HTS 2041: The Modern Middle East

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The U.N. and Israel

Each year the United Nations holds a meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women. This council consists of representatives from 45 different countries, and they gather to discuss gender equality, including specific challenges and policy changes to promote equality and advancement of women. Last week, this session closed singling out Israel as a violator of women’s rights. The Commission apparently ignored reports on female genital mutilation and punishment by stoning for acts of adultery in other Middle Eastern countries, but condemned Israel for acts of violence against Palestinian women. This was the only resolution that was approved singling out any one country, and it was only opposed by Israel and the United States. This week, the United Nations Human Rights Commission concluded its session with four more resolutions approved against Israel while no other country received more than one.

While the verbiage of these resolutions in such a political setting cannot possibly convey actual human rights violations and real world problems to be addressed, the emphasis on Israel seems surprising, biased, and more politically than socially driven than a committee on human rights should be. It is interesting to note that even Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which is commonly believed to be one of the worst human rights violating countries, received only one resolution against them. So is the UN condemning Israel more harshly than other deserving countries to prove a point, or is this some way deserved?

Many believe that this has been a recurring theme going almost all the way back to Israel’s admission to the United Nations in 1949, questioning the legitimacy of the Israeli state. Anti-Israel propaganda has been said to circulate the United Nations general assembly since 1975 when an official resolution stated, “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” This sparked accusations of anti-Semitism throughout the general assembly, and eventually the resolution was revoked, but not until the end of the Cold War in 1991. Another notable instance of this bias appeared in the 2006-07 session of the general assembly, during the height of the Darfur conflict in Sudan. During this session, while mass genocide was occurring in Darfur, Sudan did not receive a single resolution while Israel received a staggering twenty-two resolutions. Former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan of Ghana, even came out and made official statements denouncing anti-Semitism and bias against Israel in the UN, making it obvious that this is not an accident and clearly a politically driven and lasting consensus throughout the general assembly.

The United Nations is meant to be cooperative organization to avoid international conflict, protect human rights and the environment, and assist in general peacekeeping and conflict resolution worldwide. Regardless of one’s stance on the legitimacy of the state of Israel, it seems glaringly evident that this forum is being used for political grudge keeping, and time that should be put towards real issues, like the Darfur conflict, are used to push diplomats’ general feelings about Israel.

While the problems with the general assembly’s behavior in this matter are obvious, it is a more controversial topic than just the question of corruption and unjustified wrist slapping. The UN Special Committee on Palestine has an important role in protecting Palestinian refugees displaced by Israeli intervention as well as a role in peacekeeping relations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, though the effectiveness of these measures is questionable. The region has been at war with itself in very recent years and tensions are always high, meaning that the UN should tread carefully regarding such delicate matters.

It seems the United States also undoubtedly plays a major role in this issue. The US diplomat has voted in favor of Israel in every resolution brought to a vote in recent years. Essentially, the general assembly has been divided on this Israel debate similar to how congress is split on issues simply due to party lines. Diplomats are no longer voting in favor of what they think is right, and instead they are simply voting where their allegiances lie.

Regardless of how a person feels regarding the state of Israel and conflict with Palestine, it is obvious that the United Nations is not successfully performing the duties that it is meant to accomplish. Time is being wasted, and politically charged factors are affecting allocation of resources meant to aid in human rights preservation and general peacekeeping throughout the world.

-Eric Martin




  1. coreilly says:

    This is an interesting article. if the UN is in fact politically motivated and is attacking Isreal that would be a very big deal. The UN was made, as you said, to protect everyone in the world, no matter where they come from. If they are using their power to specifically attack a certain nation, it completely defeats the purpose of having a UN. I’m not entirely sure how this issue could be fixed. All of the diplomats that are at the UN are put there by their respective countries. The leadership in all of the countries could be telling their diplomats what to vote on, meaning this issue could be a tough one to fix. The US just needs to stand strong and keep voting the way we want to, in the interest of the world’s population. That seems like really all we can do about this for now.

  2. lalaninatl says:

    The situation with Israel in the Middle East is definitely a complicated one as it hasn’t been solved for a long time. Your article highlights targeting of Israel by the UN and I’m interested to see if the bias is held only against Israel or if other Middle Eastern countries are treated similarly. In addition, I am confused that if the US and Israel are allies then why are we voting against them? Our political alliances lie to help Israel usually, so I think you are right that there might some more political maneuvers within the UN or Israel really needs help with peacekeeping and the sanctions against them are to help them.

