The United Nations is hardly a neutral arbiter when it comes to Israel. In fact, the UN’s anti-Israel views routinely border on hysteria.
In agency after agency at the United Nations, Israel is a pariah, held to an impossible standard; it is judged as no other nation is judged.
At the United Nations, the U.S. has for many years prevented one-sided measures from being imposed on Israel.
In the last few days, the White House has publicly stated it is reevaluating its long-held policy positions on the Israeli-Palestinian issue and might consider having the UN Security Council take center stage in seeking an outcome to the situation.
That would be a significant policy change and a cause for concern.
Internationalizing the conflict through the UN is an inherently misguided idea that seems to be gaining traction.
An editorial on March 24 in The New York Times argues, “A clear Security Council statement in favor of a two-state solution would be an important benchmark.
If the United States and other major powers quickly show commitment to that approach, they might be able to keep Palestinians from pressing a complaint against Israel in the International Criminal Court. The Palestinians, who will join the court on April 1, have long argued for an investigation of Israeli ‘war crimes.’ Israel vehemently opposes action by the court, which would poison relations even more and alienate many Americans.”
You can’t point to very much that’s positive the UN has done – over decades – to advance the cause of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Indeed, it has often exacerbated the Arab-Israeli conflict, rather than promoting reconciliation by the parties.
From the infamous Zionism equals racism resolution adopted in 1975 (and only repealed 17 years later), to the creation of the special UN in-house committees promoting the Palestinian narrative, to the constant browbeating by the UN Human Rights Council – which also perpetuates the Palestinian narrative – and to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which has also perpetuated the narrative of Palestinian victimization, the list is long.
The UN is inhospitable territory for Israel, and attempts to impose any kind of arrangement will find few willing partners in Israel – even beyond the new government.
Knowing a UN Security Council resolution might not require it to make real concessions, would the Palestinian Authority demand a “right of return” of Palestinians to Israel? Attempt to wriggle out of endof- conflict assurances? Agree to be demilitarized? Stop incitement and terrorism? If a framework is imposed through the UN, it will send a message to the European Union and the rest of the world that Israel can be coerced through third parties, and the EU, as well as Israel’s enemies in the Islamic and Arab world will see this as an opportunity to pile on.
Ultimately, a UN-imposed settlement would place Israel in a three-sided vise, facing the prospects of rockets and other terrorist attacks from north (Hezbollah), south (Hamas) and east (Iran and its proxies).
Ben-Gurion Airport was shut down for a day during Operation Protective Edge last year because of Hamas rocket fire; extremists in a West Bank Palestinian state could strike inbound and outbound flights with not much more than a slingshot, given its proximity to the airport.
We justifiably worry about foreign fighters going to Syria, now in its fifth year of a destructive civil war. An arrangement imposed by the UN could be an invitation to the same people to enter territory within shouting distance of Tel Aviv.
Based on some of the recent comments coming out of the White House, the administration appears to be considering what would be a dramatic departure from the hard work done by the US’s UN ambassador Arthur Goldberg and the US delegation when they negotiated the language of Security Council resolutions 242 and 338. The two-state solution was never supposed to be predicated on the pre-June 5, 1967 armistice lines. The language of Resolution 242 clearly calls for Arab states to make peace with Israel, which all but Egypt and Jordan have yet to do, while Israeli withdrawal from territories was supposed to mean some, but not all, territories in dispute.
The administration now risks edging closer to more maximalist positions, which suggests an Israeli return to the 1967 frontier. To do so would be to reward Palestinian unilateralism; it could revise decades of US policy toward an ally and two painstakingly negotiated security council resolutions that have been on the books that entire time.
Late last year, the Security Council came close to adopting a draft resolution that would have fully imposed Palestinian demands on Israel. The US and Australia led the effort to actively oppose the measure. Would the policy “reevaluation” by the White House mean a similar measure could now pass with US support? Or even be adopted with a US abstention?
