A Review of the 60th U.N. General Assembly Session
Posted: September 11, 2006
The 60th United Nations General Assembly Session and its year of implementation (September 2005-September 2006) should be noted for some important improvements, a number of dangerous new trends, and an ample amount of classical anti-Israel and anti-Semitic bias at the United Nations. Israel's leadership standing within the U.N. improved with a number of significant appointments, but the Jewish state continued to be singled out for one-sided criticism by way of special sessions and resolutions. The U.N.'s reaction to the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah demonstrated the dangerous implications of the institution's inherent prejudice.
- June—Dan Gillerman, Israel's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, was elected as Vice President of the 60th United Nations General Assembly. The last Israeli to hold the position was Abba Eban in 1952.
- November—The General Assembly passed a resolution establishing January 27 as an international Holocaust Memorial Day. The resolution was sponsored by the United States, Australia, Canada, Russia, and Israel, and was fully supported by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. In January, the General Assembly held a special session marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi concentration camps during which a Holocaust exhibit was on display in the lobby of U.N. headquarters in New York. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan visited Yad Vashem in a show of support.
- May—Israel was appointed to serve on the U.N. Economic and Social Council's committee on non-governmental organizations (NGOs); the four-year term begins January 1, 2007. Additionally, the Israel Women's Lobby was admitted as a recognized NGO allowing it to participate in international conferences and submit reports.
- June—Dr. Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, director of the Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, was elected to a post on the U.N.'s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (UNCEDAW). CEDAW is the U.N.'s premier committee addressing women's rights, and Dr. Halperin-Kaddari's candidacy was supported by 96 member states. Dr. Halperin-Kaddari serves in the Prime Minister's office as Chair of the Advisory Committee to the National Authority for the Advancement of Women.
- August—Under the leadership of Dr. Dina Feldman, Israel's Commissioner for Equal Rights of People with Disabilities, Israel played a significant role in the deliberations at the U.N. International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- October—Iran's rogue president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad presided over a conference in Tehran entitled "The World Without Zionism." Ahmadinejad, known for his denials of the Holocaust said during the conference that Israel should be "wiped off the map." While the United States and several European nations denounced his statements, proper diplomatic actions were not taken by the U.N. Security Council. Ahmadinejad's statements against Israel violate Article 2.4 of the U.N. Charter, which requires that all U.N. member states "refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against territorial integrity or political independence of any state."
- March—The discredited U.N. Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR), known for its history of anti-Israel bias, was replaced by the new Human Rights Council UNHRC). Israel and the United States, among many other member states, voted against the new council citing the ability of blatant human rights violators to be elected to the council and the potential for further anti-Israel bias.
- March—The only resolution adopted by the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women condemned Israel for poor treatment of women, while ignoring the poor treatment of women in many of the U.N.'s 191 member states and the fact that Israel is a democracy that ensures full gender equality. The commission ignored Saudi Arabia, where women cannot drive or travel without permission from a male relative; Jordan, where rape victims are murdered for dishonoring their husbands; the African nations that sanction female genital mutilation; and chronic abusers like China.
- August—While Israel was an active participant in the U.N. International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 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 the article out of the final text and said that despite the great potential of the rest of the document, Israel would not vote in favor if the new article was included.
- August—During Israel's conflict with Hezbollah in July and August, the new U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) showed that its reorganization has done little to remove the biases of its predecessor. In the second of its two special sessions—both singling Israel out and ignoring the world's worst human rights violators—the UNHRC adopted a resolution condemning Israel's military actions in Lebanon. The resolution said nothing of Hezbollah's unprovoked attacks, 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 4 abstentions. Arab, Asian, South American, and African states were joined by Russia, China, and Cuba in voting for the resolution, with the European Union states, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand opposed. A notable disappointing abstention was Switzerland.
- August—In an informal discussion, members of the U.N.'s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) accused Israel of racism in its conflict with Hezbollah. The committee, joining many other U.N. bodies in their criticism of the Middle East's only democracy, ignored the genocidal implications of speeches given by Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, in which he called for the destruction of Israel and said that, "If [the Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide."
- August—The U.N.'s general handling of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah showed the dangerous manifestations of its inherent anti-Israel bias and further undermined its authority as an international mediator. In addition to various one-sided resolutions condemning Israel's military operations and ignoring Hezbollah's vicious tactics and distortion of the truth, U.N. members states continued to allow Syria and Iran to supply Hezbollah with weapons and failed to enforce longstanding international commitments aimed at disarming Hezbollah including the Taif Accords and Security Council Resolution 1559. Member states called for an immediate ceasefire without addressing the greater issues of the region.
Security Council Resolution 1701, which temporarily halted the violence, showed some promise but may go the way of its predecessors: not enforced and ineffective. 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. The disarmament of Hezbollah, demanded once again by 1701, has yet to be enforced. 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. U.N. Secretary-General Annan showed disappointing leadership throughout the conflict.
- Currently, Israel is only allowed to vote as a member of the Western Europe and Others Group (WEOG). Representatives of Israel are still barred from taking part in regional consultations and the country is therefore denied access to its full rights as a law-abiding member of the international community. Secretary-General Annan has acknowledged this injustice but no improvements have been made.
- Iran continues to blatantly ignore the international community, pursuing its nuclear program and rejecting calls from the Security Council to halt its activities and resume negotiations. The U.N. has yet to find a way to contain the development of nuclear weapons by a nation that has called for an end to the Jewish state. Iran continues to violate international demands by arming Hezbollah, and while the conflict in Lebanon may have served as a distraction from Iran's nuclear ambitions, the issue remains unresolved.