On Friday, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution describing Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal. The United States abstained from the vote, abandoning its longstanding practice of using its veto power to defend Israel against the disproportionate number of UN resolutions brought against it. I agree with the content of this resolution – but I was heartbroken when I heard the news that it had passed. This resolution, which is not backed by any action, will have no tangible effect in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead, it merely lends legitimacy to the toxic international misconception that Israel is the world’s worst human rights violator.
As a progressive Zionist, I believe in self-determination for all peoples, including Israelis and Palestinians. I believe that ending the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank is a necessary step towards a permanent two-state solution. Furthermore, I believe that Netanyahu’s right-wing government should be held accountable for the human rights violations it has committed.
But I’m still opposed to the UN resolution that passed on Friday. As I said, it will have no practical impact on the ground; the UN has no police force or army. Instead, the resolution will contribute to the perpetuation of the anti-Semitic myth that Israel is the world’s worst human rights violator. This is a myth perpetuated by repressive dictators in the Arab world who scapegoat Israel for all of the Middle East’s problems, to avoid taking responsibility for them themselves. These dictators do not care about Palestinian refugees. If they did, they would accept and assimilate these refugees rather than leaving them languishing in refugee camps for generations. Like all authoritarian governments, they need outside enemies to distract from the internal problems of their own regimes.
Since Israel’s inception, the UN has consistently lent international legitimacy to the myth that its human rights violations surpass those of all other countries. More than half of the resolutions criticizing specific countries adopted by the UN Human Rights Council since the body’s creation single out Israel. For the UN General Assembly, the number is 86%. UNESCO annually adopts about 10 resolutions criticizing Israel. They have only adopted one resolution criticizing another country: Syria, in 2013, as dictator Bashar al-Assad laid waste to Syrian cities and destroyed priceless cultural objects in the midst of a civil war.
On Friday, the UN continued its biased demonization of Israel with the adoption of 20 anti-Israel resolutions and 4 resolutions condemning the rest of the world. These four included one each on North Korea, Syria, Iran, and Crimea. North Korea is a dictatorship that puts its own citizens in death camps for political dissent. Syria is ruled by a Russian-backed autocrat who is currently committing genocide on scores of his own people. Iranians and Crimeans live under authoritarian governments that subject their own citizens to torture, arbitrary detention, and other abuses. Israel was the only liberal democracy to be condemned. Other autocratic governments, such as China and Saudi Arabia, were ignored.
When the anti-settlement resolution passed on Friday, applause rang out in the Security Council’s chambers. This applause was not in support of helping the Palestinian people, or even in favor of ending settlements. The UN’s meaningless resolution will accomplish neither of those things. Rather, the clapping was in support of the symbolic value of the United States abandoning Israel on the international stage. The Obama administration’s failure to veto the resolution added credibility to the lie that Israel is the world’s worst perpetrator of human rights violations. The ramifications of this misguided decision will be felt for decades.