Tuesday (Nov. 9, 2021) and Thursday (Nov. 11, 2021) the United Nations General Assembly’s Fourth Committee (the “Special Political and Decolonization” Committee) will vote on a number of anti-Israel draft resolutions that will then go on to the full General Assembly for final passage. Though this is a committee vote, it usually ends up mirroring the final vote at the GA, as countries rarely change their vote after the committee votes.
Though this is not the only avenue for anti-Israel votes at the UNGA (resolutions also come out of some of the other committees and are also occasionally brought straight to the GA floor, bypassing the committees entirely), the votes being taken at the Fourth Committee this week represent a chunk of the annual resolutions attacking Israel at the UNGA.
Among the important resolutions being voted upon are:
The “Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices…”
This is the most critical vote this week. The “Special Committee” is one of three pro-Palestinian propaganda bodies that are embedded within the U.N. in New York. The other two—the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) and the Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR)—were renewed last year for the first time with two year mandates, so they will not come up for a vote this year. Unlike most of the other GA resolutions, which are usually declarative in nature, these three have a special budget that come out of your tax dollars, and the Special Committee is the only one up for a vote this year.
B’nai B’rith and our affiliate AJIRI-BBI have been working throughout the year in New York, Washington, Israel, Latin America, Europe and around the world to advocate that countries move in more positive directions with their votes on these three resolutions. And, indeed, there has been a noticeable erosion on the vote in favor. Last year, only 76 countries voted in favor of the Special Committee (less than half of all U.N. member states), and the number of European countries turning from mere abstentions to “No” votes on CEIRPP and DPR is thought to be a reason that the Palestinians started making it a two-year mandate—to avoid having to take votes every year that were getting increasingly embarrassing. While it is great that the movement is in a positive direction, the situation is still bad—all three mandates still pass (and CEIRPP and DPR now for two years at a time) and cause damage to Israel and all who believe in the dream of a peaceful Middle East.
The Special Committee is perhaps less well-known than the other two bodies, but no less dangerous. It acts as an amplifier of talking points and lies spread by Palestinian NGOs, the Palestinian Authority and other actors hostile to Israel. It is part of the continual noise machinery of the U.N. focused squarely (and only) on Israel. The resolution calls on the committee to carry on doing what it is currently doing, especially “investigating” the conditions of (terrorist) prisoners. It also, with no small amount of chutzpah, demands that Israel—as a U.N. member state—cooperate with the committee whose sole purpose is to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state. The resolution continues to fund the operations of the committee and gives it support staff through the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The resolution will pass, as always, but it will be interesting to see if the voting trends on this resolution improve this year when it is the only of the three “Palestinian committees” to get a vote.
This resolution seeks to put the onus of the moribund state of the peace process on Israel, claiming that the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria (or, if you prefer the term imposed during the Jordanian occupation of 1948-1967, the West Bank) are the main obstacles to peace. Whatever one may think about these communities, they are not the obstacle—it is the Palestinian leadership’s refusal to negotiate with Israel’s government that has consistently sidelined the peace process.
This resolution also obsesses (by devoting multiple operative paragraphs) over “settler violence,” which is not a phenomenon that is incredibly widespread, unlike Palestinian terrorism, which has been the ultimate foil of all peace efforts since the 1990s. To show what goes for balance at the U.N., acts of violence and terror on “both sides” are quietly condemned too, but the drawing of a moral equivalence in this case does not show balance—it shows the moral bankruptcy of the institution. Palestinian terrorism, after all, has led to the deaths of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians.
Finally, there is also a roundabout call for boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS). The roundabout is necessary because only the Security Council has the power to enforce sanctions on entities. This resolution calls on the U.N. to abide by a UNHRC resolution on businesses in the settlements. Again, the UNHRC does not have the power to issue any orders on business activities, but the elements hostile to Israel at the U.N. are falsely trying to make it appear as if this is call is legitimate. It is not.
Unfortunately, this resolution—which, it should be underlined, is declarative and has no teeth—will also likely pass, and easily.
The Golan Heights
You might think that a resolution sponsored by the Syrian regime complaining about Israel’s presence on the Golan Heights—which Israel won in a defensive struggle in the Six Day War following years of harassment and threats to annihilate the Jewish state by invasion from the strategic area—could not possibly be taken seriously. But alas, this is the U.N. In fact, it will pass, however, the voting on this resolution has also turned a corner since Assad went on a genocidal rampage against his own people.
More countries recognize the absurdity of this resolution but not enough to have it banished forever, sadly. Adding to the absurdity—there are more annual resolutions at the UNGA and the UNHRC about Israel’s Golan Heights than about all of the horrors happening next door in Syria, committed not only by Assad, but also by his allies Iran and Hezbollah.
Assistance to Palestinian Refugees
This is a resolution praising the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). No mention is made of the longstanding issue of hate being taught at UNRWA schools, although there is a section that acknowledges (note: not affirms or endorses) UNRWA’s commitment to operate under the principles of “neutrality, humanity, independence and impartiality,” which is undoubtedly a nod to the scandals that have hit the agency in recent years, especially the blatant anti-Semitism in educational materials. This commitment is not really credible, though, given UNRWA’s history.
Operations of UNRWA
A companion resolution to the one above, this is a very long plea for donor countries to keep funding or even increase contributions to UNRWA, which claims its budget is in a big hole. The resolution does not address the causes of why countries might be pulling or holding back funding. UNRWA is not merely a humanitarian and educational agency, unlike UNHCR, which handles all other refugee situations. UNRWA regularly engages in politics and pushes a nonexistent “right of return,” in which all descendants of Palestinians who fled in 1948 would be allowed access to immigrate to Israel, thereby ending the existence of the democratic Jewish state. Beyond that and the incitement mentioned above, UNRWA facilities have been used by terrorists. During the latest conflict, a tunnel was found under an UNRWA school. Prior to that, rockets were found to be stored in an UNRWA facility. This resolution addresses that—as only the U.N. could—by calling on Israel to safeguard the security of UNRWA facilities, even though it is Hamas who actually puts those facilities in danger by using them for military purposes.
The resolution will, of course, pass by wide margins. But given the controversies surrounding UNRWA (those mentioned above and also, not insignificantly, a corruption scandal), it’s clear that there is a reason why donor countries have been holding back on funding this agency.
This week’s votes are important, but they are only the beginning of the annual Israel-bashing cycle at the UNGA. Another series of votes will be taken at the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Issues) next week, followed by final consideration of all of these resolutions (and any other resolutions brought straight to the floor) at the full General Assembly, starting after the observance of the U.N.’s self-declared International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People at the end of the month.
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