Thursday, December 18, 2008

why the UN is useless on Israel-Palestine

I have ranted about this before, but because the UN General Assembly is voting on a host of social, cultural, and human rights resolutions today, I can't help but do it again. When it comes to Israel and Palestine at the United Nations, here's how it works here. In order to cut the Western countries who seek human rights promotion by way of the United Nations down to size, the Organization of Islamic Conference, in league with a large swath of developing countries, passes about twenty General Assembly resolutions every year with various formulations of the words "the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination." Fine. Pretty much everyone who doesn't vote Likud supports Palestine's right to self-determination. But Israel and the United States consider these resolutions one-sided, and vote no on all of them. The resolutions pass overwhelmingly. The more uncontroversial ones pass with tallies like 188-4. The more lopsided ones garner a massive Western bloc of abstentions, lowering the tally to something like 138-4, with 50 abstentions. Israel and the US then make statements generally reminding the General Assembly that its resolutions are non-binding and calling the body worthless and pointless. (Neither country has ever gotten over the GA's infamous "Zionism equals racism" resolution that passed in 1974.)

Later, whenever Israel does something that ticks off the Arab League (which is often), the League brings a draft resolution or statement to the Security Council to try to get a binding action taken there. The US vetoes anything that is even remotely critical of Israel, and the Arab League won't allow a statement that's critical of the Palestinians. The Council hasn't released a presidential statement (which requires unanimous support from all 15 members) in years. Even the most recent resolution that passed on Monday, the first in five years, didn't get unanimous support, because Libya abstained. This despite the fact that the resolution basically did nothing more than laud the sides for their work on the peace process and encourage them to continue trying.

Needless to say, no one in Israel or Palestine is aided by these shenanigans, but a huge number of General Assembly committees, working groups and resources are devoted to the Palestinian cause, which makes Israel distrustful of the General Assembly, and vice versa. And the beat goes on.

No comments: