The Right to Exist: anti-Zionism at the United Nations – Ben Cohen – Engage Journal, Issue 1: January 2006

Ben Cohen is the Director of European Affairs of the Anti-Defamation League, based in New York. He has written and broadcast extensively on international politics. Recent publications include “Evaluating Muslim-Jewish Relations in Britain”, published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Introduction: The Legitimacy Debate

Towards the end of 2005, two Palestine-related events held under the auspices of the United Nations demonstrated that the world organisation can be alarmingly cavalier over the question of Israel’s existence. On 29 November, the “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People”, a seminar at UN Headquarters in New York prominently featured a map of Palestine dating from 1948 – the year of Israel’s independence. Yet Israel, a member state of the UN, was conspicuous by its absence from the map, as were the 1947 partition lines approved by the UN General Assembly when it divided Palestine into Jewish and Arab states(1).

A fortnight later, an official UN press release from the grandly-named United Nations Latin American and Caribbean Meeting on the Question of Palestine, held in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, opened with a description of remarks made by an Israeli anti-Zionist activist, Jeff Halper. According to the release, Halper told the participants “that given the facts on the ground, a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was no longer viable”(2).

In another context, perhaps, these incidents would have been unremarkable. But the United Nations is the embodiment of the Westphalian system of sovereign and formally equal states. Its Charter contains severe restraints on outside interference in the internal affairs of a member state(3). To go further than mere interference, by actively questioning the very legitimacy of a member state, is inconceivable under the terms of the Charter(4).

Inconceivable, that is, if the focus is a state other than Israel. For, at the root of Israel’s frequently-voiced complaint that it is the victim of double-standards at the UN, is the realisation that Westphalian norms are very often trumped by an anti-Zionist agenda. That within the UN, implicit or even explicit questioning of Israel’s legitimacy as a state has become habitual. Hence the spectacle of a map which implies that Israel should have never been created. Hence the press release which presents, as an “expert’s” point of view expounded within a UN forum, the idea that a political solution in the Middle East is predicated on the dissolution of a member state. Both these examples help us to discern the particular meaning of “anti-Zionism” within the UN context: the enabling of mechanisms and procedures which seek to restrict Israel’s participation and undermine its legitimacy, very often spearheaded by authoritarian states that are only too quick to invoke the protection of the sovereignty rule on those rare occasions when their own practices are questioned.

Of course, the UN is not, as some outlandishly believe, officially committed to the destruction of the State of Israel. To the contrary, its officials and spokesmen loudly and publicly offer assurances that the reverse is true: that the UN, beholden to its Charter, is committed to maintaining Israel’s existence. Indeed, just as Israel is the only member state to have its legitimacy probed in UN meetings and conferences on Palestine, so it is the only member state whose right to exist is affirmed and reaffirmed in UN statements, most recently by Kofi Annan himself, in his remarks condemning the Iranian President’s call to “wipe Israel from the map”. This dialectic results from the predicament which Israel, uniquely among the 191 UN member states, finds itself in: claims of illegitimacy will automatically be countered with assurances of legitimacy. In the final analysis, the legitimising argument always wins out, because it has the Charter on its side. However, it is equally true that the fundamentals of the Charter, in terms of acknowledging and respecting the inherent legitimacy of sovereign states, as distinct from condemning specific actions they undertake, are compromised more in the case of Israel than with any other state. Establishing why this is the case and what, as a consequence, can be done, is the purpose of this article.

The anti-Zionist Infrastructure: Origins

The controversy at the UN over Israel’s existence does not take place in a vacuum. A complex infrastructure of pro-Palestinian bodies operating with the approval and under the rubric of the UN Secretariat both sustains this controversy and provides an institutional platform within the UN for anti-Zionist opinion.

Within the eight sub-divisions of the UN’s Department of Political Affairs, four deal with regional issues: one for Europe and America, one for Asia and the Pacific and two for Africa. Only one sub-division, the Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR), deals exclusively with a national issue. Within this Division, which has an annual operating budget of five to six million US dollars, two committees operate. These are the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Human Rights Practices Affecting the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (SCIIHRP – hereafter referred to as the Special Committee), created in 1968 by a General Assembly resolution, and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP – hereafter referred to as the Palestine Committee), created in 1975 by an additional resolution. The Division also maintains an extensive database of documents and resolutions pertaining to the Palestinian issue, known as UNISPAL.

