December 17, 2004
by Anne Bayefsky
There is a curious omission in the 129-page report on United Nations reform recently produced by a 16-person panel "of eminent and experienced people" at the request of Secretary General Kofi Annan. The U.N.'s own website, under "Main Bodies," lists the General Assembly, the Security Council, and directly below, the "Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People." But nowhere does the reform report mention this committee.
The omission goes to the heart of what's really ailing the U.N. For the past four decades the United Nations has become the personal propaganda machine of the nom de guerre of Arab and Islamic states -- Palestinians. Their aim is to demonize, debilitate, and destroy the state of Israel -- the thriving democratic beachhead in their midst -- for a start. The original U.N. mission, to protect the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, has been hijacked and corrupted by nations that neither share the universal values of the U.N.'s Declaration of Human Rights nor have democratic intentions.
Is this a paranoid, introverted, hysterical exaggeration? Consider the evidence.
Every schoolchild or member of the public who walks into U.N. Headquarters today (and the entire month of December) will be greeted by a large display in the front entrance put on by that main U.N. body, the Committee on Palestinian Rights. It includes a series of pictures "Fashion for Army Checkpoints," that conveys the alleged degradation of being searched for a suicide bomb strapped to one's body. Of course, nothing is said about the degradation of being blown up by a suicide bomb strapped to those bodies who manage to avoid such searches.
Is this just a problem for Israelis? Not if one compares the extensive Palestinian exhibit gracing the U.N. lobby with the minimal display they managed to squeeze alongside on the subject of AIDS.
But the public U.N. entrance is just the tip of the iceberg. There is only one entire U.N. Division devoted to a single group of people -- the U.N. Division for Palestinian Rights (created in 1977). There is only one U.N. website dedicated to the claims of a single people -- the enormous UNISPAL, the United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine. There is only one refugee agency dedicated to a single refugee situation -- UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (in operation since 1950.)
Is this just an Israeli problem? Not if you're a Dalit in India, a farm worker in Zimbabwe, or a Tibetan, and your rights are not on the U.N. agenda.
The list of hijacked U.N. organs goes on. The General Assembly operates through six committees of the whole. One of them, the Fourth Committee, routinely devotes 30 percent of its time to the condemnation of Israel.
Is this just an Israeli problem? Not if you're concerned about another agenda item of the Fourth Committee, the "comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects" which gets less than half the attention paid to Israel.
How about the takeover of the General Assembly emergency-session procedure? These sessions began in 1956, and since then six of the ten emergency sessions ever held have been about Israel. The 10th such session began in 1997 and has been "reconvened" 13 times, most recently this past summer.
Is this just an Israeli problem? Not if you were one of those people who thought a million dead in Rwanda or two million dead in Sudan might have warranted one General Assembly emergency session.
Then there is the U.N.'s primary human-rights body, the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Thirty percent of the resolutions condemning specific states ever adopted over 40 years are directed at Israel. The attention not paid to the rights of a billion people in Communist China -- who have never been the subject of a single resolution -- is not an Israeli problem.
To appreciate fully the extent to which the U.N. has been taken over, observe November 29th, the annual U.N. Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, which is the only U.N. day dedicated to a specific people. The occasion was held in the U.N.'s elaborate Trusteeship Council before hundreds of delegates. At the front of the room sat the secretary general, the president of the General Assembly, and the chair of that main U.N. body, the Committee on Palestinian Rights. In a repeat of previous years' performances, beside them stood a U.N. flag, a Palestinian flag, and in between, a map in Arabic pre-dating the existence of the U.N. member state of Israel. All participants were asked to rise for "a minute of silence...for all those who have given their lives for the cause of the Palestinian people..." -- which would include suicide bombers.
Given that the major client of U.N. largess is the Palestinian surrogate for Arab and Islamic warlords, it is a wonder that the experts on U.N. reform didn't see fit to mention the impact of the bull in their china shop.
On the contrary, they recommended that more bulls be invited in. Reform of the human-rights commission, according to the secretary general's experts, requires not limiting the commission to states committed to democracy and human-rights protection, but expanding the membership from the current 53 to all 191 U.N. member states. Current members and human-rights enthusiasts like Cuba, China, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan will no doubt be delighted to be joined by friends in Iran and Burma.
In an apparent nod to the ransacking of the U.N.'s peace and security foundation by Islamic states -- that have blocked the adoption of a comprehensive convention against terrorism for years -- the secretary general's panel recommended that the U.N. adopt a definition of terrorism. On the bright side, they finally admitted the U.N. doesn't have such a definition. Until it does, it can hardly be expected to play a serious role in the war against terrorism. But the panel was very careful to recommend that it be a "consensus definition" -- U.N. code language for blessing continuing stonewalling by the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
As for the panel recommendation to expand the membership of the Security Council, it may improve the egos of various states. But more warm bodies not subject to democratic membership qualifications won't transform a damage-control organ and its veto-protection scheme into an effective instrument for dealing with grave threats like a nuclear Iran.
So let's cut through all of the talk and meetings and discussion groups on U.N. reform to the root cause of U.N. disease. Arab and Islamic states have the U.N. in a chokehold and, so far, no one is prepared to do anything about it.
This article appeaerd on Natinal Review Online on December 13, 2004.
Anne Bayefsky is no longer a Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute.
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