How could Israel ever trust the United Nations?
By Marcus Gee, November 28, 2003.
Liran Zer-Aviv was getting excited about his approaching fourth birthday party
when his family took him out to lunch at a well-known restaurant in the Israeli
city of Haifa last month. As they ate, a young Palestinian woman walked into
the restaurant packed with other families and detonated a suicide bomb. Liran
and his parents were killed. So were his baby sister and his grandmother.
Just days after, far away in New York, Egypt proposed a resolution at the
United Nations General Assembly. The resolution decried the suffering of
Palestinian children at the hands of the Israeli military, but said nothing about
Liran or the scores of other Israeli children killed and maimed by Palestinian
suicide bombers and terrorists.
That gave the Israelis an idea. For years, Israel had sat by as the UN
condemned its various sins; it spoke against all the resolutions aimed at the
Jewish state but seldom if ever proposed any of its own. Every year, the
General Assembly passes about 20 resolutions against Israel, far more than it
directs at any other country.
This time, Israel decided to fight back. It proposed a resolution, its first
since 1976, decrying the suffering of Israeli children in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The Israeli resolution closely matched the wording of the Palestinian one, simply
replacing the words “Palestinian children” with “Israeli children.”
The Palestinians and their allies were outraged. They called the resolution a
dirty trick and used their voting bloc in the assembly to attach amendments that
emasculated it. So, on Wednesday, Israel withdrew the resolution. Israeli
ambassador Dan Gillerman called it “a shameful day for the United Nations, a
sad day for humanity.”
It is hard to disagree with that. The consistent discrimination against Israel at
the United Nations is a dark stain on the reputation of the world body.
Whatever its crimes or misdemeanours, Israel draws far more criticism at the
UN than it warrants. The UN helped create Israel when it passed a resolution
calling for the partition of the Holy Land between Arabs and Jews in 1947. But
at least since 1967, when the Six-Day War changed Israel’s image from victim
to victor, the UN has been consistently anti-Israel.
About a quarter of all the rebukes issued by the UN Human Rights Commission
are aimed at Israel, while dictatorial countries such as Iran are rarely criticized
and countries such as Libya are even invited to chair the body. Until May,
2000, Israel was kept out of the UN system of clubs known as regional
groupings, an exclusion that meant it could not serve on the UN’s most
powerful organ, the Security Council.
As the Israeli government officially complains: “Israel is the object of more
investigative committees, special representatives and rapporteurs than any
other state in the UN system.” At the height of anti-Israeli feeling at the UN, the
General Assembly voted to equate Zionism with racism. Just two years ago, at
a UN conference in Durban, South Africa, the anti-Israel lobby again raised that
All of this has consequences. As a result of its consistent prejudice against
Israel, the United Nations has played no substantial role in the effort to make
peace between Israel and its Arab neighbours. Any time anyone suggests a UN
intervention in the dispute, Israel quite understandably protests. How could it
possibly trust the UN to supervise an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, for
Though Israel’s resolution on children failed in the end, that very failure
brilliantly exposed the UN’s double standard in the Arab-Israeli dispute.
Until last year, UN resolutions on children had always condemned the
suffering of children everywhere, without singling out any particular group.
Palestinian diplomats said they singled out Palestinian children because they
suffer more, under Israeli occupation, than “any other children in the world.”
And, indeed, Palestinian children have suffered severely as the fighting has
But what of the Israeli children? More than 100 like Liran Zer-Aviv have been
killed since the start of the latest Palestinian uprising three years ago. Unlike the
Palestinians, they were often deliberately targeted for death by bombers who
went to places where they knew there would be children, like family
restaurants, pizza parlours and discotheques.
In one infamous case last year, Palestinian gunmen burst into an Israeli
home and killed a five-year-old girl as she hid under her parents’ bed.
By rejecting the Israeli resolution, the United Nations General Assembly has
declared to the world that that girl’s death does not matter. More important, it
has declared once again its deep bias against the state of Israel.