of support.
In July 2005, Jean Ziegler,
the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to
Food, called the Gaza
Strip “an immense
concentration camp” and compared Israelis
to Nazis. A year earlier (May 28, 2004),
Ziegler sent on official UN stationery a
demand that the Caterpillar company boycott
In response to complaints,
UN spokesman Farhan Haq said, “His
views are his own, not those of the United
Nations. The United Nations believes any
comparison between conditions in Gaza and
those of Nazi concentration camps is irresponsible.
Such a comparison does not reflect the views
of the secretary-general.” Dissatisfied
by the failure to take punitive action against
members of Congress wrote to
Secretary-General Annan to express their
concern and call on him to take steps to
end anti-Semitism within the UN and to fight
against anti-Semitism worldwide.12a
An Israeli display at the UN focusing on various Israeli topics was deemed “inappropriate,” and censored by UN workers on April 2, 2016. The presentation, 13 panels entitled “Israel Matters,” was set to be displayed at the UN headquarters in New York City on April 4, 2016, but three of the panels were removed in the days leading up to the exhibit opening. The removed panels dealt with Zionism, Jerusalem, and Israeli Arabs. Israel's UN envoy Danny Danon spoke out against the censorship, and urged UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to reverse the “scandalous” decision. 29
The Security Council
Because the Security
Council established the diplomatic parameters for solving the
Arab-Israeli conflict, UN Resolutions 242 and 338, many people outside
the UN still believe it can play a useful role in bringing peace to
Middle East. A careful analysis of the Security Councils actions on
the Middle East, however, shows it has been little better than the
General Assembly in its treatment of Israel.
Candidates for the Security Council are proposed by
regional blocs. In the Middle East, this means the Arab League and its
allies are usually included. Israel, which joined the UN in 1949, has
never been elected to the Security Council whereas at least 15 Arab
League members have.13 In fact, for a long time, Israel
was the only one of the U.N. member states ineligible to serve on the Security Council.
Every UN member state belongs to one of the five regional
groups. Geographically, Israel should be part of the Asian bloc, but
Arab states successfully prevented
Israel's inclusion. A breakthrough in Israel’s fifty-year exclusion
from these bodies occurred in May 2000, when Israel accepted an invitation
to become a temporary member of the Western European and Others (WEOG)
regional group in New York. This historic step helped end at least some of the UNs
discriminatory actions against Israel and opened the door to the possibility
of Israeli participation in the Security Council.
WEOG is the only regional group which is not purely geographical, but
rather geopolitical, namely a group of states that share a Western-Democratic
common denominator. WEOG comprises 27 members: all the West European
states; and the "others" — Australia, Canada, New Zealand
and the United States.
to the WEOG was initially limited. Israel
was not allowed to present candidacies for
open seats in any UN body for two years
and was not permitted to compete for major
UN bodies, such as the Economic and Social
Council, for a longer period. Also, Israel
agreed it would not seek membership on the
UN Security Council through WEOG.
In 2003-2004, Israel was successful in presenting
candidates for six UN posts. Israel also
twice assumed the rotating chairmanship
of WEOG. Israel was originally asked to reapply
for membership every four years, but, in
2004, the first time Israel reapplied, it
was granted an indefinite extension.
In November 2013, Israel was admitted into the WEOG in Geneva as well, giving it more power to help shape UN policy on sit on more UN bodies, most especially the Human Rights Committee. Before its inclusion in the Geneva WEOG, Israel was only an observer not accorded the rights of full membership in discussions and consultation meetings. Israel is still not a full member of WEOG at UN headquarters in Nairobi, Rome and Vienna.
In the future, Israel still
hopes to gain membership in the Asian group. In 2005, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan
Shalom and Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman announced that Israel will, for the first time ever, seek a temproary seat on the Security Council.13a Even if their application is accepted by WEOG, Israel would not be able to hold any seat on the council until 2018, as every seat has already been reserved until that time.
In July 2012, Israeli attorney David Scharia was appointed as legal coordinator for the Counter-Terrorism Committee executive directorate, a position that oversees a team of international legal experts who advise the Security Council on its counterterrorism efforts. While the appointment would not be notable otherwise, the promotion of an Israeli and a former Israeli government worker is extremely uncommon in the UN and espeically in the Security Council. Of the more than 44,000 international employees within the United Nations, only 124 were Israeli as of the summer of 2012 and none serve in the top ranks of the most sensitive political jobs, which are responsible for maintaining international security, mediating peace deals and coordinating humanitarian assistance.
