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 This sparked accusations of anti-Semitism throughout the general assembly, and eventually the resolution was revoked, but not until the end of the Cold War in 1991.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.