David Harris

Bravo, Ambassador Haley!

United Nations member states have had an Israel obsession for a very long time. It’s taken many forms and done countless damage, mostly to the good name of the world body.

What this obsession hasn’t done is advance the prospects for peace by even one inch. If anything, it’s only made that quest more elusive because of the one-sidedness of the approach.

Successive U.S. administrations have tackled the problem, some with more success than others.

Enter Nikki Haley as America’s new UN ambassador.

During the Bush 41 era, the infamous “Zionism is racism” resolution, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1975, was repealed, one of the rare instances in UN history when such a reversal occurred.

In the Clinton years, Israel’s 50-year inability to vie for a UN Security Council seat was ended, when it finally became a member of one of the five regional blocs – the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) – that determine candidacies, after which the Jewish state announced it would run for a seat for the 2019-20 cycle.

In the Obama administration, Israel was able to join the WEOG group in Geneva as well, in addition to becoming a member of JUSCANZ, another important consultative body. Moreover, for the first time in UN history, an Israeli, Ambassador Danny Danon, was elected to serve as chair of one of the six UN General Assembly Main Committees – the Legal Committee – overseeing an important slice of the multinational body’s work.

Each of these steps was critically important, and none came easily. But more remains to be done if the UN is to fulfill its own charter’s commitment to the “principle of sovereign equality” of all member states, large and small.

Israel is the only country in the world – in the world! – with a separate, and permanent, agenda item, #7, at the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.

No other member state, including serial human-rights violators such as North Korea, Syria, and Iran, gets its own agenda item. Only the sole liberal democracy in the Middle East is treated in this blatantly biased manner because that’s the way it works – the bad guys circle the wagons to protect one another, and, at the same time, gang up on Israel, creating an automatic majority against it.

Moreover, Israel is the only country that’s the daily target of three UN bodies established, funded, and staffed solely for the purpose of advancing the Palestinian cause and bashing Israel – the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People; and the Division for Palestinian Rights in the UN’s Department of Political Affairs.

To top it off, Israel is targeted annually by some 20 UN General Assembly resolutions and countless measures in other UN bodies, from the World Health Organization to the Human Rights Council.

Indeed, astonishingly, Israel is on the receiving end of more such efforts each year than the other 192 UN member states combined. No one can seriously argue that this is remotely warranted, but it’s a reality because in every UN body, except the Security Council where the United Sates has the power of veto, it’s all about majority voting.

When close to two-thirds of the world’s nations belong to the Non-Aligned Movement, and when they elected Iran as their chair, followed now by Venezuela, that just about says it all. With the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation as two of the pillars of the group, anti-Israel decisions are a foregone conclusion.

But the fight is not over. In fact, it may have barely begun. To Ambassador Haley’s credit, it didn’t take long to make clear where she, and the administration she represents, stand on the remaining roadblocks to Israel’s full and equal participation in the world body.

In February, she said: “It is the UN’s anti-Israel bias that is long overdue for change… The United States will not hesitate to speak out against these biases in defense of our friend and ally Israel.”

Earlier this month, she slammed a report of the UN’s Beirut-based Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia that maliciously accused Israel of being “guilty of the crime of apartheid.” She called it “anti-Israel propaganda,” and urged that the UN disassociate itself from it, which, to his credit, UN Secretary-General Guterres did.

And when the UN Human Rights Council met in Geneva earlier this week to take up issues under notorious agenda item #7, Ambassador Haley declared, echoing past U.S. policy but hinting at a possibly more aggressive stance: “The United States will not participate in discussions under Agenda Item 7 at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, other than to vote against the outrageous, one-sided, anti-Israel resolutions.”

Ambassador Haley, you have quickly established yourself as a courageous and unbending voice of principle in a setting where the word is more often observed in the breach than as a matter of course by some member states.

May your efforts lead to the changes still needed if the UN is to become the world body that President Franklin D. Roosevelt envisioned when he first lent his support to the noble idea.

Bravo, Ambassador Haley!

About the Author
David Harris is the CEO of the American Jewish Committee (AJC).
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