UN

12 Apr

I just checked out of a hotel overlooking the United Nations and I must say the building looks a lot smaller and shabbier than it did when I visited in 40 years ago.

Now I know relative sizes have changed since I stopped Trick-or-Treating for UNICEF, and that the UN maintains many newer facilities well beyond New York’s East River. Still, this change in perception seemed symbolic, given the outsized role the UN plays in dealing with (some would say perpetuating) the Arab-Israeli conflict.

After all, if you scratch the thick layer of excusesthat encrust a BDS advocate, it won’t take long for them to site UN resolutions as one of the top reasons why they seem to focus all of their “humanitarian” advocacy solely on Israel, ignoring the long list of human-rights-abusing nations whose crimes dwarf even the worst S&M fantasies they project on the Jewish state. “Once those nations are declared in violation of umpty-ump UN resolutions,” they claim, “then we’ll take to the streets to protest them too.”

Putting aside the unprovability (and dubiousness) of such a claim, notice how it takes for granted that UN resolutions are somehow the product of impartial, planetary justice and reason, as though UN decisions descend from Mount Olympus representing nothing less than the conscience of the world.

Such an assumption flies in the face of the fact that UN resolutions (like the UN itself) are not the product of God but of man (or, more particularly, of the nation states which make up the organization). And given that the “voters” in the UN General Assembly (which mimics democratic parliaments) or the Security Council (which mimics a democracy’s executive branch) are nation states themselves, a majority of which are non-democratic, then we are left with an institution in which world leaders – not the world’s populace – make the decisions which end up being embodied by UN votes and decrees.

How this manifest itself in the real world can be seen most clearly in the ghastly and Orwellian UN “Human Rights Council” in which Libya gets to vote for the Goldstone Report and Syria may have a say in whether or not it is rescinded (assuming they can spare leaders from their important current work of shooting their own people in the head in order to vote for the anti-Israel resolutions making up 80-90% of the organization’s output).

But even in less charged, more routine committees, the way decisions get made at the United Nations would look ugly, even in comparison to the making of sausage, with a dynamic looking something like this:

* Votes in the General Assembly are by majority (meaning 20+ Arab states and 50+ Islamic states will generally get their way against the one Jewish one). This dynamic is supplemented by bloc voting in which large national blocs – like the Arab states – can keep countries like Israel out of their club (in violation of UN rules), excluding Israelis from critical committee positions.

* Because the Security Council is the only place where actual action can be decided, this frees countries (such as the “non-aligned” nations of Asia and Africa) to vote for Arab bloc resolutions, as well as freeing European countries to abstain (and thus not put their Middle East business interest at risk), knowing that a US veto will curb any General Assembly excesses.

* Once the kabuki drama of General Assembly (or GA committee) condemnation of Israel followed by an American Security Council veto plays out, Israel’s condemners cry out for a more “even-handed” US approach to “international opinion,” (ignoring the decidedly un-even handed behavior that led to the original vote the US had to veto)

* Wash, rinse, repeat (endlessly)

Now unsavory compromise often accompanies truly democratic debate (as even local town meeting decisions will attest). But when this type of splitting the differences takes place in the context of a league where democracies must make compromises with dictatorships, UN decision-making starts to resemble what one writer referred to as the “Wine-and-Feces” phenomenon whereby a tablespoon of wine will not improve a barrel of dog excrement, but a tablespoon of crap will certainly spoil a barrel of wine.

And so the United Nations (particularly the machinery that is supposedly dedicated to the championing of human rights) becomes a private fief for illiberal regimes dedicated to raining calumny on one small UN member while ensuring that their own crimes are never examined, much less discussed.

This dynamic, which today corrupts nearly every aspect of what people claim to represent the world’s “human rights community,” should be most troubling to those who truly wish for some kind of global governance and international legal regimen whereby nation states will subordinate their own interest for the global good. For if the mechanisms whereby decisions regarding who is and who is not violating international “human rights” norms have been subverted to serve the narrow interests of a powerful group of states, doesn’t that turn the global dream of universal rules and regulation into a joke at best, a nightmare at worst?