“I am very proud to welcome a very talented Israeli into the U.N’s senior ranks,” said Ron Prosor, Israel’s U.N. ambassador. “One of my priorities is to bring many more bright minds from the Holy Land into the U.N.’s halls, where Israelis have long been underrepresented."13b
Though Israel was admitted for U.N. representation almost immediately after its establishment, it has time and again been rejected for membership in U.N. committees and official organizations.
In 2002, Israeli candidates
lost votes for positions on the UN Human
Rights Committee, the UN Committee on the
Elimination of Discrimination Against Women,
and the UN Racial Discrimination Committee. Similarly, in early 2003, an Israeli candidate was
defeated for a position on the UN Committee
on the Rights of the Child. In 2005, Israel submitted its first application to sit as a temporary member on the Security Council, but even if accepted they could not join the council until at least the year 2018.
A few breakthroughs have been achieved, however, through which Israeli
officials hope a step toward normalizing Israel's
place at the UN can occur.14
February 2003, when Israel was elected to
serve on the UN General Assembly Working
Group on Disarmament, its first committee
posting since 1961 (after 1961, the UN split
the membership into regional groups and
that was when Israel became isolated). An
Israeli representative was elected as one
of the group's three vice-chairmen and received
votes from Iran and several Arab states.
In April 2003, Israel won its second post, joining
the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs.
further advance occurred in July 2005 when
Israel's Ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman,
was elected as one of 20 vice presidents
who set the agend for the next General Assembly
Shortly thereafter, Israel was tapped
to serve as deputy chair
of the UN Disarmament Commission (UNDC),
a General Assembly sub-committee that serves
as an advisory body on disarmament issues.
Meir Itzchaki, the Foreign Ministry's deputy
director for arms control, took up the
UNDC post and was part of the Commission's
In October 2005,
Israeli architect Michael Turner,
chairman of the Israeli World Heritage Committee,
was chosen for the
first time to serve as a member of the
UNESCO World Heritage Committee.
In May 2006, Israel was appointed to a spot
on the United Nations committee on non-governmental
organizations. The committee of the U.N.
Economic and Social Council meets twice annually
and reviews applications for special status
with the commission.
In December 2007 when Israel was voted by WEOG
to represent the grouping in consultations
for two Nairobi-based UN agencies: HABITAT,
the UN Human Settlement Program, and UNEP,
the UN Environment Program.
In February 2012, Israel was granted its first ever seat on the executive board of the United Nations
Development Program (UNDP). “This is a milestone in Israel’s integration to the global agenda of the UN,” said Israel's Deputy Permanent Representative Haim Waxman. “Furthermore, this is the expression of a journey that we have taken from being a developing nation born in adversity to becoming a developed nation, a member of the OECD and now a full member of the UNDP as a representative of the West.”
Breakthrough On Holocaust Remembrance
On January 24, 2005, the UN
General Assembly held a commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration
camps. This marked the first time that the General Assembly convened
to commemorate the Holocaust, and the
first time that the General Assembly convened a Special Session at Israel's
initiative. The session was intended to strengthen international awareness
of the Holocaust and the struggle against anti-Semitism,
and the related significance of the rebirth of the State
of Israel and the Jewish people. Israel enlisted the assistance
of 30 countries (the U.S., the 25 EU states, Russia, Canada, Australia
and New Zealand) in presenting a joint request to the UN Secretary General
to convene the special session.
In November 2005,
Nations adopted a resolution establishing
January 27 as Holocaust Remembrance Day
at the United Nations. It also calls on member
states to include the Holocaust in
their educational curriculums and condemn
manifestations of Holocaust
denial. In addition, it calls on the
secretary-general to create programs under
the rubric of “The U.N. and the Holocaust” and
report to the General
Assembly on the programs’ progress.
This was the first Israeli-initiated resolution
Assembly has ever passed.
Israel also achieved a milestone
in 2007 when for the first time the General
Assembly passed a non-political resolution sponsored by the Jewish State.
The resolution called for UN member states
to assist in the agricultural growth of developing
nations in need of agricultural infrastructure
A Hostile Bloc
Debates on Israel abound, and the Council has repeatedly
condemned the Jewish State. But not once has it adopted a resolution
critical of the PLO or of Arab attacks on Israel. What takes place in
the Security Council more closely resembles a mugging than either
a political debate or an effort at problem-solving, declared former
UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick.15
The Arab League contingent on the Council has been reinforced by members of the Organization
of the Islamic Conference and nonaligned governments that
do not recognize Israel. Since the end of 1991, leading nonaligned nations
such as India and China have established diplomatic ties with Israel;
the Soviet Union, which broke off relations with the Jewish State after
the Six-Day War, was replaced
on the panel by Russia, which has full diplomatic relations with Israel.
