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Myths & Facts - The United Nations

“The United Nations has long played a constructive role in Middle East affairs. Its record of fairness and balance makes it an ideal forum for settling the Arab-Israeli dispute.”
“The Palestinians have been denied a voice at the UN.”
“Israel enjoys the same rights as any other member of the United Nations.”
“The United Nations and its affiliate institutions are critical of Israeli policies, but never attack Jews or engage in anti-Semitic rhetoric.”
“The 1991 repeal of the resolution libeling Zionism proves that the UN is no longer biased against Israel.”
“Even if the General Assembly is biased, the Security Council has always been balanced in its treatment of the Middle East.”
“The United States has always supported Israel at the UN and can be counted upon to veto any resolutions that are critical.”
“America's Arab allies routinely support U.S. positions at the UN.”
“Israel's failure to implement UN resolutions is a violation of international law.”
“The United Nations has demonstrated equal concern for the lives of Israelis and Palestinians.”

MYTH

"The United Nations has long played a constructive role in Middle East affairs. Its record of fairness and balance makes it an ideal forum for settling the Arab-Israeli dispute."

FACT

Starting in the mid-1970s, an Arab-Soviet-Third World bloc joined to form what amounted to a pro-Palestinian lobby at the United Nations. This was particularly true in the General Assembly where these countries?nearly all dictatorships or autocracies?frequently voted together to pass resolutions attacking Israel and supporting the PLO.

In 1974, for example, the General Assembly invited Yasser Arafat to address it. Arafat did so, a holster attached to his hip. In his speech, Arafat spoke of carrying a gun and an olive branch (he left his gun outside before entering the hall). A year later, 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.1

On December 16, 1991, the General Assembly voted 111-25 (with 13 abstentions and 17 delegations absent or not voting) to repeal Resolution 3379. No Arab country voted for repeal. The PLO denounced the vote and the U.S. role.

As Herzog noted, the organization developed an Alice-In-Wonderland perspective on Israel. “In the UN building...[Alice] 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.2

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.”

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.

Israel is the object of more investigative committees, special representatives and rapporteurs than any other state in the UN system. The special representative of the Director-General of UNESCO visited Israel 51 times during 27 years of activity. A "Special Mission" has been sent by the Director-General of the ILO to Israel and the territories every year for the past 17 years.

The Commission on Human Rights routinely adopts disproportionate resolutions concerning Israel. Of all condemnations of this agency, 26 percent refer to Israel alone, while rogue states such as Syria and Libya are never criticized.3

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 Israel, but announced in September 2002 it would return to the organization. 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. In 2001, the U.S. joined Israel in boycotting the UN World Conference Against Racism when it became clear that it had become little more than an Israel-bashing festival.

While the Arab-Israeli peace process that was launched in Madrid in 1991 is structured on the basis of direct negotiations between the parties, the UN constantly undercuts this principle. The Oslo Agreements are predicated on the idea of bilateral talks to resolve differences between Israelis and Palestinians. The General Assembly routinely adopts resolutions, however, that attempt to impose solutions on critical issues such as Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and settlements. Ironically, UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 proposed the bilateral negotiations that are consistently undermined by the General Assembly resolutions.

Thus, the record to date indicates the UN has not played a useful role in resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict.

 

“What takes place in the Security Council “more closely resembles a mugging than either a political debate or an effort at problem-solving.”

? former UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick.4

 

MYTH

"The Palestinians have been denied a voice at the UN."

FACT

Besides the support the Palestinians have received from the Arab and Islamic world, and most other UN members, the Palestinians have been afforded special treatment at the UN since 1975. That year, the General Assembly awarded permanent representative status to the PLO and the UN established the “Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.” The panel became, in effect, part of the PLO propaganda apparatus, issuing stamps, organizing meetings, and preparing films and draft resolutions in support of Palestinian “rights.”

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.

In 1988, the PLO's status was upgraded when the General Assembly designated the PLO as “ Palestine.” Ten years later, the General Assembly voted to give the Palestinians a unique status as a non-voting member of the 185 member Assembly. The vote in favor was overwhelming, 124 in favor and 4 against with 10 abstentions. The countries opposing the resolution were Israel, the United States, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.

Palestinian representatives can now raise the issue of the peace process in the General Assembly, cosponsor draft resolutions on Middle East peace and have the right of reply. They still do not have voting power and cannot put forward candidates for UN bodies such as the Security Council.

MYTH

"Israel enjoys the same rights as any other member of the United Nations."

FACT

A breakthrough in Israel’s fifty-year exclusion from UN bodies occurred on May 30, 2000, when Israel accepted an invitation to become a temporary member of the Western European and Others (WEOG) regional group. While only temporary, this historic step could finally end the UN’s discrimination against Israel and open the door to Israeli participation in the Security Council.

Israel has been the only UN member excluded from a regional group. Geographically, it belongs in the Asian Group; however, the Arab states have barred its membership. Without membership in a regional group, Israel cannot sit on the Security Council or other key UN bodies.

The 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.

Israel’s membership in the WEOG is severely limited. Every four years Israel will have to reapply for membership, since its status is only temporary. Israel was not allowed to present candidacies for open seats in any UN body for two years and is not able to compete for major UN bodies, such as the Economic and Social Council, for a longer period. Also, for the first two years, Israeli representatives were not allowed to run for positions on the UN Council.

Besides these restrictions, Israel is only allowed to participate in WEOG activities in the New York office of the UN. Israel is excluded from WEOG discussion and consultations at the UN offices in Geneva, Nairobi, Rome and Vienna; therefore, Israel cannot participate in UN talks on human rights, racism and a number of other issues handled in these offices.

In February 2003, 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. On the other hand, during the same month, an Israeli candidate was defeated for a position on the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The year before Israeli candidates also 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.4a

In the future, Israel still hopes to gain membership in the Asian group.

MYTH

"The United Nations and its affiliate institutions are critical of Israeli policies, but never attack Jews or engage in anti-Semitic rhetoric."

FACT