Time for the US to Send a Message by Cutting UN Funding: Daniel Flesch, Algemeiner, Jan. 2, 2018— Recent events at the United Nations likely indicate a new tone to deliberations at the international organization.
Trump Should Crack Down on UNRWA, Finally End Fiction of Palestinian ‘Refugees’: Richard Goldberg, New York Post, Dec. 27, 2017— As the UN General Assembly voted to reject America’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, US Ambassador Nikki Haley issued a stern warning…
UNESCO Indulges Anti-Semitism: Sean Durns, JNS, Dec. 12, 2017— In October, the U.S. State Department notified the director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that America would be withdrawing from the U.N. body.
Aharon Appelfeld, Acclaimed Israeli Novelist and Holocaust Survivor, Dies at 85: New York Times, Jan. 4, 2018— Aharon Appelfeld, a prolific Israeli novelist and Holocaust survivor whose works examined the lost world of European Jews and the new lives they pursued in Israel, died on Thursday. He was 85.
A Crystal Ball on 2018: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 4, 2018
America Has Sometimes Stood Proudest at the UN When it has Stood Alone: Stephen Daisley, Spectator, Dec. 22, 2017
Nikki Haley Takes on World Government: Seth Lipsky, New York Post, Dec. 20, 2017
Bye UNESCO: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 24, 2017
Algemeiner, Jan. 2, 2018
Recent events at the United Nations likely indicate a new tone to deliberations at the international organization. Driven by their frenzied attempt to demonize and delegitimize Israel, many of the UN’s member states improperly injected themselves into a matter of sovereign US policy — and, as a result, tried to humiliate the United States. As a consequence, the US should substantially cut its financial contributions to the United Nations.
On December 18, the US vetoed an Egyptian-drafted UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution that expressed “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem.” The “recent decision” was announced in President Donald Trump’s December 6 speech, in which he declared that the United States “officially recognize[s] Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” The other 14 members of the UNSC all voted in favor of the resolution. Seeking recourse after falling short at the UN’s highest body, on December 20, Yemen and Turkey — as the respective chairs of the Arab Group and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation — brought the resolution before the UN’s General Assembly (GA), where no country can exercise a veto. Although GA resolutions have no enforcement mechanism, they often serve as a litmus test of world opinion. And the resulting vote was unequivocal: 128 in favor and 9 against, with 35 abstentions.
That an anti-Israel resolution passed in the General Assembly is no surprise; Abba Eban, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, once famously remarked that if Algeria introduced a resolution stating that the world was flat — and that Israel had flattened it — the resolution would pass by a vote of 164 to 13, with 26 abstentions. However, the December 20 resolution should particularly concern the US — not simply because the resolution is anti-Israel, but because it seeks to interfere with a matter of internal US policy. Where a nation decides to locate its embassy is a sovereign act, and one that is not within the purview of the United Nations. In his speech, President Trump rightly noted that every country has the right to choose its own capital. Likewise, every nation has the right to determine the location of its embassies.
The decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem was first legislated by Congress in the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. Furthermore, in June of this year, the Senate passed a resolution (90-0) recognizing that “Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel,” and called on the president to “reaffirm the Jerusalem Embassy Act … and abide by its provisions.”
Far from a reflexive, compulsive act by a non-traditional president, Trump’s decision simply affirmed what has already been American policy for more than two decades; furthermore, it’s a position that enjoys broad support from elected officials on both sides of the aisle. Understood in this context, it is clear that the General Assembly vote was not just an admonition of an American president or an effort to humiliate the US, but a provocative attempt to repudiate the sovereignty of the American people.
Moreover, the UN needlessly inserted itself despite the clear absence of direct, tangible policy consequences. As host to Israel’s parliament, Supreme Court, prime minister and most Israeli government agencies, it is understood that Jerusalem will remain Israel’s capital, irrespective of final parameters of any peace agreement with the Palestinians — including the most generous Israeli peace plan in 2008, which offered eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state. Trump also noted that his decision does not “reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement…that is acceptable to both sides.” In short, it does not change the facts on the ground.
