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Israel vs. the United Nations
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vs. the United Nations
The U.N. charter calls for "equal rights of [ ] nations large and small." But only now, nearly 60 years after the adoption of the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights", has the U.N. brought us, as Jimmy Carter puts it, "to where we can begin to put principles over politics for the betterment of all."
On March 15, 2006, the U.N. approved 170 to 4 (the United States, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau) with 3 abstentions (Belarus, Iran, Venezuela) a new "Human Rights Council" to replace the current, controversial and highly discredited "Human Rights Commission", which included many of the world's worst human-rights abusing countries, while leaving others mainly Israel standing in the hallway.
The 47-member Human Rights Council (as opposed to 53 members in the Commission) will be open to all. Its members will be elected on May 9 individually, rather than as part of a regional group, for up to two consecutive three-year terms by an absolute majority of the 191 member states (96 votes). Members can be suspended by a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly if a mandatory periodic review finds them guilty of "gross and systematic" violations of human rights. The Council will convene on June 19; the Human Rights Commission will be abolished on June 16. The Council will have a year-round presence and will meet three times a year. It will, if all goes well, be able to intervene much more timely to global crises and human rights abuses.
The United States and Israel believe that even with the new regulations in place, the new Human Rights Council will still not have enough teeth to act and continue to be vulnerable to political abuses. "We want a butterfly," said the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, prior to the vote. "We don't intend to put lipstick on a caterpillar and call it a success." And according to the Anti-Defamation League in New York, the new regulations are no true reform because the new Human Rights Council "retains many of the faults of the now-defunct UNCHR, including a potentially problematic membership structure that will not prevent rights violators from getting a seat."
Before the U.N. can claim to have thoroughly reformed itself, however, next on its agenda is a long overdue change of attitudes toward the Jewish state, which are slowly shifting to the better. Nevertheless, as John Bolton puts it, the claim that Israel can and will be treated as a normal state is still a "fantasy," calling what he witnesses a "dumbing down diplomatic mush."
But there are a few cautious steps that the U.N. has taken in the past months to reduce Israel's marginalization and demonization within the U.N.:
For decades, Israel has been the black sheep within the United Nations and the list of grievances against Israel is long:
In 2003, Israel put forward its first resolution in nearly 30 years in the General Assembly; it had to withdraw it later, however, in the face of strong opposition by most member states. This draft resolution had called for the protection of Israeli children from terrorism mirroring a similar resolution on Palestinian children that had effortlessly passed the General Assembly earlier.
And in 2005, the annual "International Day of Solidarity With the Palestinian People", held at the U.N. each year on Nov. 29 on the day the U.N. partitioned the British Palestine Mandate (which Kofi Annan described in 2002 as a "day of mourning and a day of grief"), had as a backdrop on the stage a large map of the Middle East, featuring Palestine but not Israel.
For further reading:
Transcript of U.N. press conference on the special session, held by Kofi Annan on Jan. 19, 2005
The Charter of the United Nations, signed on June 26, 1945
Mideast Truth: Links to resources, articles and documents on "Israel vs. the U.N."
on the U.N.,
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