No other stateless or occupied nation benefits from an entire division devoted to its cause: not the Kurds, not the Tibetans, not the Sahrawis. Similarly, no other national conflict receives such resources or consumes such a large portion of the UN’s time as does the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. This structural and procedural bias sustains an endless round of conferences, seminars and regional meetings involving member states and accredited Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). It also feeds into the excessive and negative concentration upon Israel expressed in the resolutions of the General Assembly and other UN bodies, notably the Commission on Human Rights.

The operations and impact of the UN’s elaborate Palestine infrastructure will be returned to later on. A more immediate question concerns the reasons for the existence of this infrastructure in the first place. When it is recalled that Israel was created by a UN resolution, the question becomes even more pertinent, for why would the UN devote itself to undermining the state which it gave birth to?

There are a range of explanations, institutional and historical. Yet one consideration needs to be stated at the outset: when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is difficult to discern a uniform view within the UN. For example, the office of the UN Special Representative to the Middle East can promote an even-handed approach to the conflict, demanding concessions from both sides, but this will not prevent an NGO meeting on Palestine convened by the UN from issuing a Final Declaration condemning Israel alone. The fragmentation of the UN into various divisions and bodies with distinct agendas means that one has to examine, before analysing how an issue is appraised, who is doing the appraising, what interests they represent, the nature of their mandate and their influence within the UN as a whole. The viewpoint adopted by a particular UN body is usually a reflection of how the member states which compose that body interpret the mandate. Accordingly, there is, within the UN, an institutionalised tolerance of viewpoints which are contradictory, particularly when it comes to the Middle East.

This is the result of an internal process which involves balancing at least three elements: the political imperatives of the Palestine infrastructure, the requirements of the Charter, and the need for the UN’s diplomatic interventions in the region to be perceived as credible by all sides. Which of these elements is favoured largely depends on the institutional setting: a proposal for sanctions against Israel will receive a sympathetic hearing at a DPR seminar but a frosty response from the Secretary-General’s office. The prospects of getting the UN Security Council to even consider such a proposal are non-existent.

In historical terms, anti-Zionism at the UN is as old as the organisation itself. Arab delegations at the UN’s founding conference in San Francisco in 1945 made it abundantly clear that they would voice their opposition to the Zionist project in the forums of the new world organisation. Nearly two years later, in February 1947, Britain surrendered its Palestine Mandate to the UN. On 29 November of the same year – the day designated by the UN, thirty years later, as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People – the General Assembly voted by the necessary two-thirds majority to pass Resolution 181, which partitioned Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. Of the 13 states to vote against the resolution, only three – Cuba, Greece and India – came from outside the Arab and wider Muslim world. Among the 33 states to vote in favour was the Soviet Union, which accepted the notion of a separate Jewish state after it became clear that a unitary state, its first preference, was not an option(5).

The partition resolution signalled the beginning of the UN’s long involvement with the Palestine issue. In May 1949, Israel secured admission to the UN, having failed to do so the previous year. At the Security Council vote to recommend that the General Assembly accept Israel’s application, one of the ten non-permanent members – Egypt – voted against while one of the five permanent members – the United Kingdom – abstained. When the vote came before the General Assembly, the resolution passed by a similar margin to the original partition resolution: 37 in favour, 12 against and 9 absentions.

At the same time, the conflict between Israel and the Arab states enabled the UN to deploy its burgeoning peacekeeping and aid capacity in the region. In May 1948, the UN Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) arrived in Jerusalem – where it remains to this day, on an annual budget of 29 million US Dollars, often feeding personnel into other regional missions, such as UNIFIL in Lebanon – to monitor and supervise the observance of the ceasefire between Israel and the Arab armies. In December 1949, the General Assembly established the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to cater to the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian refugee population, then estimated at 914,000.

UNRWA offers a compelling example of the blurred line between politics and humanitarianism at the UN. The term “refugee”, it should be noted, is a legal one and refugee status is attained by an individual if the conditions specified by the legal definition are met. Yet the definition used by UNRWA differs from that adopted by the main UN refugee organisation, the UNHCR, in one crucial respect(6). UNRWA allows for refugee status to be inherited, which is one important reason why there has been a four-fold increase in the Palestinian refugee population since 1949.