15 Responses to “UN”

  1. Ben April 12, 2011 at 3:17 pm #

    Great analysis as usual, and I have an anecdote related to the facts about Arab states blocking Israel from joining the Asian (Regional) Group at the UN. When Jerusalem sought to join the Western European and Others Group–a process that was tied up by Spain and France for years before breaking through in 2000 and 2004–a prominent neo-Nazi called WEOG a motley group of also-ran nations such as the U.S. (a WEOG observer by choice) and Canada (a WEOG member). Within a few years, he was thrown out of both countries after desperately trying and failing to convince them that they were discriminating against him for being a Holocaust-denial acolyte of Hitler, and he spent several years in another WEOG country's prison system (Germany). You don't have to be a Nazi to trip over your own pea brain while failing to defend the UN system, but the hypocrisy there is an example of what goes on with just about every story that involves both Israel and the UN.

  2. Anonymous April 12, 2011 at 11:50 pm #

    Are we looking at the same resolutions? Take a look at the sampling below. Don't see many votes in favor of Israel from anyone including France and England that are permanent members

    Resolution 111: The Palestine Question (January 19, 1956) ” … 'condemns' Israel for raid on Syria that killed fifty-six people”.
    For: 11 Abs.: 0 Against: 0

    Resolution 171: The Palestine Question (April 9, 1962) ” … determines flagrant violations' by Israel in its attack on Syria”.
    For: 10 Abs.: 1 Against: 0 (France abstained)

    Resolution 237: Six Day War June 14, 1967) ” … 'urges' Israel to allow return of new 1967 Palestinian refugees”.
    For: 15 Abs.: 0 Against: 0

    Resolution 248: (March 24, 1968) ” … 'condemns' Israel for its massive attack on Karameh in Jordan”.
    For: 15 Abs.: 0 Against: 0

    Resolution 252: (May 21) ” … 'declares invalid' Israel's acts to unify Jerusalem as Jewish capital”.
    For: 13 Abs.: 2 Against: 0 (Canada/US abstain)

    Resolution 298: (September 25, 1971) ” … 'deplores' Israel's changing of the status of Jerusalem”.
    For: 14 Abs.: 1 Against: 0 (Syria abstain)

    Resolution 452: ” … 'calls' on Israel to cease building settlements in occupied territories”.
    For: 14 Abs.: 1 Against: 0 (US abstain)

    Resolution 465: ” … 'deplores' Israel's settlements and asks all member states not to assist Israel's settlements program”.
    For: 15 Abs.: 0 Against: 0

    Resolution 471: ” … 'expresses deep concern' at Israel's failure to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention”.
    For: 14 Abs.: 1 Against: 0 (US abstain)

    Resolution 476: ” … 'reiterates' that Israel's claim to Jerusalem are 'null and void'”.
    For: 14 Abs.: 1 Against: 0 (US abstains)

    Resolution 497 (17 December 1981) decides that Israel's annexation of Syria's Golan Heights is 'null and void' and demands that Israel rescinds its decision forthwith.
    For: 15 Abs.: 0 Against: 0

    Resolution 605: ” … 'strongly deplores' Israel's policies and practices denying the human rights of Palestinians.
    For: 14 Abs.: 1 Against: 0 (US abstain)

    Resolution 607: ” … 'calls' on Israel not to deport Palestinians and strongly requests it to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention.
    For: 15 Abs.: 0 Against: 0

  3. Anonymous April 13, 2011 at 12:02 am #

    Israel receives $3.2 billion from the US each year (estimate is probably too low) and Israel has a population of 7.4 million; that amounts to $432 paid each year to every man, woman and child in Israel by the US taxpayers.

    Given the US economic climate and rate of unemployment, the huge debate surrounding the US debt and its detrimental impact on the average American, this is preposterous.

    And please don't give me the worn out excuse of “Israel buys US weapons with this money so it is good for the US”. The US can do much better with this $3.2 billion each year.

  4. Ben April 13, 2011 at 1:27 am #

    Not sure why France and England were specifically mentioned as non-supporters of Israel on the UNSC when A) they were not mentioned as supporters and B) the fact that Paris and London rarely use their veto on anyone, and that Jerusalem doesn't expect or lobby them to use it on their behalf, is widely known. Also worth noting: this piece noted that the U.S. usually vetoes ridiculous anti-Israel resolutions with its permament member UNSC veto. It didn't say that the U.S. ALWAYS does so, but I think anyone who actually took the time to read this would notice that.

