THE INMATES ARE RUNNING THE ASYLUM
Foreign Policy, March 2, 2011
The recent unrest in parts of the Arab world has not only exposed the appalling lack of development in these countries, but also a number of fundamental deficiencies in the international system. The United Nations, which began its life with a plurality of democratic nations, now allows for an automatic majority of nondemocratic nations. The international system dictates that Arab and Islamic nations, and their knee-jerk defenders, have a majority in almost all of its bodies.…
If there were ever an example of the inmates running the asylum, it is the U.N. Human Rights Council. This body has whitewashed the human rights record of some of the world’s most repressive regimes, while also providing them with a forum to ruminate on and condemn the actions of a free and open nation, Israel.
The Libyan regime, which is currently massacring its citizens in a desperate bid to remain in power, successfully sought a place on the Human Rights Council only last year. U.N. General Assembly Resolution 60/251, which created the council, stated that when electing members of the council, U.N. member states “shall take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights.” Only through an Orwellian flight of fancy could Libya’s contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights ever have been considered positive. Recent events have made it more akin to a sick joke.
Nevertheless, in a secret ballot, 155 states voted in favor of granting Libya a coveted place on the council. These votes were given to a country that was known to be involved in extrajudicial and summary executions, brutal torture, and aiding and abetting international terrorism.…
The recent human rights outrages in Libya are only the latest example of how repressive dictatorships have perverted the mission of this ostensibly august body. The international human rights organization Freedom House’s September 2010 “report card” on the council found that its “membership has become increasingly populated by authoritarian countries”—including Saudi Arabia and Cuba—and “continues to earn failing grades on its ability to respond to the world’s most pressing human rights issues.” The report further lambasted the council for its “disproportionate focus on Israel” and for becoming “appallingly politicized and dominated by some of the world’s most aggressive opponents of universal standards on human rights.”
Indeed, Qaddafi’s regime is far from the first repressive autocracy to serve on the Human Rights Council. In fact, the majority of nations currently sitting on the council are not even considered “free” by Freedom House’s extensive and detailed ranking system. Israel, on the other hand, is consistently rated as “free.…”
In light of recent events and the wretched human rights record of many of the council’s members, it should be considered a badge of honor to be condemned by such a body. If Qaddafi is the judge of what constitutes respect for human rights, then consider us—and all democracies—guilty.…
The U.N. Human Rights Council has once again proved itself outside the evolution and progress of history. The people of our region deserve better—and are hopefully slowly moving the Middle East to a better place. Let’s hope the council does not continue to serve as a barrier to their hopes and expectations.
OBAMA’S U.N. DEBACLE
National Review, March 25, 2011
President Obama’s decision to place the United Nations at the center of his foreign policy took another hit Friday as the U.N. Human Rights Council ended its latest session in Geneva. One of the president’s primary justifications for joining the notorious council shortly after he assumed office was its mandatory five-year review process; if the U.S. was a member, the administration claimed, it could influence this process. The process, which quietly unfolded in back rooms in Geneva over the past six months, has been exposed to be a total fraud, taking the administration’s cover down with it.
Starting last fall, the Obama team was a very active participant in a working group of the council that had been set up to tackle reform. At the end of February, the working group produced a document summarizing its decisions, and on Friday the council passed a resolution adopting that document by consensus—that is, without a vote. Regardless of the fact that every serious recommendation of the United States was rejected, Obama’s diplomats refused to call for a vote on the resolution so that they could vote against it.
They did play a little game intended to fool uninformed listeners by claiming to “dissociate” the administration from the resolution. However, since the resolution has been adopted by consensus, it will proceed unimpeded to the General Assembly, where it will be rubber-stamped. The U.S. could not have stopped the resolution, but an American vote against the measure would have been a major blow to the credibility of the Human Rights Council. It also would have set up the U.S. to leave the council as a logical consequence of the failure to reform it.
The slap in the face to President Obama is painfully clear from a short list of American demands for reform and the council’s responses.
The council has an official, permanent agenda that governs all its meetings and consists of only ten items. One of those items is reserved for condemning Israel, and another is assigned to human rights in the other 191 U.N. member states. This session, for instance, produced six resolutions condemning Israel, one resolution each on four other states, and nothing at all on the remaining 187 countries. The American delegation huffed and puffed that this obvious discrimination—which characterizes every meeting of the council—must come to an end, and proposed that the two agenda items be rolled into one. The proposal was rejected.