During a vigorous defense of Israel at the Human Rights Council earlier this month in Geneva, US Secretary of State John Kerry said, “The United States will oppose arbitrary efforts to delegitimize Israel… Not just in the UN Human Rights Council, but wherever it occurs.” National Security Adviser Susan Rice told the AIPAC conference in early March of the Israel-US relationship: “The bottom line is simple: We have Israel’s back, come hell or high water…” Samantha Power, the US Permanent Representative to the UN, told that same gathering: “At the Security Council, we have also guarded vigilantly against any resolution that threatens Israel’s security or undermines the pursuit of peace. That is why in December we opposed efforts to pass a deeply imbalanced Security Council resolution on Palestinian statehood and successfully rallied other countries to do the same.”
How does the Kerry, Rice, Power defense of Israel square with the newly stated intention to reevaluate policy on the peace process? An imposed solution would not result in genuine, lasting peace. In fact, it would undermine the cause of peace, because, absent Israeli inclusion in developing them, key issues would remain unaddressed; Israel’s security, and thus regional security, could be compromised.
Negotiations – tough ones involving give and take – are the only path to effectuate an end to the conflict. That can only happen if there is a sincere will on the part of the PA to enter negotiations, if it recognizes Israel as a Jewish state (language the UN has itself used) and if it disconnects itself from the Hamas terrorists in Gaza. These are absolute necessities, especially given the chaotic state of the conflicts raging beyond Israel’s borders.
Daniel S. Mariaschin is the Executive Vice President at B'nai B'rith International, and has spent nearly all of his professional life working on behalf of Jewish organizations. As the organization’s top executive officer, he directs and supervises B’nai B’rith programs, activities and staff in the more than 50 countries where B’nai B’rith is organized. He also serves as director of B'nai B'rith's Center for Human Rights and Public Policy (CHRPP). In that capacity, he presents B’nai B’rith’s perspective to a variety of audiences, including Congress and the media, and coordinates the center’s programs and policies on issues of concern to the Jewish community. To view some of his additional content, Click Here.
Since its founding in 1843, B’nai B’rith International has sought to fulfill the Mitzvah of Tikkum Olam (building a better world).
For us, this mandate has long meant work to ensure that older persons are able to age in place with dignity, regardless of their economic status. This, of course, supports the notion that these individuals, in the “golden” years of their lives, are entitled to live in safe, supportive and affordable housing that is appropriate for their particular needs.
Without affordable housing options, many older adults have historically found themselves having to go to nursing homes, well before they may actually need that level of care.
Since 1971, B’nai B’rith has worked in partnership with the federal government, through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), to sponsor this type of housing, utilizing the programs established under the Federal Housing Act of 1959, as amended, which set out to articulate our federal housing policy to address this growing concern.
In general, this raises serious concerns about the availability of appropriate “support” services in addition to affordable rental housing units.
Think abut it…How many people do you know who are in their upper 80's or even past 90 years of age?
Established in 1959, the Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program (known as Section 202) is the only HUD program that currently provides housing exclusively for elderly persons who have very low incomes. When enacted, this program was part of a “comprehensive” federal housing policy coordinated by the federal government.
It was developed as a “partnership” between the government and community based non-profit organizations (like B’nai B’rith) to supply safe, quality, affordable residential housing to older persons of limited incomes. The government would supply the financial resources to build the property, and the non-profit groups would supply the “sweat equity” to oversee the development and operations of the property. It was the perfect combination of federal and community resources joining forces to meet a burgeoning human need.
So...Where are we now?
From a high of almost 30,000 units of housing built between 1985 and 1988, we have seen a steady decline to just about 25,000 units constructed between 2000 and 2006. As for current and future spending, we have dropped to a ridiculously low 595 apartments funded for the entire country in 2011, and we are currently seeing zero dollars being appropriated for the construction of new affordable units for the elderly of limited income each fiscal year since 2012!
That means for each of the last three years of federal funding, there are zero dollars being appropriated for the construction of new apartment units for seniors of limited income.
