From the Editor's Desk, The Canadian Jewish News, Toronto, Ontario, February 18, 1999
Most of us can still recall with abject disdain the way in which, for decades after the Six Day War, the United Nations General Assembly became a bear pit of the nastiest invective and outright anti-Semitism directed at Israel.
The lowest of all low points was reached in November 1975 when the GA passed the infamous and outrageous resolution that equated Zionism with racism.
The resolution was ultimately repealed 16 years later with the advent of the Oslo peace process. The tide of anti-Israel bias seemed to dissipate, diminished somewhat by new bilateral relations being forged by Israel with many of its former enemies. Indeed, for two or three years, an unfamiliar optimism infected Israel's representatives at the United Nations. Their credentials were no longer being routinely challenged and they were being asked to participate in various committees.
But that sense of optimism was short-lived.
In 1995, with the change of government in Israel, the UN General Assembly returned to being, essentially, a reflexive, knee-jerk anti-Israel forum, constantly intervening in bilateral Israeli-Palestinian problems on the side of the Palestinians whenever they asked it to.
Whether the pretext was south Lebanon or Har Choma, there are many recent examples of UN General Assembly's one-sided, retrograde diatribes against Israel.
Last week we witnessed the latest such example. By a vote of 115-2, the UN General Assembly called upon the 188 nations that signed the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 to convene this summer to ensure that Israel complies with its provisions regarding the protection of civilians in the West Bank and Gaza. (Resolution 10/6, February 9, 1999)
Dore Gold, Israel's ambassador to the UN, called the resolution "a vulgar distortion of international humanitarian law for the purpose of narrow political interests."
He understated the case.
If the signatory states do convene to judge Israel, it will mark the very first time they will have done so.
There was no such conference, nor any call for one, when for example, Iraq invaded Kuwait, Vietnam invaded Cambodia, or the former Soviet Union invaded Hungary, Czechoslovakia or Afghanistan. None of these instances of malicious aggression has burdened the conscience of the UN General Assembly quite the way the plight of the Palestinians does.
Moreover, there is a significant legal issue as to whether the Convention protocols even apply to the West Bank and Gaza.
The rightful sovereignty of the area from 1948 to 1967 has not yet been legally settled. Only one country on earth, Great Britain, recognized Jordan's claim to the West Bank after the 1948 war. Even so, it bears remembering that Israel captured the territory while fighting a defensive war.
Finally, adding the last piece of absurdity to the morally inverted world of UN General Assembly, virtually no Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza now live under Israeli rule. More than 95 percent live under Palestinian rule.
The resolution was nothing more than the most recent effort by the Palestinians to prejudice future negotiations over the very issue that was the subject of the hateful resolution, namely the future of the settlements under the Oslo accords.
It is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that the Palestinians have ignored the dispute-resolution mechanism in the accords to embarrass Israel in the international arena.
As if the apparent reversion of the UN General Assembly to the days of the automatic anti-Israel majority of the '70s and the '80s were not worry enough, Canada's active participation in the shameful campaign against Israel last week should offend all decent, fair-minded Canadians.
Canada voted for the resolution, according to Ambassador Michel Duval, "because of our support for its principles." calling "on Israel to accept de jure applicability of the Convention in the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem." (Our emphasis)
To mollify the sense of betrayal, Duval suggested that the use of the emergency special session was not helpful. But it was obviously not so unhelpful that it caused him to reconsider his support for the motion. His expression of regret was hollow and insincere, an insult to the truth.
If Duval truly believed the method of the resolution was "not helpful," and if he truly believed the language of the resolution "will not benefit the peace process," then why indeed did he support it?
The real reason for Canada's affirmative vote, I suspect, owes more to the fact, now that Canada has a seat on the Security Council, that Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy is determined to successfully advance his own "human security" agenda at the UN. He seems to have been quite prepared to "buy" that support. The price however, was further isolation of Israel among member states, further undermining of the Oslo process, and further injury to the advancement of peace in the middle east.
In its role on the Security Council, indeed in its role as our representatives at the United Nations, the Canadian government has a responsibility to truth, to fairness, to justice and to integrity. We are ashamed and disappointed that it opted for expediency instead.