Nearly halfway through his address to the U.N. General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood silent. The 44 seconds pause was powerful, coming immediately after he had rebuked the world body’s members for ignoring Iran’s threats to wipe his country off the face of the earth.
“Seventy years after the murder of six million Jews, Iran’s rulers vow to destroy my country, murder my people, and the response from this body, the response from nearly every one of the governments represented here has been absolutely nothing, utter silence, deafening silence,” Netanyahu said.
The General Assembly last year adopted 20 resolutions against Israel, and only one about Syria.
Israel is the only one of 193 U.N. member states that is threatened, constantly with obliteration by another U.N. member state. The United Nations has failed to censure Iran for this outrage. Further, over decades most U.N. member states have methodically singled out Israel for condemnations. No other country is treated this way.
For example, the General Assembly last year adopted 20 resolutions against Israel, and only one about Syria. Netanyahu rightly called on the United Nations “to finally rid itself of the obsessive bashing of Israel.”
This bias is most pronounced at the Geneva-based Human Rights Council. It has issued more condemnations of Israel than of all other U.N. member states combined. Most egregious is the council’s agenda Item 7, which subjects Israel to permanent indictment. Israel is the only country so segregated, while human rights violations by all other countries are considered, at least in theory, under another agenda item.
The struggle to protect human rights has been repeatedly hijacked by countries with little regard for human rights and whose primary goal is to distract attention from themselves, some the worst perpetrators of abuse, and advance anti-Israel agendas.
Thus, countless victims of human rights violations have been suffering due to obsession with Israel. There is no separate agenda item regarding the more than 250,000 Syrians killed in that country’s war, or the 120,000 North Koreans held incommunicado in secret political prison camps, or the 66 percent of Iranian women who have suffered domestic violence. And the list goes on.
Endemic U.N. bias against Israel makes no sense. It contravenes the U.N. Charter, which states: “The Organization is based on the principle of the equal sovereignty of all its Members.”
Further, the United Nations helped create Israel. The General Assembly adopted the 1947 Partition Plan, dividing British-controlled Mandatory Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. Israel declared independence in 1948, and became the 59th U.N. member state in 1949.
However, the Arab world rejected the partition plan, effectively leaving a planned independent Palestinian state stillborn. Ever since, the 21 nation Arab bloc, 57 member Organization of Islamic Cooperation and 120 nation Non-Aligned Movement, together comprising 65 percent of U.N. member states, habitually bully Israel. Regrettably, others, including democratic nations that should know better, join in this pileup.
It’s time to end this outrage. Governments must speak out unequivocally and take action with conviction to right this historical wrong. On the day when Presidents Obama, Putin and other world leaders addressed the General Assembly, yet barely mentioned Israel at all, my organization launched a campaign calling on world leaders to end the longstanding bias against Israel.
Our ad in the Wall Street Journal, “How the UN Divides the World,” lined up 192 U.N. member states on the left-hand side of the page and Israel alone on the right-hand side. This is exactly how the U.N. system treats Israel. A related website, UNjustUN.org, provides resources to rectify this gross injustice.
Whether to uphold the U.N.’s founding principles, to really focus on victims of human rights abuses, or to recognize the moral outrage of this absurdly unjust treatment of Israel, the status quo is no longer acceptable. Netanyahu’s clarion call should not be the last word.
Brian D. Siegal is director of the American Jewish Committee’s Miami and Broward Regional Office.