Though it was hoped this might result in a more balanced handling of
the Arab-Israeli conflict by the Security Council, that has not been
the case as Russia has continued to vote consistently against Israel.
In 2003, Israel sought to gain support for a resolution
of its own, the first it had introduced since 1976. The resolution called
for the protection of Israeli children from terrorism, but it did not
receive enough support from the members of the General Assembly to even
come to a vote. Israel had introduced the resolution in response to
the murder of hundreds of Israeli children in terrorist attacks, and
after a similar resolution had been adopted on November 6, 2003, calling
for the protection of Palestinian children from "Israeli aggression."
Israel's ambassador withdrew the proposed draft after it became clear
that members of the nonaligned movement were determined to revise it
in such a way that it would have ultimately been critical of Israel.16
The American Veto
Many people believe the United
States can always be relied upon to support Israel with its veto in the UN Security Council. The historical record, however, shows that
the U.S. has often opposed Israel in the Council.
In 1990, for example, Washington voted for a
Security Council resolution condemning Israel's handling of the Temple
Mount riot earlier that month. While singling out the acts of
violence committed by Israeli security forces, the resolution
omitted mention of the Arab violence that preceded it.
In December 1990, the U.S. went along with condemning
Israel for expelling four leaders of Hamas,
an Islamic terrorist group. The deportations came in response to
numerous crimes committed by Hamas against Arabs and Jews, the most
recent of which had been the murders of three Israeli civilians in a
Jaffa factory several days earlier. The resolution did not say a word
about Hamas and its crimes. It described Jerusalem as occupied
territory, declared that Palestinians needed to be protected
from Israel and called on contracting parties of the Geneva Convention
to ensure Israel's compliance. It was the first time the Security
Council invoked the Convention against a member country.
In January 1992, the U.S. supported a one-sided
resolution condemning Israel for expelling 12 Palestinians, members
of terrorist groups that were responsible for perpetrating violence
against Arab and Jew alike. The resolution, which described Jerusalem
as occupied territory, made no mention of the events that
triggered the expulsions the murders of four Jewish civilians
by Palestinian radicals since October.
In 1996, the U.S. went along with a Saudi-inspired condemnation of Israel for
opening a tunnel in "the vicinity" of the al-Aksa
mosque. In fact, the tunnel,
which allows visitors to see the length of the western wall of the Temple
Mount, is nowhere near the mosque. Israel was blamed for reacting
to violent attacks by Palestinians who protested the opening of the
The Bush Administration has more aggressively sought
to prevent UN bodies from unfairly targeting Israel and has been less
hesitant to vote against resolutions singling Israel out for criticism.
In July 2002, the United States shifted its policy and announced that
it would veto any Security Council resolution on the Middle East that did not condemn Palestinian
terror and name, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aksa
Martyrs Brigade as the groups responsible for the attacks. The U.S.
also said that resolutions must note that any Israeli withdrawal is
linked to the security situation, and that both parties must be called
upon to pursue a negotiated settlement.17
Despite the Bush Administration's stated resolve, it
too has been unwilling to oppose every one-side anti-Israel resolution.
In May 2004, the U.S. abstained on a resolution condemning Israel for its actions in Gaza during a military operation aimed at stopping terrorism and weapons
The Arabs can also get around the United States by
taking issues to the General Assembly, where nonbinding resolutions
pass by majority vote, and support for almost any anti-Israel resolution
is assured. In December 2002, for example, the United States voted for
the first time (in the past the U.S. abstained) against a UN resolution
calling on Israel to repeal the Jerusalem
Law, but the resolution still passed 154-5.
The United States did not cast its first veto until
1972, on a Syrian-Lebanese complaint against Israel. From 1967-72, the
U.S. supported or abstained on 24 resolutions, most critical of Israel.
From 1973-2003, the Security Council adopted approximately 100 resolutions
on the Middle East, again, most critical of Israel. The U.S. vetoed
a total of 37 resolutions and, hence, supported the Council's criticism
of Israel by its vote of support or abstaining roughly two-thirds of
From 2004 to 2011, the Security Council issued no fewer than 55 resolutions related to Israel and the conflict in the Middle East, the majority being critical of Israeli policies or overly supportive of the Palestinian cause. Over that same period the United States vetoed just 5 critical resolutions - three that called for an immediate end to Israeli operations in Gaza, one that condemned Israel for assassinating Hamas leader Sheik Yassin, and a fifth that condemned all Israeli settlement building as illegal. The U.S. did voice their support for using the veto again in late 2011 to block a vote on unilateral Palestinian independence, but as of February 2012 no such vote has been brought for discussion in the Security Council.
America's Most Reliable UN Ally
Israel has consistently been America's
top UN ally. In 2010, Israel voted with the U.S. nearly 92% of the time, outpacing the support levels of major U.S. allies such as the United Kingdom, France and Canada, which all voted with the United States on only 70% to 75% of the resolutions.
By contrast, in 2010, Morocco and Iraq
led the Arab world in voting most often with United
States, but they did so on less than 35% of all resolutions raised that year in the General Assembly. Other Arab
countries, including allies Saudia
voted against the United States nearly
70 percent of the time. Syria rounded out the list, opposing the U.S.
84.2 percent of the time. As a group, in 2010,
the Arab states voted against the United
States on more than 68 percent of the resolutions.
1Jewish Telegraphic Agency, (September 20, 2006).
1aChaim Herzog, Who
Stands Accused? (NY: Random House, 1978), pp. 4-5.
York Times, (December 17, 1991).
3Herzog, p. 130.
3aBenny Avni, “Bolton Scores U.N. on Stance Toward Israel,” The New York Sun, (January 13, 2006).
Post, (September 4, 2003).
Post, (April 26, 2004).
5aReuters, (March 1, 2005).
Post, (August 18, 2005).
5cYnetnews.com, (August 18, 2005).
(December 2, 2007).
5d-2Mission of the United States, (March 18, 2013).
5d-3Times of Israel, (October 5, 2013).
(November 29, 2006).
(April 8, 2008).
(March 25, 2010).
(September 12, 2012).
5iReport of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission, United Nations Human Rights Council (January 2013).
5jTimes of Israel, (January 31, 2013).
Post, (December 4, 2003).
of the Commissioner-General of the United Nations, Relief and Works
Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, 1 July 2000-30 June
8Near East Report, (July
9Speech before the UN, December
8, 1983, quoted in Harris Schoenberg, Mandate
For Terror: The United Nations and the PLO, (NY: Shapolsky,
1989), p. 296.
10Speech to UN seminar on religious
tolerance and freedom, delivered December 5, 1984, quoted in Anti-Defamation
League, News, (February 7, 1985).
11Morris Abram, "Israel Under
Attack: Anti-Semitism in the United Nations, The Earth Times,
(Dec. 16-31, 1997).
Times, (July 11, 2005).
13Near East Report, (November
Nations, (September 20, 2005).
13b Colum Lynch, "David Scharia Named UN Security Council's Top Counterterrorism Lawyer," Washington Post, (July 17, 2012).
14Anne Bayefsky, "Israel
second-class status at the UN," National
Post, (February 18, 2003); JTA, (April 30, 2003).
14aHerb Keinon, “Israel
receives another significant UN appointment,” Jerusalem Post,
(July 27, 2005).
Times, (March 31, 1983).
Post, (November 26, 2003).
Post, (July 26, 2002).
Practices at the United Nations - 2007,” U.S.
20 Tovah Lazaroff, "US affirms it stands with Israel at UNHRC, continues Agenda Item 7 boycott," Jerusalem Post, (March 23, 2015).
21 Ron Prosor, "Letter to UN Secretary General on the Appointment of William Schabas," Embassy of Israel, (December 8, 2014).
22Stephanie Nebehay, "U.N. names panel to investigate war crimes in Gaza; Israel slams it," Reuters, (August 11, 2014).
23"Report by U.N. panel probing Gaza war crimes postponed for 3 months," Jewish Journal, (March 9, 2015).
24 Lori Lowenthal Marcus"Bias Schabas Resigns, Must Scrap Tainted "Investigation" and Report," Jewish Press, (February 16, 2015).
25"US was the only country to stand with Israel and to vote against four resolutions that dealt with the Palestinian territories and the Golan Heights.," Jerusalem Post, (March 27, 2015).
26 "UN casts Israel as the only violator of health rights in the world," UN Watch, (May 26, 2015).
27"Israel slams U.N. body's call for 'blacklist' of settlement companies," Yahoo News, (March 24, 2016).
28 Arshad Mohammed. "U.S. condemns U.N. call for list of firms operating in West Bank," Reuters, (March 30, 2016).
29"UN censors exhibit on Israel set for NY headquarters," Times of Israel, (April 4, 2016).