  5. Anonymous April 13, 2011 at 4:32 am #

    Jon:

    Just wondering if you have ever travelled to Israel, visited the occupied territories, been to other nations in the ME, lived in the region, or for that matter lived anywhere outside of the US? I'm afraid your understanding of the issues is shallow and rather Israel centric.

  6. Jon April 13, 2011 at 1:19 pm #

    I can't tell if the resolutions commented on above were meant to support or counter my arguments, but given their sheer number (and the fact that they have taken place for decades during which millions have died to the silence of these same UN critics), I belive the phenomenon I describe regarding the dynamics of UN votes on the issue pretty much stands. The fact that the UN vetos these resolutions almost universally simply proves this out (they would have nothing to veto if such lopsided resolutions didn't exist in the first place, after all).

    Regarding my travels, while I have traveled to Israel and lived abroad in the past, I suspect that your metric for being worldly boils down to whether or not someone agrees with your political opinions. Which is why I choose to let my opinions stand or fall on their own merits, rather than dwell on the personal history of myself or others.

  7. Anonymous April 13, 2011 at 11:55 pm #

    The veto is exercised when any permanent member — the so-called 'P5' — casts a “negative” vote on a 'substantive' draft resolution. Abstention, or absence from the vote by a permanent member does not prevent a draft resolution from being adopted.

    Resolution 636: ” … 'deeply regrets' Israeli deportation of Palestinian civilians.
    For: 14 Abs.: 1 Against: 0 (US abstains)

    Resolution 641 (30 Aug 1989): ” … 'deplores' Israel's continuing deportation of Palestinians.
    For: 14 Abs.: 1 Against: 0 (US abstain)

    Resolution 672 (12 Oct 1990): ” … 'condemns' Israel for “violence against Palestinians” at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount.
    For: 15 Abs.: 0 Against: 0

    Resolution 681 (20 Dec 1990): ” … 'deplores' Israel's resumption of the deportation of Palestinians.
    For: 15 Abs.: 0 Against: 0

    Resolution 726 (06 Jan 1992): ” … 'strongly condemns' Israel's deportation of Palestinians.
    For: 15 Abs.: 0 Against: 0

    Resolution 799 (18 Dec 1992): “. . . 'strongly condemns' Israel's deportation of 413 Palestinians and calls for their immediate return.
    For: 15 Abs.: 0 Against: 0

  8. DrMike April 14, 2011 at 3:46 am #

    yet during the Iran Iraq war, when hundred of thousands of Muslims (both Arab and Iranian) were killed, including by use of chemical warfare, the most the Security Council did was condemn the “use of” chemical weapons (UN Security Council Res 620) , but did not condemn the government of Iraq for deploying those weapons.

    thanks for helping make the point so clearly, Anon.

  9. Anonymous April 14, 2011 at 8:41 pm #

    Not only did the UN do nothing about it, but the US, which supported Iran for decades, turned against Iran and actually provided valuable intelligence to the Iraqis in this war. Remember the photo of Saddam with Rumsfeld? Prior to supporting the Shah (from 1953 until 1979) the US, with the help of the CIA, overthrew the democratically elected government of prime minister Mossadegh in Iran in 1953.

    The Iraq war, based on the fully documented lie that Iraq had WMDs, was another US misadventure pushed by the neocons of the Bush administration (remember Paul Wolfowitz?) who found an Iraqi puppet in Mr. Chalabi.

    The UN is a world body with close to 200 member states. Such a a large organization will inevitably be bureaucratic, political, corrupt, and quite powerless. But as we all know too well, powerful democracies like ours here in the good old US of A have committed numerous atrocities around the world without ever having the interest of the local populations in mind or ever having to be accountable to anyone, including the UN.

    Are you trying to tell me that when the US vetoed the most recent UNSC resolution regarding the settlements, despite the fact the wording of this resolution was identical to the stated policy of the US, that was not shameful and corrupt? Who do you think was behind that veto? Another shameful and corrupt organization called AIPAC.

