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The United Nations and Israel

The Scapegoat

By Harris O. Schoenberg - July, 27 2001
The adversaries of the United States like to speak of the United Nations as a "Yanqui stadium." Given current low enthusiasm in official Washington for the UN, a US effort to dominate the world body is not likely to come any time soon. Nor would such an effort be easy, for these days the US is quite unpopular in UN circles. The current administration has come out against nearly every global initiative supported by the UN in recent years, including the Kyoto Protocol on the environment, the International Criminal Court, and a variety of weapons control treaties. And the US still has not paid up its back dues.

These developments hardly endear Washington to other governments. What is happening as a result reminds this author of the worker who, yelled at by his boss, goes home and yells at his wife. When the member states of the UN get upset with the United States, but are afraid to strike back directly, they frequently go after Israel, and by extension the Jewish people, and use them as scapegoats.

In the minds of the bigots, there is a certain logic to this reaction, for the Jews, they claim, are the people who run the United States. As Ugandan president Idi Amin once told a wildly cheering UN General Assembly, "the United States of America has been colonized by the Zionists who hold all the tools of development and power. They own virtually all the banking institutions, the major manufacturing and processing industries and the major means of communication; and have so much infiltrated the CIA that they are posing a great threat to nations and peoples which may be opposed to the atrocious Zionist movement. They have turned the CIA into a murder squad to eliminate any form of just resistance anywhere in the world." A few weeks later the UN General Assembly adopted the Zionism-equals-racism libel.

When that resolution equating Zionism with racism and racial discrimination (known as the Z-equals-R libel) was adopted by the assembly on November 10, 1975, many UN observers believed that it was not just Israel that was under attack. Rather, Israel was a stalking horse for the United States. A Latin American ambassador told a respected UN correspondent, just after the assembly vote, that "Arab propagandists have been working very hard and very successfully to sell us Latins a big cargo of anti-United States grudge under a flag of convenience, Zionism."

This phenomenon is decidedly at work once again in the preparations for the World Conference Against Racism that is scheduled to open in Durban, South Africa, on August 31. A number of states that are even more hostile to the US than to Israel are leading a crusade to revive the Zionism-equals-racism libel, and they are proposing an action program to combat Zionism.

When governments consider how they are going to vote, they might want to keep in mind the harm which the revival of such a calumny is likely to cause the UN and its objectives. The original Z-equals-R resolution tore apart the coalition fighting real forms of racial discrimination and set back the UN struggle against racism by confusing the issue.

It not only encouraged tolerance for anti-Semitism, but prepared the way for defending international terrorism as a form of punishment or legitimate struggle. It also seriously eroded public support for the UN. Indeed, it gave the UN such a bad reputation in the United States that Congress began to withhold the payment of hundreds of millions of dollars.

If the member-states go to Durban in August and vote for a new Z-equals-R libel, the UN this time could suffer much more. And as UN former under-secretary-general Sir Brian Urquhart pointed out in his memoirs, A Life in Peace and War, the resolution was a "piece of mindless and counterproductive provocation" which harmed the UN "without in any way helping the Palestinians."

Before leaving his post in New York, one of the most astute of UN permanent representatives, Ambassador Tommy Koh of Singapore warned his Third World colleagues, as they were then called, against abusing their voting power. UN resolutions, he said, have an impact on world opinion as long as they are regarded as expressing the decent opinion of mankind. But, when the majority abuses its power by ramming through untrue, unprincipled, and inflammatory resolutions, the world stops regarding the UN as its common jury and the small and weak countries lose their forum.

(The writer is the founder and current chairman of the United Nations Caucus of Jewish Non-Governmental Organizations. He was appointed by President George W. Bush to the United States Commission on Improving the Effectiveness of the United Nations.)

©2001 - Jerusalem Post

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