Why Australia is right to challenge the UN’s anti-Israel bias…writes Alex Ryvchin

November 29, 2013 by Alex Ryvchin
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The Government’s decision to revert to Howard-era voting patterns on Israel at the United Nations General Assembly has been criticised as a betrayal of the Palestinians.

Alex Ryvchin

Alex Ryvchin

Julie Bishop’s statement that the decision was designed to give “balance” to the debate on the Arab-Israeli conflict at the UN has been deliberately mischaracterised to suggest that the Government is revising its own view of the conflict and has undermined its support for a two-state solution. In reality, the Foreign Minister’s statements were a poignant criticism of the UN’s long history of egregious one-sidedness against Israel and a declaration of the government’s intention to demand fair and equal treatment for an old friend.

The need for greater balance in the UN’s treatment of the Arab-Israeli conflict recently came to light in the most unexpected of circumstances. Earlier this month, the United National General Assembly convened to engage in its annual ritual of passing a series of resolutions condemning Israel. Not a single resolution critical of the Palestinian leadership or concerning any other global issue, was adopted during the meeting. The point of interest was the candid reaction of a Spanish-speaking UN interpreter, oblivious to the fact that her microphone remained on as she spoke a powerful truth to a colleague.

“I mean, I think when you have five statements, not five, like a total of ten resolutions on Israel and Palestine, there’s gotta be something, c’est un peu trop, non? [It’s a bit much, no?] I mean I know… There’s other really bad shit happening [around the world], but no one says anything, about the other stuff,” she said.

The interpreter’s remarks were amplified throughout the chamber and drew knowing snickers from the delegates. No doubt the embarrassed interpreter wished that the earth would swallow her up at that moment. Yet, through her frank admission of an obvious truth, the interpreter, unencumbered by rank or protocol, was perhaps the only person in the room who had nothing to be embarrassed about.

She had spoken an inconvenient  truth and the delegates in the chamber knew it. In 2006, the then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan criticised the UN Human Rights Council for its “disproportionate focus on violations by Israel” while neglecting other parts of the world such as Darfur, which had what he termed “graver” crises. His successor Ban Ki-Moon uttered similar sentiments the following year.

Alejandro Wolff, deputy U.S. permanent representative at the United Nations, accused the Council of having “a pathological obsession with Israel”.

It was for good reason that Israel’s legendary statesman and one of its founding fathers, Abba Eban, once remarked:

“If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.”

The consequences of the UN’s one-sidedness against Israel are grave. For one, it is a disservice both to Israel and the Palestinian cause. A complex struggle for national self-determination by two peoples over a territory less than half the size of Tasmania, has seen the Palestinians cast as faultless victims and Israel depicted as the eternal brute. As a result, the world overlooks the true causes of the conflict, and by logical extension, is unable to see the solutions.

The root cause of the conflict has always been, and remains, that the Jews as a people have come home and their Arab neighbours don’t like it. The latter have been protesting about it officially since 1891 – before “the occupation”, before Israel and before Zionism.

Ignorance about the history is matched by blindness to any wrongdoing at all on the Palestinian side.

For example, the EU recently found that the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah had squandered €2 billion of aid from European taxpayers; aid intended to build Palestinian institutions, enfranchise the people, elevate their quality of life.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Al-Quds University staged a Nuremberg-style rally by members of the Islamic Jihad terrorist organisation, replete with black uniforms and Nazi salutes. Yet such issues concerning incitement and mismanagement, which strike at the heart of why the Palestinians’ national goals remain unfulfilled, are routinely overlooked by the United Nations, precisely because they are inconsistent with the myth of Palestinian perfect victimhood.

One can only guess at what truly motivates self-declared supporters of the Palestinian cause who remain relatively silent about the Egyptian blockade of Gaza or the suffering of Palestinians embroiled in the Syrian conflict.

The UN’s one-sidedness has also damaged the larger cause of human rights. So far this year, the UN General Assembly has passed 21 resolutions condemning Israel. Four resolutions have been passed against all countries in the rest of the world combined.

To echo the sentiments of the UN interpreter, one could be forgiven for thinking that Palestinian human rights are the only rights of consequence. Or perhaps put more accurately, allegations of impropriety against Israel are the only ones worth a look in.

Australia’s support for Israel at the United Nations is not a commentary on settlements or a denial of Palestinian national aspirations. It is a principled and judicious attempt to wrench the agenda of human rights away from propaganda and vulgarisation and return the community of nations to a sensible, measured and proportionate debate on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Alex Ryvchin is responsible for public affairs at the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the national representative body for the Australian Jewish community. 

This article first appeared in The Guardian

Comments

One Response to “Why Australia is right to challenge the UN’s anti-Israel bias…writes Alex Ryvchin”
  1. Liat Nagar says:

    A timely, comprehensive discussion on a situation that urgently needs redressing. Thank you, Alex Ryvchin. And how great that the ‘Guardian’ printed this article. Can we try for printing in ‘The Age’ and ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, too? Now that would be something.

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