  3. jackjenkins2015 says:

    I remember reading about this in the news recently, and I thought it was pretty surprising. Yes, there are certainly human rights violations in Israel against Palestinian women, but I feel like there are multiple cases in Africa, Saudi Arabia, India, etc. where things might be worse specifically on the treatment of women. It is interesting to see the UN seem to “pick on” Israel, seeing as it was the UN that created the nation state in 1948. It seems like many in the UN, especially European countries, have grown tired of the Israel problem. The US, however, will clearly strongly support Israel, seemingly no matter what. I think the international tension around Israel will just continue to worsen and polarize and make peace even much more harder to reach.

  4. khospedales3 says:

    It always frustrates me to see politics get in the way of productive, reasoned discussion. How is the UN resolving important matters if everyone simply makes it a goal to point fingers at Israel? I’d certainly bet that if the average person observed the state of women’s rights across various Middle Eastern countries, Israel would not be public enemy #1. Only politics seems to earn Israel that title.

  5. jkempa3 says:

    Good piece. The UN was started and is still supposedly continuing as a council to solve issues related to its members is a fair and civilized manner. If the UN is in fact targeting Israel through these resolutions, then who is to say that the same could not happen to any other country that is not seen favorably by the UN? Political corruption exists in every organization, but the thought of the UN, the leading group in international relations, being so affected by corruption to deliberately target any nation unjustly compared other nations guilty of similar offenses is appalling. I hope something is done to remedy this issue and that those responsible are held accountable.

  6. jyount6 says:

    Using the example you gave of the DPRK, in my mind one of the reasons that the UN would place more resolutions on the plate of Israel rather then North Korea is simply a matter of responsiveness. I think that Israel is certainly more likely to respond to and resolve any conceived issues, as opposed to North Korea who really couldn’t care less about more sanctions placed by the UN. So this may be a matter of singling out Israel because they will actually play ball.

  7. jjacob7 says:

    You are correct that the United Nations exhibits political tendencies. This is to be expected. The UN is an amalgamation of sovereign governments, each with their own interests and biases. The Security Council is partisan and the General Assembly is partisan. I don’t think diplomats ever voted based on “what they think is right,” because their job is literally to promote their states’ interests. The UN should not be blamed for bias against Israel – indeed Israel might not exist without the UN, and Palestine is not recognized as a member state by the UN even though it is recognized by the majority of its members (nearly all of Asia, Africa, and South America). But perhaps the states that vote on these resolutions should be blamed; other countries do not vehemently and unquestionably support Israel like the US does, which is why Pakistan brought up the resolution against Israel and not against its allies in the Middle East. These biases are supremely evident in the behavior of the United States in the UN as you noted. The US not only uses its coveted vote in the Security Council to advance its interests, but also withholds dues from the UN as a form of coercion. Bias is inherent in the structure of the UN and may never be eradicated. Additionally, the UN Commission on the Status of Women has in fact fact banned stoning and female genital mutilation and conducted a number of studies into their occurrence and prevalence in recent years.

  8. mdsmith910 says:

    Great article, you caught my attention right at the beginning. Based on your article, I think the UN is to blame. I believe the UN was formed not with the goal of personal interest, (although that is an outcome) but as a means to better the world. I think ethically, the UN should abide by the virtue of righteousness. Surely if the UN, the one organization that brings all countries together, is politically biased, then what organization can we trust that won’t be corrupt.

  9. ssweeny3 says:

    This is a very interesting take on the whole Israel situation. If this article is true and the UN has resentment towards Israel, then Israel is running out of friends. And this is not Israel’s fault, they established a country at the same time another person tried to establish a country and were just much more organized and won the competition. Now, it seems that they are being punished for it. Initially, they fled Europe because of the Germans and greater Europe and found themselves in the Middle East where now there is hatred almost as big. And now, the UN actively works against Israel as a country to try and show its power when there are actual issues going on the world that are taking many more lives. No wonder Israel can’t give up the US as an ally and continuously asks for our support. No wonder they do not want Iran to have nuclear capabilities, its almost asking for Iran to do something.

  10. cryan3232 says:

    The fact that Israel is being condemned more than countries like North Korea was very surprising to me. It is very hard not to assume that the UN is being biased in their findings but it is clear there is a pattern of disapproval towards Israel. Obviously this is a region of focus and the UN may feel that they can bring more attention and change by highlighting the issues occurring here.

  11. zhu64 says:

    Its possible that the UN is biased against Israel but to me I see it as the first world countries holding Israel to a higher standard than other third world nations. North Korea doesn’t have much contact with the outside world and there isn’t much UN could do apart from invasion. But Israel has a deep relationship with the first world countries and has a relatively high standard of living and should be held to a higher standard. Yet, if measured with the first world countries Israeli treatment of Palestinian people are definitely not up to par.

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