Israel and the UN: Times are Changing

January 9, 2018

by: Rev. Cheryl Hauer, Associate Editor

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UN Ambassador Haley with PM Netanyahu (Photo credit: Ashernet/gpo.gov.il)

US Ambassador Nikki Haley has put the UN on notice. “There’s a new sheriff in town,” she declares, and no one is happier to hear it than Benjamin Netanyahu and his beleaguered government. As an international organization that was pivotal in the establishment of the Jewish state, it is ironic that the United Nations has become a forum for the delegitimization of Israel, calling her the most egregious offender in the Middle East and the cause of all its ills. Although the United States has been Israel’s staunchest ally in the UN, that support was sometimes tenuous, and certainly wavered under the Obama administration, making Nikki Haley a breath of fresh air and perhaps a harbinger of good things to come.

Reshaping the UN’s Focus

However, before we can understand the magnitude of Ambassador Haley’s approach to the UN body in general, but specifically regarding Israel, we must ask: what happened that turned the UN, an organization that laid the groundwork for the establishment of Israel, into a cesspool of anti-Semitism bent on Israel’s marginalization? Even former Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, a seeming master of understatement, said in a 2013 speech, “Unfortunately…Israel has suffered from bias—and sometimes even discrimination” at the United Nations. He did, however, backtrack a few days later. “No,” he told a reporter who was inquiring about his comments, “I don’t think there is discrimination against Israel at the United Nations.”

History shows that the secretary general was right the first time. The UN record reveals a long-standing hostile and one-sided approach to Israel. In its earliest years, the Cold War was a reality and the world body was dominated by competition between the United States with its Western allies, and Soviet Bloc countries. However, as the number of member nations increased, another alliance was formed. Called the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), it would become the leading bloc at the UN. Its members were former colonies that had recently gained statehood, many of them Arab and other Muslim states, with a decidedly anti-Western, anti-colonialist, anti-American outlook. As the NAM grew in size and preeminence, it reshaped the UN stance toward the Middle East, increasingly placing its focus on the Arab–Israeli conflict. According to the World Affairs Journal, the NAM became the principal instrument for advancing Arab claims and actions against Israel, even lending legitimacy to Palestinian terrorism.

It was under this influence that the UN General Assembly voted in 1974 to invite PLO leader Yasser Arafat to address the august body. Only legitimate representatives of established governments, with the exception of the Pope, had ever received such an honor. The invitation was extended by a vote of 105 to 4. Only the United States, Israel and two Latin American governments were in opposition.

Today the NAM has 119 members, 61% of UN member states. Its largest subset is the Organization of Islamic Cooperation with 56 members followed by the League of Arab States with 21 members. The UN Human Rights Council and UNESCO, who combined have passed hundreds of resolutions against Israel, reflect the influence of the Arab bloc and the NAM. The World Affairs Journal sums it up this way:

“By its countless one-sided resolutions and numerous “investigations” of Israel with predetermined results; by providing a global infrastructure for the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel; and by UNRWA, which sustains the idea of the Palestinian “right of return,” the UN has served systematically to challenge Israel’s legitimacy and weaken its global position—a damaging and malignant role entirely at odds with the UN’s founding purposes.”

She Won’t Run from a Fight

US ambassador to the United Nations, Niki Haley (Photo credit: US Dept of State/wikimedia.org)

 Enter Nikki Haley. She is not at the UN to play, she says, neither will she run from a fight. The daughter of Indian immigrants to the United States, she was elected South Carolina’s governor in 2010 and reelected in 2016. She is a former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives and has proven herself a strong and outspoken leader. Many, however, doubted her ability to be taken seriously in the diplomatic world of the United Nations. “No one in the UN will think that Haley is even someone to talk to who will be either knowledgeable or close to the US president,” said Professor Charles Tiefer of the University of Baltimore. Today the professor is quiet as Ambassador Haley thrives in her position. These days at the UN, she is at the top of the list of diplomats that everyone wants to talk to. Some experts are saying she is the finest US ambassador to the UN in over 50 years.

She has been merciless in her condemnation of the UN—its inaction and failure to live up to its own governing principles. She has threatened to withhold US funding, called out the Human Rights Council for its member countries who are themselves human rights violators and called UNESCO’s actions against Israel disgraceful, so disgraceful in fact, that the United States has now withdrawn its membership. The ambassador added that UNESCO’s “extreme politicization” has become “a chronic embarrassment.” She is a leader who gets results, rallying the UN body to unanimously approve new sanctions on North Korea.

Perhaps most importantly, she has made it clear that the United States will not allow Iran, Assad and Russia to set the path of the Middle East uncontested. She has been relentless in her denunciation of the overwhelming anti-Israel bias that has been business-as-usual at the UN. “The United Nations has bullied Israel for a long time,” she has said, “And those days are over.” The ambassador believes in the UN and its ability to be a force for good in the world. However, that won’t happen, she says, until anti-Israel bias is a thing of the past, and Israel has taken its rightful position as an accepted leader among the nations.

PM Netanyahu remarked on an ancient Jewish tradition that says when you tell the truth, people don’t just hear it, they feel it. “Ambassador Haley is telling the truth and people feel it.” That’s good news for the UN, the US and certainly for the nation of Israel.

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