From Ha’Am’s Winter Print Edition, “The Divide”
There were 33 countries in favor of United Nations Resolution 181(II), which called for the partition of Palestine into independent Arab and Jewish states. At the time of the resolution, 56 countries were members of the United Nations. The 33 nations to vote in favor of the formation of the Jewish state (along with a Palestinian state) were predominantly Western nations, while the 13 countries who voted against it were exclusively members of the “freedom belt” (i.e., Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan and Egypt). Besides Jordan, which was not yet a member of the U.N., all of Israel’s neighboring states voted against the resolution. And it was these same states (members of the Arab League) that led an invasion against Israel during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, showing that it was not their opposition to a distinct, independent Palestinian State alongside a Jewish State which led their objection; rather, it was a deep seated hatred for the existence of a non-Muslim, Jewish state in the region.
Further evidence comes from King Abdullah I of Jordan’s statement to a French consul on May 23rd, 1948, eight days into the nine-month conflict. He said he was “determined to fight Zionism and prevent the establishment of an Israeli state on the border of his kingdom.” Egyptian diplomat and the first secretary-general of the Arab League, Abdul Rahman Azzam Pasha, stated in a late 1947 report titled “A War of Extermination”:
“I personally wish that the Jews do not drive us to this war, as this will be a war of extermination and momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Tartar massacre or the Crusader wars…. The Arab is superior to the Jew in that he accepts defeat with a smile: Should the Jews defeat us in the first battle, we will defeat them in the second or the third battle … or the final one… whereas one defeat will shatter the Jew’s morale! Most desert Arabians take pleasure in fighting.”
Since then, the United Nations has grown, and the world has seen an increase in voting-member states recognized by the United Nations. From what was once 51 original members, the United Nations has become a 193 member body. Although the size of the U.N. has progressed, its attitudes toward the Jewish state have emphatically regressed. In December 2016, former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a statement addressing the UN Security Council, said that the United Nations has a “disproportionate” volume of resolutions targeting Israel, “foil[ing] the ability of the U.N. to fulfill its role effectively.” Ban continued, “Decades of political maneuvering have created a disproportionate number of resolutions, reports and committees against Israel.”
Much of the integrity of the U.N. has diminished because of its painfully obvious anti-Israel bias. For instance, since its formation in 2006, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has attacked Israel more than every other country combined, which includes North Korea, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other countries generally deemed gross human rights violators. Not only that, but as of 2014, a staggering one-third of the UNHRC’s special sessions have targeted Israel. Perhaps the largest piece of hyper-hypocrisy is that while Syria commits genocide against its own people in places like Aleppo and while Saudi Arabia still sentences women to lashes for “bad language” during private arguments over WhatsApp, they constantly vote against Israel as a human rights violator.
Just in 2016, Ban justified Palestinian terror against Israeli civilians by saying, “it is human nature to react to occupation.” The U.N. women’s rights commission also ignored abusers of women’s rights such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and many others, instead condemn Israel as a violator of women’s rights (the only two countries against the resolution were Israel and the U.S.). The World Health Organization (WHO), which works through the U.N., also singled out Israel as a violator of “mental, physical and environmental health.” And arguably most egregiously, in an epic presentation of not just anti-Israel sentiment but anti-Semitism, UNESCO adopted a resolution that denied thousands of years of Jewish heritage, religion and culture when adopting Islamic-only terms for Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. The United Nations has become a platform on which to scapegoat Israel for the world’s problems — much as the world’s Jews have been scapegoated throughout history.
But beyond 2016, one of the sharpest, most obvious moves of anti-Israel sentiment by the United Nations came with its General Assembly Resolution 3379, which dates back almost 45 years. On November 10, 1975, in a vote of 72 to 35 (with 32 abstentions), the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) determined that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” Labelling Zionism as racism was a blow against Israel’s fundamental legitimacy to exist, regardless of any political border or its own character. Zionism, founded in the late 19th century, is largely considered as a movement for the establishment and protection of a Jewish state and is a reaction to racism and racial discrimination throughout Europe. The move towards this resolution took place a year after UNGA 3237 granted the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) “observer status.” The irony of this is that the countries that sponsored this labeling of Zionism as “racism” were the same countries that expelled their Jewish population after the State of Israel declared its independence. 23 of the 25 countries that sponsored this anti-Zionist legislation were predominantly Muslim, with Sharia Law codified in many of them. And the 35 countries against this resolution were seen to be nations of a mostly Western bent.
UNGA 3237’s decision that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination” was eventually revoked in 1991 by U.N.GA 46/86, after Israel made its revocation a condition of its participation in the Madrid Peace Conference that same year.
So, the question to ask is, why does the United Nations, as Ban expressed in Jerusalem August 2013, suffer “bias—and sometimes even discrimination” from the United Nations? The answer dates to the Cold War, when the U.N. was dominated by a political competition between Eastern and Western voting blocs. By 1968, while the U.S. was still fighting Communism in Vietnam, the United Nation’s rolls increased to 126 member states — up from 82 in 1957. Many of these new member states were recent former colonies who rightfully won their independence as nation-states. Together, these new member states formed what became the leading bloc at the U.N., the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
The states that composed of the Non-Aligned Movement were, at least officially, not formally aligned with or against either West or East power bloc. During the Havana Declaration of 1979, Fidel Castro famously said that the purpose of the organization is to ensure “the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries” in their “struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony as well as against great power and bloc politics.” Simply put, the NAM was anti-colonialist. Because of its goals, the bloc was (and in many ways, still is) inherently the anti-Western party of the United Nations. Due to its sheer size, the NAM reigned dominant. With President Nasser of Egypt among its most vocal leaders and with the many Arab and other Muslim states among its members, NAM’s role in reshaping the body’s stance toward the Middle East and its central “conflict” was of vital importance.
As of today, there are 120 members in NAM, characterizing nearly two-thirds of the United Nation’s members. The only European country in NAM is Belarus, a country characterized by blatant political and economic corruption. Of the 120 members and 17 observers of NAM, a clear majority of them have vehemently and disproportionately opposed Israel in a countless number of resolutions. Due to NAM’s own self-interest, criticizing their own countries has become in-between rare and invisible, while rushing to criticize Israel, the “issue” in the Middle East, has become ubiquitous, expected and trite. When judging NAM, however, it is important to ask: If NAM were to be as prominent in 1948, would United Nations Resolution 181(II) have ever passed? Would there be U.N. recognition of the State of Israel? Or does historical precedent show that NAM would have vehemently opposed the right of a Jewish state from ever existing?