If it flogged criminals, would Israel get a Security Council seat?
Much has been said and written about Saudi Arabia’s bizarre rebuff of the UN Security Council. What went nearly unnoticed is the fact that Israel announced earlier this month that it is running for a Security Council seat (in 2019). This is Israel’s first attempt since its admission to the UN in 1949 to join the organization’s most powerful body. Unlike Saudi Arabia, however, Israel stands no chance of being accepted (and declining). The fact that Israel’s bid is hopeless provides an opportunity to understand what is wrong with the UN.
While declining Security Council membership, Saudi Arabia is applying for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) - although its legal system practices flogging, amputations, eye gouging. It is a country that lashes rape victims instead of punishing the perpetrators publicly beheads homosexuals and, in February 2013, arrested 53 Christians for the “crime” of praying in a private home. It is one of the world’s most horrendous human rights violators, but its bid for UNHRC membership will be successful because most members belong to the same league. Since its founding in 2006, the UNHRC has included countries such as China, Russia, Cuba, Pakistan, Mauritania (a country that practices slavery), Venezuela (under Chavez) and Ghadafi's Libya. Saudi Arabia will be in good company.
Unfortunately, the UNHRC is not the only UN body that makes a mockery of sanity and common sense. Earlier this month, Iran was elected to the General Assembly’s Committee on Disarmament and International Security. A country that openly defies Security Council resolutions in its pursuit of nuclear weapons and support of terrorist organizations, is now entrusted by the General Assembly to monitor disarmament and international security.
Appointing pyromaniacs as firefighters is a UN tradition. In January 2003, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was selected to chair the UN’s Disarmament Conference. At the time, Iraq was defying UN weapon inspectors. That same year, Syria was sitting on the Security Council (it was elected in 2002) to enforce international law and order, while serving as an active arms transit between Iran and Hezbollah.
Israel, by contrast, was never elected to the Security Council, to the UNHRC or to the Committee on Disarmament. Would Israel stand a better chance were it to promote international terrorism, to amputate thieves, or to produce chemical weapons? Hardly.
As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declared in August 2013, Israel “has suffered from bias and sometimes even discrimination” at the UN. Not only is Israel excluded from the Security Council and from the UNHRC, it is also disproportionately condemned by the General Assembly and by the UNHRC for alleged human rights and international law violations. This, despite the fact its human rights record is by far superior to that of its accusers, and that actual human rights abusers are immune from General Assembly and UNHRC condemnations.
It wasn't always so. The United Nations was founded as the result of an alliance against Nazi Germany and the forces of hatred which led to the genocide of the Jewish people. More than one million Jews fought in the ranks of the Allied forces that eventually crushed the Axis powers and brought the UN into being. The Isaiah Wall across the street from the United Nations building on First Avenue in Manhattan proclaims the Jewish ideal of beating swords into plowshares. In November 1947, the General Assembly recommended the creation of a Jewish state. When Israel became a UN member state in 1949, Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett emotionally declared that the Jewish people had rejoined the family of nations.
Decolonization and Cold War polarization radically changed the makeup of the General Assembly, a makeup that was shrewdly exploited by the Arab world after the Yom Kippur war. Hence the 1975 General Assembly resolution declaring Zionism a form of racism, and hence the avalanche of ludicrous UN resolutions which prompted the late Israeli Ambassador Abba Eban to quip that the Arab world had a majority to declare the Earth flat. Despite the end of the Cold War and the Oslo process, the Arab world and the PLO never ceased activating the “automatic majority” they enjoy at the General Assembly in order to isolate and defame Israel.
It is the same “automatic majority” that blocks Israel’s access to Security Council membership, since non-permanent members are elected by the General Assembly. So the only point of throwing Israel’s hat into the ring is to publicly remind the free world that it has become a minority in the very organization it founded and which has since been hijacked.
Dr. Emmanuel Navon heads the Political Science and Communication Department at the Jerusalem Orthodox College and teaches International Relations at Tel-Aviv University and the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. He is a Senior Fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum.