Is Israel a full member of the United Nations can be answered by saying it has been an admitted member since 11 May 1949. However in practice Israel has been denied from full participation that questions the definition of membership.
Let me elaborate on a case from this week. A few questions firstly. Does the United Nations not wish Israel to participate in efforts of “building an inclusive society”? This is a stated goal of both the United Nations and Israel. Is the United Nations as it claims to be a “forum for its members to express their views in the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, and other bodies and committees”?
The United Nations aims and claims that by enabling dialogue between its members, and by hosting negotiations, the Organization has become a mechanism for governments to find areas of agreement and solve problems together. However the following case shows the opposite.
I pose this case and these questions as I am part of group of 35 participants that would have been part of an official Israeli delegation to the United Nations UN-HABITAT World Urban Forum. However the City of Kuala Lumpu in Malaysia won the bid to host the Ninth session of the World Urban Forum (WUF9) now in session in February 2018.
Malaysia and Israel don’t have diplomatic relations. That meant that we couldn’t travel and participate without first applying for visas via the United Nations. The Foreign Office did its best to obtain these visas for the delegation but clearly neither the United Nations nor Malaysia saw it in their interests to be productively responsive.
Yes, the Visas were approved on 5 February. Even if we had attempted to get onto flights within 24 hours, we would have missed the first half of the Kuala Lumpur meeting. Thus we have effectively been denied our right as a member of the United Nations to participate in this UN Habitat event – an untenable paradox given its goal of “building an inclusive society”. So this UN Habitat event was a United Nations (minus Israel) World (minus Israel) Urban Forum.
In being denied our right as a member of the United Nations to participate Israel, through the delegation, wasn’t able to express its views or have a dialogue on demographic issues and was denied the ability to attempt to find areas of agreement and solve problems together with other governments.
Let me explain the significance. The UN-Habitat conference is a global legislative conference organized every 20 years to review and define the urban agenda. Surely Israel should be allowed to be at the fore of participating in such debates that are essential to any local and regional peace process with issues on human settlements, including rapid urbanization and its impact on cities, communities, economies, climate change and policies?
Is it not important for local and regional peace in the Middle East to advocate for and raise awareness on sustainable urban development and to further coordination and cooperation within and between different constituencies?
Clearly neither the United Nations nor Malaysia saw it in their interests to be productively responsive to this. The 35 member Israeli delegation to the Forum would have been similar to that of other states. It would have gathered a wide range of experts from every walk of life: national, regional and local governments, non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, professionals, research institutions and academies, professionals, private sector, development finance institutions, foundations, and the media.
Is this the end of the story? No! I have no doubt that the United Nations is a biased international organization. It is not just the constant criticism of Israel and UN Resolutions against it. In the same line of preventing Israel from participating in this week’s Forum Israel has always been denied entry and participation to United Nations Regional Groups (created 1961). Therefore, Israel cannot participate in UN talks on human rights, racism and a number of other issues. Israel has always been denied the ability to be a member of the Security Council.
And of course the next UN-Habitat World Urban Forum will be in the United Arab Emirates in 2020. Once again as now it will again be in a country with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations. Will the United Nations and the United Arab Emirates please decide as soon as possible if Israel is a full member of the United Nations? I have no doubt that Israel would like to send a delegation to the United Nations UN-HABITAT World Urban Forum in 2020 to discuss and resolve issues with the goal of “building an inclusive society” and indeed onward and upwards in local and regional peace processes.