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From the Editor's Desk, The Canadian Jewish News, March 27,1997

Whether or not one believes that the U.N. will become increasingly more relevant in a world devoid of the competitions of the Cold War, one must still bear in mind that most of the people of the underdeveloped, or, Third World have frequent and a direct contact in their daily lives with at least some department of the many-faceted U.N. bureaucracy.

For most of the people of the earth then, the U.N. enjoys a measure of credibility. It carries a certain prestige other than, simply, the large "cereal box" by the East River in New York where diplomats bargain, posture and exploit their immunity from prosecution by not paying their parking tickets.

As The C.J.N. pointed out last week, on the very day, March 13, that a Jordanian soldier massacred seven Israeli girls and wounded six more, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution by a vote of 130 in favour, two opposed (Israel and the United States), and two abstentions (Marshall Islands and Micronesia) which criticized Israel's decision to build a housing project on Har Choma.

Canada voted with the majority.

Across my desk last week, I received the March 12 draft of the text of that resolution. As far as I know, there were no changes between the draft version and the one which was voted upon the following day. It contents, I believe, would be of interest to C.J.N. readers. I shall therefore excerpt some of it.

There is, of course, a formula, a protocol, in writing U.N. resolutions. The numb of a resolution is at the end. But preceding that nub is always a preamble which provides the background, or describes the "atmosphere" as it were, which led up to the resolution in the first place.

But that atmosphere is always described according to the purposes of the sponsors of the resolution.

Thus for example, we read the following description in the preamble to the resolution. (All commentary is mine and appears in Italics.)

"Expressing deep concern at the decision of the Government of Israel to initiate new settlement activities in the Jebel Abu Ghneim area in East Jerusalem."

The underlining is part of the original text. Notice how the very terms of the debate, such as "new settlement activities," and especially "Jebel Abu Ghneim area in East Jerusalem,"are taken from the Palestinian side. Referring to the project as a "new settlement bring immediate negative associative connotations. There is no reference to the Hebrew name for the him Har Choma, as if it only has an Arab identity. Nor is there a reference to the fact that the vast majority of the land in question was expropriated from Jewish owners who had purchased it in the early 1970s.
"Stressing that such settlements are illegal and a major obstacle to peace."
It is by no means true that the building project, or as the U. N. referred to it, the "settlement is illegal. Nor is it true that it is an obstacle to peace. But the points are included, mantra-like, to set the stage.
"Confirming that legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel which purport to alter the status of Jerusalem, including expropriation of land and properties thereon, are invalid and cannot change that status."
This provision is a direct challenge to the policies adopted by every Israeli government since 1967 regarding the indivisibility of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The four parts of the resolution are:
  1. Calls upon the Israeli authorities to refrain from all actions or measures, including settlement activities which alter the facts on the ground, pre-empting the final status negotiations, and have negative implications for the Middle East Peace Process;
  2. Calls upon Israel, the occupying power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Geneva Convention...which is applicable to all the territories occupied by Israel since 1967;
  3. Calls upon all parties to continue, in the interests of peace and security, their negotiations...;
  4. Requests the Secretary General to bring to the attention of the Government of Israel the provisions of this resolution."
The entire purpose of this resolution was to discredit Israel's reliability as a peace partner, to paint it as actually a threat to peace and to undermine Israel's claim to an undivided Jerusalem.

And yet, Canada chose to support it.

After the vote, undoubtedly somewhat self-conscious at the terrible coincidence of the vote and the Naharayim massacre, Canada officially explained its vote in the following text:

"Canada is deeply saddened and shocked by the attack against innocent Israeli school children today in Jordan and we too extend our condolences to their families. Such deplorable acts of violence must not be allowed to derail the peace process. We believe that maintaining the current peace process is essential and hope the parties will resume negotiations shortly towards the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace based on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338.

"Canada has voted in favour of the resolution just adopted. We would note, however, that both parties involved in the peace agreements have obligations, and we would have preferred to see that reality reflected more fully in the resolution. As Canada noted in its 6 March statement before the Security Council, the construction of a lasting peace requires that all parties refrain the unilateral actions that would prejudice the outcome of final status negotiations. In this regard, it is Canada's view that the recent decision of the Government of Israel to proceed with the construction of an Israeli settlement in Har Choma - Jebel Abu Ghneim undermines the trust that is the very foundation of the peace process. Canada views settlement activity as a violation of international law and as harmful to the peace process."

But in the official record of the proceedings, when people will be interested to look up only the tally, the vote will show 130-2-2.

And they will observe that Canada voted with the majority.

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