The American delegation proposed creating easier trigger mechanisms for convening special sessions on specific countries when serious human-rights concerns arise. The proposal was rejected. The American delegation proposed abolishing the council’s make-work “Advisory Committee.” It is currently populated by such human-rights luminaries as former Sandinista leader and suspended priest Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann. (Brockmann once served as president of the U.N. General Assembly and is best remembered for a series of anti-Semitic outbursts and for coming down off his podium to hug Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.) The proposal was rejected.
The American delegation proposed making public pre-screened complaints of gross and systematic violations of human rights that are received by the council. Specific cases, which have poured into the U.N. for over half a century from poor souls around the world, have never been revealed. The proposal was rejected. The American delegation proposed expanding the time allocated to discussions of abuses in specific countries. The proposal was rejected. The American delegation proposed that states running for a seat on the council should engage in a public dialogue with General Assembly members on their human-rights record, as measured by specific criteria. The proposal was rejected.
In all, the U.N. reports that 42 proposals were put forward by the American delegation orally and in writing. Only three were accepted. Those three addressed minutiae. For instance, the Obama team proposed allowing all states that wish to speak during the council’s “universal periodic review” (UPR) to be permitted to do so. The UPR is the procedure in which the council considers the human-rights record of every state, but the council tightly controls the time spent on each country. Council members are allotted three minutes’ and non-members two minutes’ worth of comments, regardless of the scope of the issues. Since the total time is fixed, would-be commentators are frequently silenced by ending up too low on the speakers’ list. The “reform” that was proposed and accepted? Keep the total time the same and reduce the allotted time per speaker. Thirty-second critiques of human-rights abuses, here we come.
Instead of admitting their complete inability to accomplish their mission of reforming the council, however, Obama’s representatives are scrambling to sweep the disaster under the rug. Admitting their error would no doubt strike at the heart of the president’s U.N. chorus line.
On March 31, 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. ambassador Susan Rice announced that the U.S. would seek to join the council “because we believe that working from within, we can make the Council a more effective forum,” and because “the Council…is scheduled to undergo a formal review of its structure and procedures in 2011, which will offer a significant opportunity for Council reform.” In a New York Times op-ed on Sept. 13, 2010, Eileen Donahoe—the United States’ ambassador to the council—called the review “a serious self-reflection exercise” and claimed that “if we do not sit at the table with others and do the work necessary to influence the process, U.S. values and priorities will not be reflected in the outcome.”
Now we know there was no “serious self-reflection.” U.S. values and priorities have not been reflected in the outcome. The reform opportunity is in shreds. The result leaves the administration with two choices. Choice number one: Admit the fiasco. Refuse to lend legitimacy to a highly discriminatory agency designed to help members…conceal their own abuses. And get out. Choice number two: Allow a bogus “reform” to be adopted by consensus, and stay put.
President Obama has evidently decided to take the second course, sending one more signal about how little he values Israel and how few are the number of human-rights victims around the world that stand any chance of capturing his attention.
UN INTERVENTION INTO LIBYA AN OMINOUS PRECEDENT FOR ISRAEL
Frank Gaffney, Jr.
Center for Security Policy, March 21, 2011
There are many reasons to be worried about the bridge-leap the Obama Administration has just undertaken in its war with Muammar Gaddafi.… Particularly concerning is the prospect that what we might call the Gaddafi Precedent will be used in the not-to-distant future to justify and threaten the use of U.S. military forces against an American ally: Israel. Here’s how such a seemingly impossible scenario might eventuate:
It begins with the Palestinian Authority seeking a UN Security Council resolution that would recognize its unilateral declaration of statehood. Three top female officials in the Obama administration reprise roles they played in the Council’s recent action on Libya: U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, a vehement critic of Israel, urges that the United States support (or at least not veto) the Palestinians’ gambit. She is supported by the senior director for multilateral affairs at the National Security Council, Samantha Power, who in the past argued for landing a “mammoth force” of American troops to protect the Palestinians from Israel. Ditto Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose unalloyed sympathy for the Palestinian cause dates back at least to her days as First Lady.
This resolution enjoys the support of the other four veto-wielding Security Council members—Russia, China, Britain and France—[and] all of the other non-permanent members except India, which joins the United States in abstaining. As a result, it is adopted with overwhelming support from what is known as the “international community.”
