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Spurred on by the Arab bloc, the UN General Assembly stoops to a new low

LATE April 1997's "emergency special session" of the United Nations General Assembly, which discussed and then condemned Israel's construction of a new Jewish neighbourhood in Jerusalem, has raised a number of questions about the world body's function and bias.

The session was called under the "Uniting for peace" resolution adopted by the General Assembly in 1950, a formula enabling members "to act in a case where there appears to be a threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression". The formula has only been used 10 times since 1950 . It is unclear how the 93 member states which supported the call for the session felt the building of several thousand apartments in Jerusalem could be seen as falling within that category.

The session was called at the request of Qatar, a member state, but on the prompting and insistence of the Palestinian "observer mission". When an observer mission can instigate a two-day emergency session aimed at lambasting a member, perhaps it's time the pretence be dropped and "Palestine" be acknowledged as a full member--despite the fact no country of that name exists.

Israel's construction of homes in Jerusalem is not a violation of the Oslo Accords (which only prohibits unilateral action changing the status of territory in question--for example, the declaration by the PA of an independent state, or Israel's annexation of the disputed areas). On the other hand, the UN's interference in an issue which should be resolved only between the parties concerned is a violation of the Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

Although the final resolution did not include the PA's demand for economic sanctions against Israel, the fact the PA was not publicly chastised for trying to reinstitute a boycott which blatantly infringes Oslo is noteworthy. (According to Oslo, the PA is committed to economic co-operation with Israel. Furthermore, the PA receives monetary support from Israel.)

The session came at a time when:

  • tens of thousands of refugees in central Africa faced death by starvation or disease as civil war raged in Zaire;
  • hundreds of Algerians, including women and children, were being butchered by Islamists;
  • enslavement of Christians in the Sudan continued;
  • a German court implicated the Iranian regime in sponsoring terrorism abroad;
  • new reports emerged of chemical weapons manufacture by several Mideast states;
  • the Irish Republican Army stepped up its bomb-threat campaign;
  • Albanian anarchy persisted;
  • the civil war and accompanying refugee crisis reached new proportions in Afghanistan; and
  • the separatist struggle in China's Xinjiang province became ever more violent.

With all these, and other, crises to consider, the General Assembly still found no greater "emergency" worthy of its attention than housing in Jerusalem.

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