Tuesday, June 17, 2008


The United Nations is very concerned about Palestine. It demonstrates this by having a lot of committees or ad hoc working groups on the subject, the most prominent of which (apart from the Human Rights Council, which despite such atrocities as Darfur, Zimbabwe, and Burma, is concerned with little else) is the COMMITTEE ON THE EXERCISE OF THE INALIENABLE RIGHTS OF THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE. (CONEOTIROTPP, if you like acronyms.)

Anyway, a few days back the committee listed all the resolutions that were passed in the General Assembly on this topic in the past year. You can read it here. It's fascinating, truthfully. Eighteen resolutions in all, under topics such as "Question of Palestine," "The situation in the Middle East," "United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East," "Right of peoples to self-determination," "Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian peopole in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jersalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources," and so on. All of these passed overwhelmingly, most with between 2 and 8 no votes (the US, Israel, several small island states, sometimes Australia and Canada), occasionally with about 50 abstentions (the EU and friends), and otherwise everyone else voting in favor.

It's amazing how poisonous the debate on Israel in this building has become. As a Jew with moderate views on Israel (yes, it has a right to exist and defend itself: no, that doesn't mean it can do anything it wants to in the Palestinian territories), I find it hard to even have a conversation at the UN about the topic. The General Assembly spends a large portion, to the point of obsession, of its working days passing resolutions of this sort, one-sided affairs that Israel and its allies can never support, but that developing countries can vote on en masse to stick it to the US. Meanwhile, in the Security Council, the US retaliates by not allowing any statements to pass. The Council hasn't agreed on a statement on the situation in Palestine in over a decade. The UN, in effect, has been sidelined by the polarity of the debate.

Which brings up a major problem with the UN: it's designed to bring about peace between sides that are ready to talk but need an unbiased mediator. If the sides don't want to talk, there's not much the UN can do. Right now, Israel and the US don't want to talk to Hamas and the Muslim world on this issue, and vice versa. So for the time being, the General Assembly will continue to pass countless pro-Palestinian resolutions that aren't worth the paper they're written on, and the US will continue to block the Security Council from taking any meaningful action on the issue.

And the beat goes on...

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