The past few years have seen a few positive developments for Israel at the United Nations, while much of the usual anti-Israel bias has continued as well. On the positive side, Israeli diplomats have been appointed to various positions at the U.N.: In June 2007, for the first time in the organization’s history, an Israeli official was selected to head one of its committees. Rony Adam, head of the Israeli Foreign Ministry's U.N. department, was chosen to head the U.N. Committee for Program and Coordination. Adam was unanimously elected to the post after serving as the committee deputy director. The committee is comprised of 33 countries, some of which have no diplomatic relations with Israel, such as Iran, Cuba and Indonesia.
In July 2005, Israel was elected to the deputy chairmanship of the United Nations Disarmament Commission (UNDC), a subsidiary body of the GA. In June 2005, Dan Gillerman, Israel's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the U.N., was appointed to be one of the 21 vice presidents of the GA, marking the first time an Israeli had been chosen for this position since Abba Eban in 1953. Israel's candidacy as vice president of the GA was put forth by the Western European and Others Group (WEOG), the regional group to which it belongs.
In a significant first, in August 2008 Israel was elected to the Universal Postal Union Operations Council and will be represented at the 24th Universal Postal Congress held in Geneva Switzerland. While Israel had been a member of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) since December 1949, the Jewish State had never been elected to the professional decision-making body which determines the financial and operational activities of the UPU. In another truly historic development, 2007 saw the first Israel-initiated resolution adopted. On December 11, 2007 the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) adopted an Israeli-initiated draft resolution dealing with agricultural technology for development. U.N. member states supported the resolution in a vote of 118 countries in favor, with 29 abstentions and no objections.
In another significant accomplishment, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon submitted a request to Israel Public Security Service asking that Israeli police join a multi-national delegation to Haiti to assist with efforts to rebuild the country after a devastating earthquake earlier in the year. Israeli gladly accepted to offer and for the first time joined an international police delegation.
The Goldstone Report
After Israel’s military operations in Gaza in December ’08-January ‘09, the Human Rights Council called a Special Session entitled “The Grave Violations of Humans Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” and voted to send a mission of “experts” to assess Israel’s alleged human rights violations in Gaza. The mission was led by Justice Richard Goldstone, a South African Jurist as such the report resulting from the investigation was designated “The Goldstone Report.” The report accuses Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza through the deliberate and premeditated targeting of civilians and Gaza’s civilian infrastructure. While there is some discussion of Palestinian actions, including charges that Hamas violated international law as well, the focus of the report and its recommendations is primarily on Israel. The findings of the Goldstone Report were immediately criticized by Israel, the United States, some European and other states and NGO’s.
Despite this international criticism, the Goldstone Report continues to progress through the United Nations system. On October 16, 2009, the Human Rights Council voted to endorse the findings and conclusions of the Goldstone Report. On March 25, 2010, the HRC passed another resolution endorsing the findings of the Goldstone Report and established a new committee to monitor the implementation of the Report by the parties.
On November 5, 2009, the General Assembly passed a nonbinding resolution endorsing the Goldstone Report and recommending that it be referred to the U.N. Security Council and the contracting parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention for further consideration. The resolution called on Israel, Palestinians (Hamas and the Palestinian Authority) and Switzerland (as the depository of the Geneva Convention) to submit reports on their investigations within three months.
In January 2010, Israel submitted a comprehensive report to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon detailing Israel’s intensive process in investigating military-related incidents, and describing the 150 investigations underway into incidents which had occurred during the Gaza operation. The Secretary General reported to the General Assembly that “processes” were “ongoing” and “as such, no determination can be made on the implementation of the resolution by the parties concerned.” On February 26, the General Assembly passed another resolution calling on the parties to submit reports on their investigations within five months.
In July 2010, Israel submitted to the Secretary General its Gaza Operations Investigations: Second Update, another comprehensive report on Israel’s ongoing investigations. The update reported that 47 criminal investigation had been initiated into incidents related to the Gaza operation, which to date has led to a number of indictments and criminal charges, Other investigations have led to military disciplinary action. A number of investigations have been concluded without action taken because no violations were established. Israel also reported that consistent with its process of learning lessons from each military operation, the IDF has implemented procedures to further minimize civilian casualties and damage to civilian property, as well as further limits on the use of munitions which contain white phosphorus.
Both Israeli submissions to the Secretary General have made clear that Israel did not intentionally harm civilians or Gaza’s civilian infrastructure and that any possible abuses by military personnel are being vigorously investigated and, if appropriate, indictments and the strengthening of aspects of the IDF’s military doctrine are being pursued.
Following the Flotilla incident – the May 31, 2010, IDF naval forces interception of six ships enroute to Gaza—a number of UN bodies moved to condemn Israel.
On May 31, immediately following the incident, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the violence and emphasized the need for an investigation. In response, the Security Council issues a Presidential Statement in which they echoed Ban’s call for an investigation. On August 2nd, Ban Ki-moon the establishment of a four-person panel on the incident, to be chaired by former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Geoffrey Palmer, and the outgoing President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, as Vice-Chair, and to include an Israeli and Turkish representative. Israel agreed to participate in this investigation, in the announcement Israeli Prime Minister stated “Israel has nothing to hide. The opposite is true. It is in the national interest of the state of Israel to ensure that the factual truth of the overall flotilla events comes to light throughout the world and this is exactly the principle that we are advancing.”
