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Rights Council” in which Libya gets to vote for the Goldstone Report and Syria may have a say in whether or not it is rescinded (assuming they can spare leaders from their important current work of shooting their own people in the head in order to vote for the anti-Israel resolutions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?