Israel and Latin America at the UN: A Difficult Relationship

There are areas in which the United Nations has not lived up to the values enshrined in its charter. And in no area is this more visible than in the treatment that this institution gives to the State of Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East.

Israel is criticized at the U.N. more than the world’s most atrocious regimes. Much more than Syria, where dictator Bashar al-Assad killed thousands of his own citizens with chemical weapons; much more than North Korea, where people are subject to enslavement, torture, rape and persecution; much more than the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has the worst rates of abuse against women and girls; and much more than Iran, which hangs its homosexuals and murders its dissidents, in addition to being the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.

The U.N.’s obsession with Israel has reached absurd levels, as exemplified by UNESCO’s adoption, a few months ago, of resolutions ignoring the Jewish people’s ties to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, the most sacred sites for Judaism.

In 2016, the U.N. General Assembly passed 20 resolutions condemning Israel and only six on the rest of the world combined, which is really scandalous. This absurd spectacle is possible due to the automatic majority that the sponsors of these resolutions can get among the diplomats that populate the UN building in New York.

Of all the anti-Israel resolutions passed every year by the General Assembly, three are particularly harmful as they re-authorize, year after year, the financing of:

  1. The Division on Palestinian Rights (DPR)—the Palestinians are the only people in the world who have their own division within the Department of Political Affairs of the UN Secretariat)
  2. The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP)
  3. The Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arab Inhabitants in the Occupied Territories (SCIIHRP)

The main goal of these three entities is to demonize the State of Israel and to question its very right to exist.

In fact, it was at one of the conferences organized by CEIRPP in 2005 in Paris, where an effort began to recruit NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) willing to work on a global campaign of boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. The ultimate goal of the BDS movement is not to improve the living conditions of the Palestinians but to end the existence of the Jewish state, something that clearly contradicts the principles of the U.N. Charter.

And yet, all this harmful anti-Israel propaganda is done in the name of the U.N., is funded by the U.N. and is disseminated through the U.N.’s public information system.

Fortunately, some important voices are beginning to speak up against this injustice.

In his last address to the U.N. Security Council, former Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon denounced the disproportionate number of resolutions, reports and committees against Israel that the U.N. has produced for decades.

Most significantly, Nikki Haley, the new U.S. representative to the U.N., strongly criticized the U.N. Security Council’s animosity towards Israel after her first meeting at this body. Haley rightfully described how a Middle East meeting focused almost exclusively on Israel, instead of addressing the region’s most pressing issues, such as Hezbollah’s illegal operations in Lebanon, Iran’s provision of weapons to terrorists, the need to defeat ISIS and the measures that should be taken against Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

The countries of Latin America have pretty poor records when it comes to their votes at the General Assembly on Israel-related resolutions. In 2016, the United States and Canada voted “against” 18 anti-Israel resolutions. This is how the countries of Latin America voted on those same resolutions:

The countries that make up what we call the Latin American “neo-communist bloc” (that is, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador) voted “in favor” of all of them, and so did Brazil, Chile, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador.

Costa Rica and Uruguay voted for 17; Argentina and Mexico for 16; Colombia and Peru for 15; Guatemala for 14; Panama for 11; Honduras for 5; and Paraguay for 4.

With regard to the three most harmful resolutions, the picture is a little more encouraging. The votes in 2016 divided as follows:

Guatemala voted against the three important resolutions, something unprecedented in Latin America and truly commendable.

Honduras voted against one of these resolutions and abstained on the other two.

Colombia, Panama, Paraguay and Peru abstained on all three (in the case of Paraguay, it is important to highlight its general record since, like Honduras; it abstains on almost all anti-Israel resolutions).

Mexico abstained in two and voted for one (this was a step in the right direction since Mexico used to vote in favor of two).

Argentina, Costa Rica and Uruguay abstained on one and voted for two (as in previous years).

And finally, the neo-communist bloc (Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador) plus Brazil, Chile, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador voted in favor of all three.

It’s worth noting that Chile is the only case in which we can confidently say that its U.N. votes are a reflection of the country’s outlook on Israel (which is heavily influenced by its large community of Palestinian descent). In all the other cases, the votes on Israel reflect the countries’ general political outlook: the closer they are to the neo-communist bloc (which under the leadership of Venezuela has become dangerously close to Iran in recent years), the more they are inclined to vote against Israel.

In this context, it is to be expected that the new governments of the region (many of whom are moving away from populism and showing greater respect for democratic values, as is the cases of Argentina and Brazil) begin to reconsider many of the votes that their diplomats cast at the U.N.

In many cases, there is a tendency among diplomats to keep voting in the same way year after year. This is why it is crucial to alert these new governments on the importance of the anti-Israel resolutions at the U.N., so that they can give appropriate instructions to their ambassadors and make sure their votes truly reflect the country’s position on these important issues.

This post was originally published on the B’nai B’rith website.

About the Author
Adriana Camisar is B’nai B’rith International's Special Advisor on Latin American Affairs. A native of Argentina, Camisar is an attorney by training and holds a Master’s degree in international affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.
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