  10. Jon April 15, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    UN resolutions are a difficult metric for BDSers, especially in a discussion over the absurdly lopsided number of General Assembly resolutions aimed at Israel vs. every other country on the planet. On the one hand, they would like to use this number of UN condemnations as proof for the justice of their cause. At the same time, listing them out (as many critics of Israel have been doing here in the comments section) only further bolsters the case that the UN has become a place where wealthy and powerful countries (many of which are the great human rights abusers on the planet) get their way in keeping Israel permanently on the “human rights” agenda, and themselves permanently off.

    The last commenter highlights that the US is another example of a country which does not let Security Council resolutions condemning them go unvetoed. But then again, every permanent member of the Security Council plays the same game, including decidedly undemocratic China.

    So far, everything that’s been said here in the comments section only bolsters my description of the way decisions get made at the UN with the General Assembly turned into a permanent star chamber attacking one country that does their thing (to the cynical acceptance or abstention of everyone else) knowing that any excesses will be curbed by a US veto in the Security Council.

    I will be willing to entertain a discussion regarding US “even-handedness” in this process only when someone else acknowledges the absurd lack of even handedness that takes place at every step of the process before a Security Council veto becomes necessary.

  11. Anonymous April 16, 2011 at 7:19 pm #

    Nobody is waiting for you and your Israel centric blog to “entertain” a discussion of the US evenhandedness …. that discussion has been taking place for a long time all over the world. You just need to take the zionist blinders off to see for yourself.

  12. Jon April 17, 2011 at 7:54 pm #

    Dude – You've already made it clear that my point regarding the US's lack of “even-handedness” (that it is only applied to balance out the far more ridiculously lopsided and un-”even-handed” approach taken to Israel by the rest of the world – notably at the UN) will never penetrate the cement-like coating of Palestinian hasbarah that encompasses your skull.

    Presuming you are stuck in one of those cycles that says if you leave this debate before getting the last word in you have lost, I promise that I will not think any less of you if you decide to call it quits right now.

  13. Anonymous April 18, 2011 at 6:36 am #

    Oh the US is such a just and moral state looking after little moral/just brother Israel huh dude? The support the US gives Israel in the UN has nothing to do with “balancing out” any unjust policy towards israel but everything to do with good old fashioned lobbying, money and dirty politics….all the things you so self righteously complain are happening to Israel in your blog.

    I could care a less of what you think of me because quite frankly i have very little respect for what you say and stand for. Your Israel centric Zionist BS shines through quite well on it's own. If you have not noticed , your blog consists of the usual “BDS is a hoax” followed by cheering from a few like minded folks with never a real discussion or dialogue. If it weren't for my shitting in your cereal over the past year, your blogs would have almost NO discussion/comments/posts of any kind…just you getting off on your blogs with near zero dialogue. I guess that's what you want.

    Y

  14. Jon April 18, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

    If it helps, Mr. Y-Anon, I don’t actually think of you at all except for during the 60-90 seconds it takes to respond to one of your hit-and-run postings every week or so.

    But now that we’re inside one of those brief moments, let me just point out that you have never once attempted to engage in discussion or dialog (as in actually reading and responding to what is written here). Rather you have shown up, dropped an accusation to link to an irrelevant Web site or news item, and demanded that we respond to your charges while allowing you to act as arbiter of what is right and what is wrong and who is and is not engaging in “dialog.”

    Believe me, I understand your frustration since you are no doubt surrounded by people who have convinced one another that the BDS “monologue of the deaf” represents “dialog” and that anyone not responding to your endless charges is “dodging debate.” As I’ve described earlier, if the whole BDS routine of demanding to act as prosecutor and judge was getting old years ago, it’s particularly tattered in an age when your allies in the BDS program abroad are facing revolution against decades of dictatorial reigns.

    So sit down councilor and prepare to answer charges for a change, rather than just make them. I know this flies in the face of the Palestinian Hasbarah strategy of “accuse, accuse, accuse, – never acknowledge the existence of another opinion or a fact that contradicts your position – never admit it when you’re proven wrong,” but unfortunately you live in a time when those of us on the receiving end of BDS have your number.

  15. Anonymous April 26, 2011 at 3:23 am #

    These BDS'ers are having a fantasy as to what the U.N. Really is. In no way is it any sort of democratic world government. It is a forum for discussion between nations…most of which are dictatorships, tyrannies, or kingdoms. The smaller countries are beholden to the larger countries and the oil countries throw their wealth around for shameless influence.

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