Translator says what everyone is thinking about the UN and Israel

By Rosa Freedman, November 22, 2013
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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

The United Nations’ excessive focus on Israel has long been documented by the media and academics. It came as little surprise, then, that last week the General Assembly passed nine resolutions on Israel.

That number of resolutions on the Jewish state has become commonplace at the assembly, so much so that, in-and-of-itself, the meeting was not deemed newsworthy.

What did catch the media’s attention, however, were the words of an interpreter who criticised the assembly for passing those resolutions.

The woman did not realise that her comments, in English and in French, were being transmitted for all present in the room to hear.

One assumes that, had she realised that the microphone was on, she would have kept her thoughts to herself. But the laughter that rolled around the assembly following her words strongly indicated that many government delegates shared her sentiments.

It was all the more poignant that this took place in the same week in which UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Auschwitz to commemorate Holocaust victims.

The General Assembly is a political body in which every UN member state holds a seat and is able to cast a vote. Its resolutions and decisions are not legally binding. Instead, they indicate the majority or populist opinion within international politics. It is not surprising, then, that resolutions on Israel are passed year in and year out.

Each assembly session passes virtually the same resolutions. They focus on the suffering of the Palestinians, occupied Palestinian and Syrian lands, settlements, and other alleged and actual human-rights abuses and breaches of international law.

Of course, nothing changes as a result and only the most idealist and naïve observer might expect a different result.

Staggeringly, by the end of its annual legislative session next month, the assembly will have adopted a total of 22 resolutions condemning Israel — and only four on the rest of the world combined. Aside from retaining the spotlight on Israel, the aim of this lopsidedness is designed to keep attention away from grave situations elsewhere.

One resolution adopted last week condemned Israel for allegedly mistreating Syrians in the Golan but failed to mention Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s responsibility for the slaughter of tens of thousands of his own people.

No one is denying that Israel commits humans-rights abuses. However, it will ignore the UN for as long as the organisation continues to treat it in such a grossly biased manner.

Delegates at the UN understand that there are political and diplomatic reasons for keeping the spotlight on Israel at all UN bodies. From the Human Rights Council to the World Health Organization, Israel is never far from the top of the agenda. Sadly, there is no end in sight to this farce.

Dr Rosa Freedman is a law lecturer at the University of Birmingham

Last updated: 12:45pm, November 22 2013