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The United Nations and Israel

Gentleman's Agreement at the UN

by Anne Bayefsky - December 23, 2002

This year's General Assembly, which ended on Friday, marked a new low in United Nations bias against Jews and the Jewish state. The three resolutions passed in its final days are a disturbing commentary.

On Wednesday, the General Assembly adopted a resolution on Palestinian children. This brings the number of resolutions on the human rights of children to three: one on the rights of the child, one on the "girl child," and one on Palestinian children--the only children in the world subject to the specific concern of a General Assembly resolution.

With its automatic majority on the Palestinian side of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the General Assembly is able to generate large numbers of resolutions critical only of Israel. The resolution focusing only on Palestinian children, however, is a historic first, and it increases the number of General Assembly resolutions directed annually at Israel to 20. Human-rights situations in the rest of the world drew only six country-specific resolutions this year. There were no resolutions on human rights in such countries as Syria, Saudi Arabia or China.

The draft version of the resolution on Palestinian children was adopted on Nov. 15 by the General Assembly's Third Committee (which deals with social, cultural and humanitarian affairs), in the same week that a Palestinian gunman broke into a home on an Israeli kibbutz and shot to death two children--Noam, 4, and Matan, 5--while their mother, Revital Ohayon, tried to hide them under her body. The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, claimed responsibility.

In the past two years, Palestinian terrorists have repeatedly targeted Israeli children. On April 27, gunmen broke into a home west of Hebron, found five-year-old Danielle Shefi hiding under her parents' bed and shot her in the head. On May 9, 2001, Israeli students Kobi Mandell, 13, and Yossi Ish-Ran, 14, were stoned to death and their bodies mutilated in a cave south of Jerusalem. Palestinian suicide bombers have directed attacks at places where children gather, such as buses, discos and pizza parlours.

More than 100 Israeli children have been murdered and 900 wounded or maimed in the past two years alone. The General Assembly resolution, however, neither expressed concern nor made any mention of Israeli children.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Ellen Margrethe Loj, the Danish ambassador to the UN, apologized to the General Assembly for abstaining instead of voting in favour, saying EU states preferred resolutions on country-specific situations to be dealt with under a different agenda item. Only Israel, the United States, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau voted against the resolution. Canada abstained.

Also missing from the resolution billed to help Palestinian children:

· Any reference to the Palestinian Authority's practice of encouraging Palestinian children to participate in the armed conflict, and the Palestinian media's appeal to children to glorify and emulate suicide bombers;

· The endemic anti-Semitism in Palestinian children's textbooks used in schools run by the UN Relief and Works Agency;

· The use of Palestinian children as human shields by terrorists operating from densely populated civilian areas.

Also on Wednesday, the General Assembly adopted a resolution on racism, capping a two-month negotiation over the inclusion of the word "anti-Semitism." For the past four years, a racism resolution has included "anti-Semitism" as a specific subject of study of the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. This year, the reference to anti-Semitism as part of the rapporteur's mandate was deleted. Only the United States, Israel and Palau voted against the resolution. Canada abstained.

Ironically, the deletion was due not only to the 130 developing nations that removed "anti-Semitism" from this year's draft to begin with, but also to the EU. Behind closed doors, Arab states indicated they might accept the word's retention as a matter of specific study of the UN special rapporteur, so long as "anti-Arab" discrimination was also included. The United States and Israel had no objection, but the EU refused -- the same EU that claims to be protecting Arab interests against U.S. hegemony.

On Dec. 13, the Security Council passed a resolution on the Nov. 28 terrorist attacks in Kenya directed at Israelis. Those attacks involved a suicide bombing at a hotel operated by, and catering to, Israelis, and a missile attack on an Israeli civilian airplane. In the case of October's hostage-taking crisis in Moscow, the Security Council adopted a resolution condemning the terrorist attack within 24 hours. In the case of the bombing in Bali, also in October, the Security Council adopted a resolution within 48 hours. But it took the council two weeks of intensive negotiation to adopt the resolution concerning the attacks in Kenya.

The struggle behind the scenes during those two weeks occurred over references to Israel and Israeli victims. The original draft circulated by the United States, for example, read: "Condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist bomb attack against Kenyan and Israeli civilians." The final version omits the reference to "Israeli civilians" and reads, "Condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist bomb attack at the Paradise Hotel in Kikambala, Kenya, and the attempted missile attack on Arkia Israeli Airlines Flight 582."

In addition, while the Security Council resolutions on the Bali and Russian attacks urge co-operation with the Indonesian and Russian authorities in their efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice, the reference to co-operation with "Israeli authorities" was left out of the Kenya resolution.

In theory, the UN Charter proclaims the equality of all persons, and of all nations large and small. When the victims are Jews or the Jewish state, UN practice is quite different.

Anne Bayefsky is an international lawyer and professor of political science at York University. She is a member of the governing board of the Geneva-based UN Watch.

©2002 - Globe and Mail

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