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Does the UN Have an Anti-Israel Bias?

  • Margaret Besheer

FILE - A United Nations peacekeeper is seen standing behind a U.N. flag.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations put the organization's Human Rights Council on notice Tuesday, saying it needs to reform or the U.S. will withdraw from it.

Nikki Haley, who also is a member of President Donald Trump's cabinet, has been very vocal about what she says is the 47-member, Geneva-based council's bias against Israel.

"Since its creation, the council has passed more than 70 resolutions targeting Israel," Haley told the Graduate Institute of Geneva. "It has passed just seven on Iran."

"This relentless, pathological campaign against a country that actually has a strong human rights record makes a mockery not of Israel, but of the council itself," Haley said to cynical laughter from the audience when she spoke of Israel's human rights record.

FILE - Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley waves to the crowd before she speaks at the 2017 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference held at the Verizon Center in Washington, March 27, 2017.
FILE - Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley waves to the crowd before she speaks at the 2017 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference held at the Verizon Center in Washington, March 27, 2017.

Haley also has criticized the U.N., generally, for having an anti-Israel bias.

"Nowhere has the U.N.'s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than in its bias against our close ally Israel," Haley told her U.S. Senate confirmation hearing in January.

The U.S. and Israel frequently criticize the U.N. for singling out the Jewish state, when they say the focus should be on states that are systemic human rights violators or that sponsor terrorism.

Israel is criticized internationally primarily for its treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories, including the demolition of their homes, the expansion of Israeli settlements and the treatment of Palestinian prisoners. But despite the criticism, it has never faced U.N.-imposed sanctions for its actions.

While Israel regularly decries its treatment at the United Nations, that has not deterred it from campaigning for a seat on the powerful 15-nation Security Council for 2019-2020.

Anti-Israel bias?

In December, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution by a vote of 14-0 that said Israeli settlements violate international law and are a major obstacle to achieving a two-state solution. The United States, under the Obama administration, chose to abstain instead of blocking the measure.

FILE - In this photo provided by the United Nations, members of the United Nations Security council vote at the United Nations headquarters on Friday, Dec. 23, 2016, in favor of condemning Israel for its practice of establishing settlements in the West Bank.
FILE - In this photo provided by the United Nations, members of the United Nations Security council vote at the United Nations headquarters on Friday, Dec. 23, 2016, in favor of condemning Israel for its practice of establishing settlements in the West Bank.

"This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis," then President-elect Trump said in a statement criticizing the resolution.

Israel said it would ignore the resolution and has continued to announce new settlements.

"Israel faces a lot of prejudice across the U.N. system," said Richard Gowan, U.N. expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations. "But it is actually in a very strong position where it matters most — the Security Council."

"The U.S. virtually always stands up for Israel in Security Council debates, which matter far more than most of the huffing and puffing that goes on in the General Assembly or Human Rights Council," Gowan added.

J Street, a U.S. advocacy and lobbying group that refers to itself as pro-Israel and pro-peace, says there is a long record of bias against Israel at the U.N.

"It undermines people's confidence in the U.N.'s fairness and in its ability to do its job, and it undermines the U.N.'s ability to actually play a productive role related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the real issues around it," said Logan Bayroff, J Street's associate director of communications.

He said his organization wants to see the U.N. and its bodies play a constructive role in calling attention to problems on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and in advocating for a two-state solution. "As long as there is this sense of bias and this obsessive focus, it does inhibit the U.N.'s capacity to do that," he added.

From Geneva, Ambassador Haley will travel to Israel for a three-day visit. She is expected to meet with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders. J Street's Bayroff said Haley needs to deliver a very clear and unequivocal statement of support for a two-state solution, which the Trump administration has yet to declare.

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