Obviously, building and maintaining housing is expensive compared to providing rental assistance to persons to rent housing on their own (when they can). This has been the challenge for the Section 202 program to overcome. It is not easy to persuade legislators that housing seniors together in rental communities allows us to serve them, and society in general better, and at a lesser overall cost.
I can only think of the problems that those of us who are becoming ready to retire to our “golden” years will find in our way.
I wonder if it’s too late to consider having more children that can assist us with the help we will most probably need in the years to come…
In essence, the United States no longer has a federal housing policy when it comes to providing quality, safe, affordable housing for seniors of limited income.
Perhaps it’s time to re-think our Congressional priorities as our country continues to become even more gray!!
Mark D. Olshan, Ph.D. began his career with B’nai B’rith in 1983 when he was hired as its Director of Senior Housing. He currently serves as Director of the Center for Senior Services and Associate Executive Vice President of B’nai B’rith International. He was awarded the Julius Bisno Professional Excellence Award in 2000. To view some of his additional content, Click Here.
But Israel remains the target of an unparalleled parade of ritualistic condemnatory resolutions and reports – rubber-stamped by a body on which bloc voting and hypocritical politics abound – which are to overtake the council agenda on March 23.
Moreover, it was only after the resignation of the probe’s partisan chair, upon revelation of his past paid consultancy for the Palestine Liberation Organization, that the anticipated report of the council’s “commission of inquiry” on last year’s Gaza hostilities has been deferred.
The circumstances prompting the deferral of this latest inquest’s conclusions – conclusions that were somehow to be deemed credible despite the fact that the very resolution launching the probe had excoriated Israel in advance, with no mention of Hamas at all – were not acknowledged in the commission’s postponement notice.
Some discerning observers’ focus on Lake Geneva may now shift, appropriately, to the international negotiations with Iran – intended to reach at least a tentative outcome by the end of this month – over Tehran’s illicit nuclear program, which has roiled Arabs and Israelis alike in an already unstable region.
However, perhaps feeling unencumbered following Israel’s parliamentary elections, Palestinian Authority officials seem geared to escalate an explicit strategy of “internationalizing” their conflict with Israel, an approach that has not brought progress toward peace between the parties but has exacerbated and exported divisions while distracting from the region’s foremost challenges.
Beyond Palestinians’ unilateral pursuit of upgraded status in intergovernmental bodies, and agitation against Israel within them, this approach could soon culminate in steps to practically hinder Israeli counterterrorism efforts by threatening the prosecution of civilian leaders and military personnel at the International Criminal Court for any difficult operational decisions.
Palestinians, who have obtained premature recognition as the “State of Palestine” by the U.N. General Assembly but not the essential endorsement of the Security Council, expect to be considered a “state” party of the court beginning in April.
Tragically, if judicial authorities in The Hague do acquiesce to Palestinian politicization of the ICC, the result will be not merely a deterioration of Palestinian-Israeli relations both on the ground and in multilateral institutions. Rather, an important strategic victory would also be handed to the proliferating array of fanatic Islamist non-state actors.
Those forces are, on the whole, still shielded from the accountability demanded of (some) governments within a global system that has failed to effectively tackle the chief contemporary threat to international stability, security and human rights.
What the world most needs at this stage in its history is collaborative, consistent action to undercut terrorism – not measures that permit it to fester unchallenged.
David J. Michaels is Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs at B'nai B'rith International, where he began working in 2004 as Special Assistant to the Executive Vice President. A Wexner Fellow/Davidson Scholar, and past winner of the Young Professional Award of the Jewish Communal Service Association of North America, he holds degrees from Yale and Yeshiva University.To view some of his additional content, Click Here.
Eduardo Kohn, Ph.D has been the B’nai B’rith executive vice president in Uruguay since 1981 and the B’nai B’rith International director of Latin American affairs since 1984. Before joining B'nai B'rith, he worked for the Israeli embassy in Uruguay, the Israel-Uruguay Chamber of Commerce and Hebrew College in Montevideo. He is a published author of “Zionism, 100 years of Theodor Herzl,” and writes op-eds for publications throughout Latin America. He graduated from the State University of Uruguay with a doctorate in diplomacy and international affairs. To view some of his additional content,Click Here.