The political ramifications of this are inescapable: those Palestinians born of parents and grandparents who fled during the 1948 war are condemned to what must seem like an eternal limbo, prevented from integrating into the countries which host them because of an inherited legal status which sets them apart. At the same time, the refugee problem is perpetuated, providing the raw material for the demand for the “right of return” into the borders of Israel and thus undoing from within the sovereign Jewish state ratified by Resolution 181. Yet any attempt to rewrite UNRWA’s refugee definition, which would necessarily mean cutting the ground from under the “right of return”, would face insurmountable obstacles, not least because states affiliated with the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Arab League constitute over 25 per cent of the UN’s member states and could be expected, along with many non-aligned states, to block such a move. No matter that permanent refugee status prevents Palestinians from pursuing opportunities in work, education and other fields; no matter that the offspring of other refugee populations have been focused upon the states which host them, rather than those which their parents left: the political potency of the “right of return” is such that it overrides subordinate considerations like these.

Unwittingly or not, UNRWA therefore plays an explicitly political role as well as a humanitarian one. And the continued visibility of the Palestinian refugees – who would not be legally regarded as refugees if they were the children of Bosnians or Sudeten Germans – helps, of course, to keep alive the idea of Zionism’s “original sin”: the expulsion of the majority of Palestine’s Arab population as the necessary condition for the formation of a Jewish state. As the era of decolonisation dawned during the 1950s and 1960s, the notion of Zionism as an irredeemably malign ideology of exclusivism, working hand-in-glove with imperialism, increasingly gained currency within the UN, spurred by the anti-Zionist invective of the Arab delegations as well as the Soviet Union and its allies.

The anti-Zionist infrastructure in operation

In the wake of the 1967 war, the Arab-Soviet axis at the UN set about institutionalising anti-Zionism with renewed vigour. At the end of 1968, the Special Committee mentioned in the previous section was created with three members – Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Senegal. In the dozens of reports issued by the Special Committee since then, the same themes are returned to again and again, foremost the presentation of Israel as an aggressor bent on permanent domination not just of the West Bank and Gaza Strip but also of other Arab territories, like east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, deemed to be under Israeli occupation(7). A constant complaint, which was voiced in the Special Committee’s first report and which has been reiterated in all of its subsequent reports to the General Assembly, has been what it characterises as Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the Special Committee by allowing its members access to the territories under its control.

This faithful reporting of Israel’s non-cooperation is designed to encourage the perception that, firstly, Israel is not meeting its international obligations by refusing to engage with a body endowed with international legitimacy and, secondly, that Israel has something to hide. In that regard, it is instructive to note that much of the Special Committee’s information is directly culled from reports in the Hebrew press.

It is hardly surprising that Israel elects not to cooperate with the Special Committee. Its mandate is based exclusively on the premise that there is only one guilty party involved in the conflict. It is concerned solely with the alleged wrongs committed by Israelis against the Palestinians. By abandoning any pretence of due process, the Special Committee cannot even pretend to be a neutral body.

Much the same can be said of the even more active Palestine Committee within the DPR. The Palestine Committee was created in 1975 by a General Assembly resolution which was distinguished by the absence of any mention of the State of Israel and its fulsome support for the “right of return”. On the very same day, November 10th, the General Assembly passed another resolution which, in the eyes of many Jews, consigned the UN to infamy for years to come. Resolution 3379 determined that Zionism was a form of racism and came perilously close, despite the provisions of the Charter, to demanding Israel’s elimination. Indeed, that dubious goal can reasonably be said to have been implicit in the following formulation within the resolution: “…the racist regime in occupied Palestine and the racist regimes in Zimbabwe and South Africa have a common imperialist origin, forming a whole and having the same racist structure and being organically linked in their policy aimed at repression of the dignity and integrity of the human being.”

There are several striking aspects to the above sentence. Notably, the geographical space of “occupied Palestine” is not determined. However, the mention of the “racist regime” ruling in Palestine, and the linkage of Israel with the white minority rulers of Rhodesia and South Africa (both of whom had already been frozen out of the UN), strongly implies that Israel has no place in the society of states. In sum, the demonisation of Zionism, its identification with apartheid and racism, and the use of the term “occupied Palestine” – which was then understood by the PLO and the Arab states, the prime movers of the resolution, as the entire territory between the Mediterranean and the river Jordan – leads inexorably to the conclusion that under the terms of this resolution, Israel is stripped of its right to exist.

The November 10th, 1975 resolutions are a shining example of the manner in which the mutually contradictory stances referred to earlier are tolerated at the UN. The linguistic and political gap between these non-binding General Assembly resolutions and the binding resolutions of the Security Council is all too evident. Reading UNGA Resolution 3379 against the well-known UNSC Resolution 242, passed after the 1967 war, shows conclusively that the anti-Zionist fervour at the General Assembly, which was largely the consequence of the sheer number of states involved, did not and still does not penetrate the far smaller, and much more powerful, Security Council.

In 1991, in the wake of the first Gulf war and the convening of the Madrid peace conference, Resolution 3379 was rescinded by Resolution 4686. As this is arguably the shortest resolution ever passed by the General Assembly, it can be quoted in full:

The General Assembly

Decides to revoke the determination contained in its resolution 3379 of 10 November 1975.

Given the composition of the UN General Assembly, it would be unrealistic to have expected the resolution to provide affirmation of Israel’s legitimacy or an explicit confirmation that Zionism is not a form of racism, much less an expression of regret on the part of the GA for having passed the resolution in the first place. Yet even this grudging sentence proved too much for the 25 states which voted against it, among them all the Arab states (with the exception of Egypt, which abstained) and authoritarian regimes such as North Korea and Cuba.

To this day, the Palestine Committee behaves as though Resolution 3379 is still on the books. Given that it was created on the same day that the GA identified Zionism with racism, this is to be expected. The Palestine Committee was a product of a time when anti-Zionism was at its most bellicose and venomous within the UN. For the Palestine Committee to moderate its behaviour or adopt a more balanced approach would, firstly, confound its original mandate and, secondly, provoke the question of whether it, and by extension the entire pro-Palestinian infrastructure, should continue to exist – a question which, obviously, it wishes to avoid.

An examination of the Palestine Committee’s recent record shows that the anti-Zionist tendencies which prevailed at the General Assembly in 1975 are very much alive. Over the last three years, the Palestine Committee has held several meetings and conferences in venues including New York, Geneva, Beijing, Cape Town, Kiev, Rabat and Caracas. Critical to the Committee’s effort is a network of around 1,000 NGOs working on the Palestine issue. Many of these NGOs are well-known for their involvement with other UN forums which have targeted Israel, most notoriously the World Conference Against Racism held in Durban in 2001, an event which is remembered primarily for the expressions of anti-Semitism which plagued it.

The Palestine Committee’s meetings provide a UN platform for NGO views which clearly stand outside the international consensus on the Middle East. Even though Israel has faced difficult diplomatic battles since the beginning of the second intifada, especially in Europe, the criticism it has received from other states (at least, those states which are democratic) has never approached the levels of toxicity encountered at the Palestine Committee meetings.

For example, a Palestine Committee conference held in Paris in July 2005 – and disingenously billed as an international conference of “Civil Society in Support of Middle East Peace” – ended with a communique which called for a “global campaign of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions [bDS] to pressure Israel to end the occupation and fully comply with international law and all relevant UN resolutions”(8).Those addressing the conference included such anti-Zionist luminaries as the American activist Phyllis Bennis and Omar Barghouti, a leading proponent of the campaign to boycott Israeli academic institutions. No Israelis representing the mainstream of Israeli politics either participated or spoke at the conference. While some UN officials subsequently insisted that Israeli participants would have been most welcome at such a gathering, they conveniently overlooked the fact that most Israeli politicians are unlikely to attend an event which, for them, bears more of a resemblance to a criminal court rather than a conference, and whose outcome is predetermined by the Palestine Committee’s mandate. Just as with the Special Committee, the prospect of Israeli engagement with the Palestine Committee is a non-starter. Moreover, as will be discussed below, if Israel is to participate at the UN on an equal footing, then the abolition of the UN’s anti-Zionist infrastructure is a prerequisite.

No survey of anti-Zionism at the UN would be complete without some mention of the Commission for Human Rights (CHR), located in Geneva. Like the General Assembly, which typically adopts 20 or so anti-Israel resolutions each session, the CHR is obsessed with Israel, to the point where other serious human rights issues are ignored, downplayed or judged to be irrelevant.

In a recent paper detailing the 53-member commission’s campaign against Israel, Hillel Neuer(9) notes that of 21 items on its agenda, only one concentrates upon a single state – Israel – and is entitled, “Question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine”. During the CHR’s 2005 session, out of eight resolutions which focused upon a single country, four were concerned with Israel, with one each for Cuba, Belarus, Myanmar (Burma) and North Korea. Other major international human rights emergencies during the last year, such as the ongoing genocide in the Sudanese province of Darfur, or the “slum clearance” programme launched by the Zimbabwean dictator, Robert Mugabe, which has left thousands destitute, did not even surface on the CHR’s agenda.

