If the Palestinians manage to attain recognition of statehood at the General Assembly of the United Nations next week, Israel is unlikely to care. It regards the institution as biased toward Israel, with good reason.
The Palestinian bid for statehood defies international pressure and is expected to meet an American veto in the Security Council. In any event, the move could exacerbate tensions between Israel and the Palestinians which most recently erupted in May when the military interim government in Egypt unilaterally lifted its blockade of the Gaza Strip. Protests and disturbances immediately broke out along the border which led to the deaths of five Egyptian soldiers at the hands of Israeli border guards.
Israel has enforced a blockade of Gaza to prevent the smuggling of weapons into the territory. Missiles are routinely launched from there against nearby Israeli cities and settlements.
The embargo was enforced after the December 2008 Israeli military campaign in Gaza where the militant Islamist group Hamas is in government. Israel and Western nations regard Hamas as a terrorist organization.
In the wake of the Gaza campaign, the United Nations ordered an investigation into possible human rights abuses during the skirmish. A panel led by the South African judge Richard Goldstone spent almost a year amassing information before accusing Israel of war crimes.
Goldstone retracted that opinion in April of this year when he wrote in The Washington Post that Israel had not “intentionally” targeted civilians “as a matter of policy.” That was after much of the world had denounced Israel for doing just that, partly based on the study that bore his name.
The Goldstone Report was hardly exceptional among investigations sponsored by the United Nations however. It is common practice for Israel to be denounced for “offenses” at the UN that pass without comment elsewhere.
The Human Rights Council in particular is obsessed with the Jewish state. After its predecessor institution, the Human Rights Commission, was disbanded in 2006 because of its preoccupation with Israel, the council devoted nearly 60 percent of its country-specific resolutions to condemning Israel during its first two years in existence.
After President Barack Obama brought the United States back onto the council, American diplomats managed to bring the number down during the last two years — to 40 percent. Meanwhile, Libya was scheduled to be commended by the council for its human rights improvements before Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi’s regime began gunning down peaceful protesters in the streets.
Virtually all nations have criticized Israel’s settlement activity in what is generally recognized as Palestinian territory yet similar settler movements elsewhere are never declared “illegal.”
Morocco and Turkey have both encouraged resettlement to the Western Sahara and Cyprus respectively to bolster nationalist claims there. Before it accepted East Timor’s independence in 2001, Indonesia similarly facilitated migration to the former Portuguese colony. In none of these cases have the United Nations ever proposed prosecution. Rather they allowed outside settlers to participate in referendums about the future of these territories, acknowledging their claims implicitly.
What makes Israel so exceptional? Nothing — except that it’s a Jewish state surrounded by Arab people that are overwhelmingly hostile to it. The UN’s democratic nature enables Arab and other nations to misuse the institution for their own political gain, adding legitimacy to their ongoing vilification of the state of Israel which, in turn, compels the United States to deploy their veto power and force some balance in how the country is treated in the international community.