Anne Bayefsky
International human rights lawyer

Biden Administration Weaponizes the UN Security Council

UN Security Council, New York

On Friday, March 22, 2024, the UN Security Council met to debate a US sponsored resolution that would have thrown Israel under the bus. Ironically, Russia, China, and Algeria – on behalf of the “whole Arab world” in its words – vetoed the resolution. But make no mistake: the Biden administration’s efforts to use the United Nations to threaten and bully Israel in its time of enormous need, and in the context of the global rise in antisemitism – including across the United States itself – will continue. During the meeting, France promised a new resolution, which will undoubtedly be even more aligned with Arab demands. With this American initiative, the Biden administration has teed up an even worse result. Simply put, it sent the message that the United States is willing to use the UN to undermine the safety, security and human rights of the people of Israel.

Here is some of what the American-led resolution tried to do:

  1. The resolution is an attempt to reverse decades of bipartisan understanding in the United States that the way to solve the Israeli-Arab conflict is through direct negotiations and mutual recognition of the legitimacy of the other – including acceptance of the Jewish state – and not by UN fiat.
  2. It does not state that Hamas is a terrorist organization. On the contrary, it explicitly refuses to do so. In its “operative” portion, as opposed to the less weighty and less important preamble, the resolution refers only to “Hamas and other armed groups.” Its preamble refers to “Hamas and other terrorist and armed extremist groups.” The maneuver was intended to avoid any UN statement that Hamas is a terrorist group – which we know without a doubt because previous drafts of the US resolution said “Hamas and other terrorist groups.”
  3. It says that the goal is an “immediate” ceasefire and not an immediate release of the hostages. The very first key “operative paragraph” says: “Determines the imperative of an immediate and sustained ceasefire…” and “supports ongoing international diplomatic efforts to secure such a ceasefire in connection with the release of all remaining hostages.” The word “immediate” appears nine times in the resolution – but never in relation to the release of the hostages. This is even more astounding, since this is an American-led resolution, with American hostages in Hamas hell-holes. The only immediacy the administration demands for the hostages is this: “demand that Hamas and other armed groups immediately grant humanitarian access to all remaining hostages.”
  4. The Biden resolution embodies the central lie that a ceasefire before destroying Hamas and its capacity to butcher Jews is a net gain for anybody but Hamas and company. It says: “Demands the imperative of an immediate and sustained ceasefire to protect civilians on all sides.” An immediate ceasefire doesn’t protect Jews at all. It guarantees a failure to protect Jews. It also doesn’t protect Palestinian civilians from Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups who prefer the ongoing use of Palestinian civilians as human shields.
  5. The Biden resolution weaponizes the United Nations Security Council and its armchair generals to order Israel – a country going to extraordinary lengths to conduct itself in compliance with the laws of war – how to defend itself against a lethal invasion by a genocidal enemy. The resolution alleges that “a ground offensive into Rafah” would be wrong – because it “would result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement” – and that result would be Israel’s fault. Not the fault of the United Nations for impeding the creation of safe zones; not the fault of Egypt for preventing fellow Arab civilians from taking temporary refuge across the border with Gaza; and not the fault of Hamas which deliberately puts civilians in harm’s way. Instead, Israel’s exercise of its right of self-defense should be subject to a UN veto.
  6. It “demands” a so-called “maritime corridor” into Gaza but has no caveats and zero assurances of such a corridor’s safety and security for the people of Israel. This is an astonishing breach of the decades-long, fully legal, Israeli blockade of Gaza on the Mediterranean coast, in place because Iran and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat attempted to create an Iranian arms channel by sea. Now the Biden administration is teaming up with the United Nations to seize control over maritime access to Gaza.
  7. It contains the perverse moral equation between the democratic state of Israel and the Palestinian terrorists whose very reason for being is to murder Jews using every hideous method imaginable. The resolution repeatedly adopts a sickening artifice of neutrality by directing its orders to “all parties.” For instance, the Biden resolution says: “…demand that all parties to the conflict comply with their obligations under international law, including…the protection of civilians.” Hamas exists to harm civilians. Its Charter dedicates the terrorist organization to the violation of international law. This is like adopting a resolution calling on Osama bin Laden and the United States to comply with their obligations under international law. Such a framing of the conflict isn’t harmless nonsense – it is confounding, misleading and dangerous.
  8. The Biden resolution supports the despicable Palestinian claim that there is a legitimate and morally defensible comparison between hostages and convicted murderers in Israeli prisons. It “demands that all parties comply with their obligations under international law in relation to all persons they detain…and respect the dignity and human rights of all individuals detained.” The idea makes the release of the hostages less likely by fueling the demands of the kidnappers and extortionists.
  9. The resolution responds to the undeniable evidence of UNRWA’s ties to Hamas with support for UNRWA. It “stresses the key role of all UN humanitarian agencies.” Far from condemning UNRWA, it talks about the need “to assess whether UNRWA is doing everything within its power to ensure its neutrality.”
  10. The operative part of the resolution does not “condemn” Hamas. Only the preamble mentions “condemning all acts of terrorism, including the Hamas-led attacks of October 7, 2023.” There isn’t any doubt that the resolution could have done so – since the operative part contains “condemnation in the strongest terms of the attacks carried out by the Houthis on vessels in the Red Sea and its demand that they cease immediately.” So when it comes to commerce, no problem. Israeli lives don’t carry the same weight.
  11. The American-led resolution never mentions the terror tunnels. It never mentions Hamas’s incessant rocket attacks. It focuses on humanitarianism as if that’s all about Gazans and not the hundreds of thousands of Israelis displaced for the last five months, an Israeli economy under siege, or the suffering of an entire society whose fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters are forced to risk their lives every day before an enemy that cares nothing for human dignity.
  12. The Biden administration does manage to “condemn” in an operative paragraph Israeli “government ministers” for alleged “resettlement of Gaza” plans – which the Israeli government has expressly denied. By contrast, it does not condemn anywhere the vicious, violent antisemitism continuously espoused by Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, or the vast majority of Palestinians who support October 7th.
  13. The resolution concludes by having the audacity to shove a solution down Israel’s throat that is guaranteed to mean more war and more suffering: “stresses the importance of unifying the Gaza Strip with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.” That is the same Palestinian Authority that literally pays Palestinians to kill Jews – including the October 7th attackers – through its pay-to-slay law.

Having set the bar so low, the next resolution will be worse. And the Biden administration will use the threat of withholding an American veto over Israel to extract whatever new demands are concocted to deny the state of Israel its lawful right of self-defense despite an existential peril.

Another draft resolution, proffered by some of the elected members of the Security Council, that demands an immediate ceasefire is on the table behind the scenes. The Hamas diplomatic corps at the UN, headed by Palestinian UN representative Riyad Mansour, have expressed their enthusiasm.

The Biden administration has already allowed two Security Council resolutions since October 7th in November and December, neither one of which condemned Hamas’s October 7th attack. Capitulating on this score in the next round, either to appease Palestinians or to avoid another Russian and Chinese veto, is all too possible.

About the Author
Professor Anne Bayefsky is the President of Human Rights Voices and the Director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust.
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