As Neuer argues, Israel’s exclusion from the five regional groups within the UN means that it is barred from effective participation in the CHR. At the UN in New York, Israel has finally been admitted to the Western European and Others Group (WEOG), which enabled its UN Ambassador to be elected, in 2005, to one of the Vice-Presidential posts of the General Assembly. However, in Geneva, Israel remains outside the WEOG club, which means that it cannot serve on the CHR – in sharp contrast to serial abusers of human rights such as Cuba, Libya, Iran and North Korea. Of course, as a state located in Asia, Israel’s rightful place is in the Asian, rather than the Western European, regional group; opposition from Arab and Muslim states has, though, blocked this from happening. The regional group exclusion is therefore a particularly egregious example of the undermining of Israel’s formal equality within the UN system. At best, Israel’s sovereignty is resentfully accepted, but when it comes to the procedures and operations of certain UN bodies, Israel is as close as the UN Charter will permit to obtaining pariah status.

Beyond anti-Zionism?

A recent conversation with a European diplomat in New York yielded an interesting observation on the question of whether the UN’s Palestine infrastructure might be abolished. “Once something exists at the UN,” the diplomat said, “it’s almost impossible to get rid of it.”

In some ways, the recent debate over UN reform confirms this point. In the run-up to the UN World Summit of 2005, held to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the organisation, Kofi Annan appointed a high-level panel to examine ways of streamlining the UN, improving its image as it struggled with the Oil-for-Food scandal and reestablishing it as the institutional anchor of international society. This last goal was especially important, given that the great power clashes in the months leading to the liberation of Iraq from Ba’athist rule had threatened to consign the UN to irrelevance. Yet for all the high stakes involved, the reform project has moved forward only haltingly.

Although Annan began talking about UN reform early on during his term, it was over the last three years that the concept of a major overhaul began to crystallise. A number of the reform proposals which were floated, most obviously a change in the composition and scope of the Security Council, have garnered little support. At the same time, the reform project can point towards more modest successes, such as the creation of a peacebuilding commission which will focus on reconstruction in states torn apart by conflict, and a more transparent budgetary process.

Human rights, and specifically the creation of an alternative to the CHR, has emerged as the litmus test for the success of UN reform(10). The CHR’s lack of credibility outside and within the UN is not reducible solely to its anti-Zionist agenda. Yet the CHR’s anti-Zionism is a central symptom of a much deeper malaise: the fact that the CHR has become a place of refuge for the very same regimes which a body charged with upholding human rights should be monitoring and forthrightly condemning. For these countries, which include Cuba and Zimbabwe, Westphalianism has become synonymous with self-defence. Examination of their own woeful human rights records is blocked and the attention is deflected onto a democratic state – Israel – which, because of its exclusion from the regional group system, is unable to gain representation on the CHR.

Kofi Annan has not highlighted the victimisation of Israel which this arrangement encourages; given the weight of the Arab and Muslim bloc at the UN, it would not be expedient for him to do so. However, he has, along with senior officials in the UN Secretariat and the governments of the major democracies – including, in yet one more display of a renewed transatlantic consensus, the US and France – pursued the formation of a Human Rights Council to replace the CHR, a body which growing numbers of states regard as an embarassment. One of the proposals currently being negotiated is that membership of the Council be based, at least in part, on a country’s human rights performance. Were this to be adopted as a criterion for membership, the new Council, if it was also armed with a more flexible mandate to pursue serious rights violators and purged of the world’s more gruesome regimes, could trigger three key developments.

Firstly, the UN would provide an explicit acknowledgement that sovereignty is not an impenetrable shield when it comes to the abuse of human rights; as one of the more common phrases to have emerged from the reform debate would have it, states would be reminded of their “responsibility to protect”. Secondly, while it would be unrealistic to expect imbalanced criticism of Israel to disappear entirely, the shrill anti-Zionism which has disfigured the proceedings of the CHR and which allows those states engaged in systematic human rights abuse to escape scrutiny, would no longer be a factor. Thirdly, the replacement of the CHR could well prompt a reassessment of the usefulness of other UN bodies, among them the Division for Palestinian Rights.

