Dina Rovner
Legal Advisor for UN Watch

How the UN Emboldened Hamas

In the wake of the shocking Hamas attack on Israel over the weekend, it is increasingly apparent that the United Nations’ approach of singling out Israel for scrutiny while turning a blind eye to Palestinian terrorism, serves to embolden not only Hamas but also other Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist groups, all of whom share the goal of eliminating the Jewish State of Israel. This approach not only undermines the prospects for peace but also perpetuates a cycle of violence.

By now we have all seen the horrific images of Israelis being massacred along the Gaza border last Saturday—the Jewish Sabbath and what was supposed to be the joyful holiday of Simchat Torah. I learned about it when on my way out the door for synagogue, I was caught off guard by a blaring rocket siren, the first of five that day. Disturbingly, the latest reports indicate that more than 900 people were barbarically murdered—whole families wiped out, with over 2,800 injured, and more than 100 abducted into Gaza as hostages, including vulnerable women, children, and elderly who are now subjected to abuse and torture.

Part of the blame for this tragedy lies in the UN’s actions—or inaction. Just days before the attack, the UN Human Rights Council convened for the third time this year to discuss alleged Israeli violations. The issue here is that these discussions fall under Agenda Item 7, a practice that disproportionately singles out Israel for special scrutiny during each Council session. Nearly 50 countries joined the debate, condemning Israel for various alleged violations while failing to address the issue of murderous Palestinian terrorism or recognizing Israel’s inherent right to self-defense.

Over the past year alone, the UN saw the adoption of three noteworthy anti-Israel initiatives. First, there is the request for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the legality of Israel’s occupation. This request challenges the traditional land-for-peace framework and could result in an unprecedented ruling that Israel must unilaterally withdraw from occupied territories without any reciprocal agreements, thereby emboldening extremists on both sides and undercutting negotiated solutions.

Another concerning initiative is the UN-sponsored commemoration of the Palestinian Nakba, Arabic word for “catastrophe,” held on May 15th. This commemoration officially endorses the narrative that the creation of Israel was a national disaster for the Palestinians. By doing so, the UN undermines Israel’s legitimacy and sovereignty, effectively legitimizing Iranian-sponsored terrorist groups like Hamas, who openly seek Israel’s destruction.

Lastly, the United Nations Human Rights Council called for financial support and resources to sustain the UNHRC’s BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) blacklist targeting companies conducting business in Israeli settlements. This blacklist uniquely demonizes Israel as it hasn’t been established for any other global conflict.

In parallel, Israel faces ongoing Palestinian-led campaigns at the UN, labeling it as an illegal apartheid state deserving of sanctions and boycotts. These include a complaint by the Palestinians before the UN Anti-Racism Committee accusing Israel of apartheid, as well as the UNHRC’s two perpetual one-sided anti-Israel investigations—namely, the three-member Commission of Inquiry led by Navi Pillay and the Special Rapporteur on Palestine Francesca Albanese.

In its report to the General Assembly last October, the Pillay Commission blamed only Israel for the lack of peace, minimized Israel’s security concerns, and determined that “the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory is now unlawful under international law.” In her last report to the Human Rights Council in June, Francesca Albanese expressly defended the Palestinians’ “right to resist” and concluded that Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians were so terrible that they posed a “challenge to the very foundations of the international legal order.”

Both the Pillay Commission and Francesca Albanese will present reports to the General Assembly in the coming weeks which will likely continue this pattern of justifying Palestinian terrorism while rejecting Israel’s security needs.

Not long ago, in March 2019, the UNHRC’s March of Return Commission of Inquiry gave a free pass to Hamas as it condemned Israel’s defense of the Gaza border against the violent weekly clashes spurred by Hamas. The report ignored murderous Hamas incitement and denied that the threat to Israeli civilians in Gaza border communities from a breach of the fence was imminent enough to warrant Israel’s use of force. In chilling social media posts that now seem prophetic, Gaza rioters then called to breach the border, invade Israeli communities, and kill or kidnap Israelis. The UNHRC Commission ignored all of this in favor of a one-sided condemnation of Israel for war crimes.

Unfortunately, over the weekend, we witnessed the tragic consequences of the UN’s persistent legitimization of Iran-backed Palestinian terror at the expense of Israeli citizens’ human rights. It is now incumbent on the UN and its member states to unequivocally condemn Palestinian terrorism and to stand by Israel.

About the Author
Dina Rovner is the Legal Advisor for UN Watch. She maintains the UN Watch database, a powerful digital advocacy tool focused on monitoring and combating anti-Israel bias at the UN. She also appears at the UN and researches and writes legal briefs, submissions, and reports on human rights and the UN's bias against Israel.