With a stroke of the UN’s collective pen, substantial numbers of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Israeli citizens find themselves on the wrong side of internationally recognized borders. The Palestinian Authority (PA) insists on its longstanding position: The sovereign territory of Palestine must be rid of all Jews.… Hamas and Fatah bury the hatchet (temporarily), forging a united front…[and] then seeks international help to “liberate” their land.
As with the Gaddafi Precedent, the first to act is the Arab League. Its members unanimously endorse the use of force to protect the “Palestinian people” and end the occupation of the West Bank by the Israelis. Turkey (which is still a NATO ally, despite its ever-more-aggressive embrace of Islamism) is joined by Britain and France—two European nations increasingly hostile to Israel—in applauding this initiative in the interest of promoting “peace.” They call on the UN Security Council to authorize such steps as might be necessary to enforce the Arab League’s bidding.
Once again, Team Obama’s leading ladies—Mesdames Clinton, Power and Rice—align to support the “will of the international community.” They exemplify, and are prepared to enforce, the President’s willingness to subordinate U.S. sovereignty to the dictates of transnationalism and his personal hostility towards Israel. The concerns of Mr. Obama’s political advisors about alienating Jewish voters on the eve of the 2012 election are trumped by presidential sympathy for the Palestinian right to a homeland.
Accordingly, hard as it may be to believe given the United States’ longstanding role as Israel’s principal ally and protector, Mr. Obama acts, in accordance with the Gaddafi Precedent. He warns Israel that it must immediately take steps to dismantle its unwanted presence inside the internationally recognized State of Palestine, lest it face the sort of U.S.-enabled “coalition” military measures now underway in Libya.…
At the moment, it seems unlikely that the first application in Libya of the Gaddafi Precedent will have results consistent with U.S. interests. Even if a positive outcome is somehow forthcoming there, should Barack Obama and his anti-Israel troika of female advisors be allowed, based on that precedent, to realize the foregoing hypothetical scenario, they would surely precipitate a new international conflagration, one fraught with truly horrific repercussions—for Israel, for the United States and for freedom-loving people elsewhere.
A Congress that was effectively sidelined by Team Obama in the current crisis had better engage fully, decisively and quickly if it is to head off such a disastrous reprise.
HOW PALESTINIANS WILL USE THE GA TO ADVANCE STATEHOOD
Jerusalem Post, March 25, 2011
Early in the Korean War, frustrated that the Soviet Union’s repeated use of its UN Security Council veto was thwarting council action to protect South Korea, the United States initiated what became known as the UN General Assembly’s “Uniting for Peace” resolution.
Adopted in November 1950, UNGA Resolution 377 provides that, should the five permanent members of the Security Council find themselves at odds, rendering the council incapable of exercising its “primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security,” the General Assembly can step into the breach. If the Security Council’s permanent members cannot reach unanimity, it elaborates, and “there appears to be a threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression,” the General Assembly can fill the vacuum by issuing its own “appropriate recommendations” for “collective measures” to be taken by individual states—right up to and including “the use of armed force when necessary, to maintain or restore international peace and security.…”
The “Uniting for Peace” Resolution is no dead letter. It was employed, most notably, in 1981, to outflank the Security Council and recommend both sanctions against South Africa for preventing Namibian independence, and assistance, including military assistance, for those seeking Namibian independence.… The passage of that resolution, says Richard Schifter, a former US assistant secretary of state for human rights who spent years representing the US in various UN forums, “was a significant step in the process of imposing sanctions on apartheid South Africa and delegitimizing the country.”
Which is where, as you’ve doubtless figured out by now, Israel and the Palestinians come in.
As Israel’s most recent ambassador to the United Nations, Gabriela Shalev, explained to me this week, the existence of UNGA Resolution 377, and the precedents for its use, mean that “those who believe that the UN General Assembly’s deliberations are of a solely declarative importance are mistaken.” The GA, under “Uniting for Peace,” has teeth.…
The Palestinians have plainly been reading the UN’s small print.… Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat even referred to the possible use of the “Uniting for Peace” resolution in comments to the Ma’an news agency late last year. In Shalev’s estimation, and in that of several other experts with whom I spoke this week, including veteran American diplomat Schifter, the Palestinian leadership is moving serenely toward invoking precisely this resolution in September.
The Palestinian leadership, that is, anticipating that the US will veto its unilateral bid for statehood at the Security Council, will take the matter to the General Assembly. There it will push for the necessary two-thirds GA support for recognizing “Palestine,” presumably along the pre-1967 lines and with a “right of return” for refugees, under a “Uniting for Peace” resolution to ensure global action.… The consequences for Israel should this approach succeed…could be profoundly damaging.
Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority has made no secret of its intention to secure UN support for the establishment of Palestine by September. Veteran negotiator Erekat reiterated only this week…that “the Palestinian leadership institutions (the PLO and Fatah) have decided to submit a request to the UN for recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with its capital in East Jerusalem.…”
Such recognition, according to Erekat, would mean that “Palestine” would no longer be a matter of “disputed lands,” but rather a state under occupation. Since “Palestine” had “a permanent population, defined territory (even if that does not involve permanent borders), an effective government and the ability to establish international relations,” in Erekat’s assessment, it would meet the standards defined for a state under the terms of the Montevideo Convention of 1933 on the rights and duties of states.…
Israel is anticipating that the UN resolution would fail [in the Security Council], that a similar resolution would gain widespread but non-binding support at the GA in September, that Israel’s international legitimacy would be knocked down another notch or two, but that the unilateral approach would then reach a dead end.… [Accordingly,], the possibility of the “Uniting for Peace” resolution providing practical backing for UNGA recognition of Palestine is now, extremely belatedly, starting to shock some of the relevant players in Israel, though not all, out of their complacency.…
All is far from lost, but it could be if Israel does not muster an effective response to the Palestinian strategy. And the first key forum is the Security Council.
Would-be nations gain their membership in the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council, pointed out Schifter, who now chairs the board of directors of the American Jewish International Relations Institute. And it is a safe bet that the Palestinian strategists, in drafting their resolution calling for the Security Council to recognize Palestine, will do their linguistic best to make it hard for the 15 Security Council members to say no.
It is assumed they will invoke relevant UN resolutions. They will employ comments and statements made by world leaders in support of Palestine. Says Shalev: “They’ll use words that [US Ambassador to the UN Susan] Rice, [Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton, [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel and others have used in support of the Palestinians.…”
[If] the necessary nine or more of the 15 Security Council members will vote for “Palestine”…the diplomatic operation will have been a spectacular success. [Otherwise, if] the US [is] forced to utilize its veto, [then the Palestinians] will then move on to the General Assembly, with that “Uniting for Peace” resolution in their armory.
The best way for Israel to prevent any of that happening would be to achieve what is currently viewed as almost a mission impossible: to persuade at least seven of the 15 Security Council members to vote no, to abstain, or to absent themselves. That way, the statehood resolution would fail, the US would not have to employ its veto, and there would be no possibility for the Palestinians to claim Security Council deadlock and thus invoke “Uniting for Peace” in the General Assembly.
Why almost mission impossible? Because Israel has very few solid friends in the international diplomatic community these days, and even fewer among the 15 current Security Council nations…
Most Israelis may well believe that the failure to make progress in negotiations with the Palestinians stems from the other side’s refusal to take positions that would guarantee Israel’s physical and demographic security alongside the proposed Palestine.… But the sad fact is that most of the international diplomatic community simply doesn’t accept this narrative, and tends increasingly to blame strong, sovereign Israel for failing to grant independence to the weak, stateless Palestinians. Rocket attacks from Gaza, bombings at bus stops in Jerusalem, even horrific murders of fathers, mothers, children and babies in their homes, are evaluated in that context.
So there is certainly no automatic, or even readily attainable, blocking vote in the Security Council for the Palestinians’ demand for statehood, even if the establishment of that “state” is being sought while the core issues of dispute with neighboring Israel remain unresolved.…
Some in Israel, it is plain, are acutely aware of the danger. Indeed, several sources suggested to me, one of the motivations for the purportedly imminent new Netanyahu diplomatic initiative is to take the wind out of the Palestinian sails—to underline Israeli willingness to make real progress, and thus undercut Palestinian claims that they have no option…but to take the unilateral route.
The idea is to win over both international players, and the Palestinians themselves—to convince them that the bilateral route is the better route. Noting that over 110 nations have already announced their support for a Palestinian state, Defense Minister Ehud Barak last week told the Institute for National Security Studies that Israel was facing “a diplomatic tsunami that the majority of the public is unaware of.” He urged Netanyahu to “put the core issues on the table. Israel must say it is willing to discuss security borders, refugees and Jerusalem.” As things stood, he warned, Israel was being pushed “into a corner from which the old South Africa’s deterioration began.…”