Certainly, some of the factors which have led to the discrediting of the CHR – especially its reputation as a forum for undemocratic states to articulate an archaic anti-colonialism that is far removed from the contemporary debate about human rights – can also be applied to the UN’s Palestine infrastructure. Over the last year, there has been a degree of momentum towards this end. The United States is publicly backing the abolition of the DPR and its associated bodies. Two states, Hungary and Romania, have resigned their membership of the Palestine Committee. And there is some reason to conclude, albeit cautiously, that the UN is becoming a more hospitable venue for both Israel and Jewish concerns: of special note is the passing of a GA resolution, sponsored by Israel, in favour of observing Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27th.

Given that many of the political battles fought at the UN are about symbolism and perception (since, out of its myriad bodies, only the Security Council can reasonably be said to have any enforcement power), one should not underestimate the importance of symbolic victories. At the same time, it would be reckless to predict that the Palestine infrastructure will disappear any time soon. None of the states which remain on the Palestine Committee (which include, among others, Turkey, Ukraine, Cuba, Malaysia and South Africa) have indicated that they will follow the example of Hungary and Romania. A handful of these states remain on the Committee because they reason, in realist fashion, that resigning from a body which has, in any case, no impact on policy, would needlessly provoke the displeasure of Arab and Muslim states.

More significantly, it would appear that the Palestine infrastructure is becoming even more entrenched. In December 2005, the GA voted to give a new lease of life to the Palestine Committee and the DPR. According to research by the American Jewish International Relations Institute, the scope of the UN’s Palestine infrastructure is being extended, rather than contracted: “The proposed UN budget for 2006-2007 actually projects expansion of anti-Israel and anti-US operations by the Division for Palestinian Rights and two related UNGA committees: recruitment of another 30 NGOs; 50 Bureau meetings; and 10 additional conferences, expanding their geographic reach to add meetings in Africa, Asia and Latin America as well as at previous sites in New York, Europe and the Middle East”(11).

It should be stressed that even an expanded Palestine operation at the UN is unlikely to ever be in a position to even influence, much less mandate, the policies of member states towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet the UN’s Palestine infrastructure has still had a damaging impact which continues: it sustains the notion of the illegitimacy of Zionism and the State of Israel; it provides an important base of support, material and political, for the various campaigns to boycott, sanction and isolate Israel; it helps to prevent the normalisation of Israel’s participation in the UN system; it privileges, in effect, the plight of the Palestinians above the plight of other peoples around the world, including those facing genocide and enforced famine.

Ultimately, the very existence of this infrastracture is a product of the qualified application (some might say corruption) of the Westphalian principles of the United Nations. The conferences and communiques and endless denunciations of Israel illustrate the dual process at work within the corridors of the UN: as the sovereignty and legitimacy of a democratic state is attacked, so the sovereignty and legitimacy of repressive states is shored up. The task before the UN, and especially its democratic member states, is to undo that process and replace it with an initiative which recognises the complexity of the conflict and focuses the debate on the achievement of peace, not on Israel’s right to exist.


(1) Israel Wiped Off Map at UN Event by Eitan Amit

(2) See here.

(3) It should be pointed out that the Westphalian provisions of the UN charter have not prevented states from engaging in humanitarian intervention to protect human rights and prevent genocide and war crimes. Probably the best recent example of this is the NATO-led intervention in Kosovo in 1999. However, the liberation of Kosovo from Serbian rule was not sanctioned by a UN Security Council resolution, which enabled its opponents to argue that the action was illegal – much as they did in the case of Iraq four years later. In addition, as the current case of Darfur demonstrates, humanitarian intervention has not emerged as a universally applied norm. See Nicholas J. Wheeler, “Saving Strangers: Humanitarian Intervention in International Society”, Oxford University Press, 2001.
However, the non-intervention principle remains a powerful element within the diplomatic procedures of the various UN bodies described in this article.

(4) See in particular Article 2.1 of the UN Charter.

(5) Michael J. Cohen, “The Origins and Evolution of the Arab-Zionist Conflict”, University of California Press, 1987.

(6) A summary of this controversy, the relevant definitions and UNRWA’s response to Middle East commentator Daniel Pipes can be found here.

(7) The Special Committee’s reports can be accessed here.

(8) See this document.

(9) Hillel C. Neuer, The Struggle against Anti-Israel Bias at the UN Commission on Human Rights, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

(10) UN makes replacting rights panel a 2006 priority by Warren Hoge

(11) “The UN Remains Inhospitable to Israel”, American Jewish International Relations Institute, available by request from

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