Rhonda Love is the Vice President of Programming for B'nai B'rith International. She is Director of the Center of Community Action and Center of Jewish Identity. She served as the Program Director of the former District One of B'nai B'rith. In 2002 she received recognition by B'nai brith with the Julius Bisno Professional Excellence Award. This June will mark her 38th anniversary at B'nai B'rith. To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
Rachel Goldberg, Ph.D has been the B’nai B’rith International director of health and aging policy since 2003 and the deputy director of the B’nai B’rith International Senior Services since 2007. Before joining B'nai B'rith International, she taught politics and government at the University of Puget Sound and Georgetown University. To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
“It’s about Northwestern being held accountable for human rights violations,” insisted a student body leader who successfully lobbied for a resolution calling on his university to divest from Israel. The measure passed shortly after a similar resolution at Stanford University, which condemned Israel for “state repression against Palestinians,” also won approval.
The list of academic groups supporting boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel is growing. The UCLA student body backed such a measure, as have several associations of university professors and numerous individual academics, such as Stephen Hawking.
Is this simply an indication of misguided idealism at work on university campuses? It would be tempting to think so, were it not for the glaring intellectual inconsistency behind such efforts: The concern for human rights on college campuses appears to begin and end with the Jewish state. Human rights offenses committed by the world's worst abusers go largely unnoticed while Israel sits in the dock for its policies, many of which are aimed at protecting the country and its population from the terrorist groups that line nearly all of Israel’s borders.
Syria has killed nearly 200,000 of its own citizens; the Sudanese government, even more. Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s worst purveyors of radical extremism and hatred, forbids women to vote, drive, or leave the house without a male chaperone. But where are the indignant calls for boycotts? The opprobrium, it seems, is reserved for Israel.
The hypocrisy of “human rights” activists who ignore such atrocities while focusing their ire on the only democracy in the Middle East is overwhelming. We should hardly be astonished, though. The double standard applied to Israel is a core element of the strategy employed by the country’s enemies to alienate the Jewish state and undermine its standing in the international community.
Also lost on BDS proponents is the irony that their enthusiastic embrace of Palestinian nationalism sharply contrasts with their indifference or even opposition to the right of the Jews to a homeland of their own. In fact, a BDS panel at the University of California, Berkeley last fall gave voice to proponents who stated that the goal of BDS is “isolating Zionism” and “bringing down Israel.”
A 2004 State Department report on anti-Semitism included in its definition of the problem, “Strong anti-Israel sentiment that crosses the line between objective criticism of Israeli policies and anti-Semitism.” The following year the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia noted in its working definition of anti-Semitism, “Manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.”
While legitimate policy criticism should never be confused with anti-Semitism, the BDS movement, in singling out the Jewish state for vociferous one-sided condemnation, has morally compromised itself. This became apparent when the student body at the University of California, Davis, recently passed a BDS resolution. Two days later, members of the AEPi fraternity on the UC Davis campus woke to find their house defaced with swastikas.
A new survey by Trinity College and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law has revealed that more than half of students on college campuses, where the BDS movement is on peak display, have witnessed or experienced anti-Semitic harassment or aggression. This comes at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise around the globe and anti-Israel demonstrations in Europe have erupted into anti-Semitic hatefests.
True defenders of human rights and democratic values should not be surprised at the perilous consequences of anti-Israel hatred. Nor should they be seduced by the false earnestness of the BDS movement, whose moral and intellectual bankruptcy is its true calling card.
Eric Fusfield, Esq. has been the B’nai B’rith International director of legislative affairs since 2003 and the deputy director of the B’nai B’rith International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy since 2007. He has worked in Jewish advocacy since 1998. To view some of his additional content, Click Here.
Sienna Girgenti is the Assistant Director for the International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy at B'nai B'rith International. To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
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