The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva established its own investigatory committee which was set to begin work in August 2010.
The Bias of the President of the 63rd General Assembly Invades the UN
The 63rd General Assembly was also marred by the actions and comments of the General Assembly President Miguel D’ Escoto Brockmann. Throughout his tenure, Brockmann showed his disdain for Israel. During the General Assembly Debate in September 2008, President Ahmadinejad gave a horrifically anti-Semitic and anti-Israel speech. While many heads of state of foreign ministers walked out of the General Assembly, President Brockmann stood and embraced him. In November, Brockmann attended and spoke at the UN Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and used the podium to disparage and insult the Jewish State, calling Israeli policies a version of the hideous policy of apartheid and called for the international community to boycott Israel.
The following month, Brockmann continued his campaign by attempting to prevent the Israeli Ambassador from speaking when she was to represent the regional group Western European and Others Group at a UN event marking the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Brockmann also took full advantage to use Israel s operations in Gaza as a springboard for another tirade: The behavior by Israel in bombarding Gaza is simply the commission of wanton aggression by a very powerful state against a territory that illegally occupies. The Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip represent Disproportionate military response... (December 27, 2008). As a result ADL called on Brockmann to refrain from speaking at the UN s annual Holocaust commemoration on January 27, 2009.
Bias at the Security Council
Throughout the year, the Security Council issued its annual one sided resolutions dealing with Israel and the Middle East. Furthermore in 2009, during Israel’ s operations in Gaza the statement issued by the Security Council equated Israeli self-defense measures with Hamas terror tactics targeted at Israeli civilians.
The Security Council was also a forum for anti-Israel sentiment and speech in 2008. On April 23, 2008, the Libyan Deputy Ambassador, Ibrahim Dabbashi, compared tactics used by Israel to the Nazi efforts to exterminate the Jews. Significantly the ambassadors from Costa Rica, Belgium, the United States, Britain and France left the chamber in protest after the comments were made. Meanwhile, no member of the Council has used such strong language to condemn the atrocities in Sudan or Myanmar.
Other institutional bias
Often, committees with seemingly innocuous names are hijacked and become forums for anti-Israel sentiment. One example of this is the March 2009 meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women which adopted 6 resolutions. Four of the resolutions were operational, one was about the prevalence of HIV/AIDs and the sixth was entitled Situation of and assistance to Palestinian women which: Expressing grave concern over the increased difficulties being faced by Palestinian women and girls living under Israeli occupation Reaffirms that the Israeli occupation remains a major obstacle for Palestinian women with regard to their advancement, self-reliance and integration in the development of their society, and stresses the importance of efforts to increase their role in decision-making with regard to conflict prevention and resolution and to ensure their equal participation and involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.
In March 2006, the only resolution adopted by the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women condemned Israel for poor treatment of women, while not addressing the poor treatment of women in many of the U.N. s other 191 member states. The fact that Israel’s democratic system ensures gender equality was ignored, as were issues such as the Saudi Arabia s ban against women driving, Jordanian honor killings, genital mutilation in many African countries, and other abuses of women.
While Israel was an active participant in the U.N. International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in August 2006, many Muslim and Arab countries refused to recognize Israel at the convention. In a transparent political move, a group of Arab countries proposed an article to the draft text that purportedly aims to protect the rights of persons with disabilities under foreign occupation. Israel lobbied to keep this phrase out of the final text and called for a vote on the language. When they failed to get the required votes, Israel, recognizing the importance of the document, joined the consensus and the whole to adopt the resolution.
2006 Lebanon War
In general, the U.N.'s handling of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006 focused on Israel, and failed to call Hezbollah to task for its attack on Israeli soil. In addition to one-sided resolutions condemning Israel's military operations and ignoring Hezbollah's aggression U.N., member states took no action to prevent Syria and Iran from supplying Hezbollah with weapons and failed to enforce longstanding international commitments aimed at disarming Hezbollah including the Taif Accords and Security Council Resolution 1559.
Security Council Resolution 1701, passed on August 11, 2006, which temporarily halted the violence, showed some promise but has been poorly enforced. After calling for an international force, member states, particularly those in Europe, were initially reluctant to commit significant numbers of troops and complained of the lack of a mandate for the force in the resolution they authored. Overall, the international community refused to fully acknowledge Israel s right to self defense in the face of an unprovoked attack by Hezbollah across an internationally recognized border.
The Security Council continued to serve as a forum for anti-Israel sentiment and speech in 2008. On April 23, 2008, the Libyan Deputy Ambassador, Ibrahim Dabbashi, compared tactics used by Israel to the Nazi efforts to exterminate the Jews. Significantly the ambassadors from Costa Rica, Belgium, the United States, Britain and France left the chamber in protest after the comments were made. Meanwhile, no member of the Council has used such strong language to condemn the atrocities in Sudan or Myanmar.
Furthermore, in the second of its three special sessions, the HRC adopted a resolution condemning Israel s military actions in Lebanon. The resolution said nothing of Hezbollah s unprovoked attacks on Israel, use of human shields, and blatant violation of Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls for the group s disarmament. The resolution was sponsored by a group of Arab states and passed by a vote of 27-11 with 8 abstentions. Algeria, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Cuba, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Peru, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Uruguay, and Zambia voted for the resolution, while Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland voted against it.