The second notable development is the length to which UN member states went to pass this latest anti-Israel resolution. For comparison, the last time that the US issued its Security Council veto was in February 2011. Then, 79 states co-sponsored a draft resolution that demanded Israel cease building settlements in and around Jerusalem. The resolution failed 14-1, yet not one of the 79 cosponsors sought recourse in the General Assembly, where passage may well have carried significant consequences for Israel. For example, the EU could have increased its campaign to discriminate against, or boycott, products made in the settlements.
In 2017, however, the resolution in question concerns a decision internal to the United States, one that neither affects facts on the ground nor benefits Israel to the detriment of the Palestinians. And yet two different countries did not hesitate to bring Egypt’s resolution before the General Assembly. The obvious purpose of the GA vote was to give certain members of the international community an opportunity not only to reject Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but to effectively reprimand the United States. The fact that Egypt, which receives $1.3 billion annually in US foreign aid, first authored the resolution makes this blatant display of anti-Americanism all the more egregious. The US must act to disincentivize UN member states from future attempts to neutralize its Security Council veto, and to try to humiliate it in the General Assembly.
The US provides 22% ($4 billion) of the UN’s mandatory contributions — far exceeding the contributions from other major countries — for administrative and programs costs, as well as for peacekeeping operations. The remaining $6 billion in US support are voluntary contributions that fund organizations such as UNICEF, the World Food Program and UNRWA (whose existence likely perpetuates the Palestinian conflict).
On December 24, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley offered an initial response to the resolution: that the US will cut the UN’s 2018-19 fiscal year operating budget by $285 million. Admittedly, this reduction is intended to “increase the UN’s efficiencies while protecting [American] interests.” Though a step in the right direction, more needs to be done to discourage the UN’s recent behavior.
The US, in the world of international relations, cannot always expect an unambiguously causal relationship between financial support and policies it wants. However, when illiberal actors hijack the UN, and pursue extraordinary measures to actively interfere with internal US policies, it is time to impose a consequence: reduced funding to the United Nations.
New York Post, Dec. 27, 2017
As the UN General Assembly voted to reject America’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, US Ambassador Nikki Haley issued a stern warning: We’ll remember this the next time you come calling for more hard-earned American taxpayer dollars. Most nation-states called her bluff, leaving many to wonder what comes next. If President Trump wants to use his financial leverage at the United Nations to strike at the heart of the anti-America, anti-Israel institutional infrastructure, he should look no further than the agency responsible for Palestinian refugees: the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
By most definitions, refugees are those forced to flee their country because of persecution, war or violence. Nearly every refugee in the world is cared for by the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, whose ultimate goal is repatriation, resettlement and integration. The exception? Palestinian refugees. Arab states insisted on a different definition for Palestinian-Arab refugees of the Israeli War of Independence — and a different agency to care for them. Today, millions of people are referred to as “Palestinian refugees” even though the only home they, and in many cases even their parents and grandparents, have ever known is either a refugee camp or an Arab host nation like Jordan.
Rather than use the billions of dollars of international assistance provided since 1950 to resettle and integrate Palestinian-Arab refugees — just as Israel successfully resettled and integrated Jewish refugees from the Middle East, North Africa and the Soviet Union — UNRWA’s mandate has always been to keep Palestinians as perpetual refugees. In truth, it’s not a refugee agency but a welfare agency, which keeps millions of people in a permanent state of dependency and poverty — all while feeding Palestinians an empty promise that one day they’ll settle in Israel.
Yet the United States remains the agency’s largest single-state donor. Unfortunately, every time Congress tries to expose the fiction of “the Palestinian refugee,” it runs up against a State Department fiercely protective of UNRWA and its mythology. In 2012, an amendment to the annual State-Foreign Operations appropriations bill asked the Obama administration a simple question: How many of the Palestinians currently served by UNRWA were personally displaced by the 1948 war? The point was to confirm to the world that there are only a relative handful of true Palestinian refugees still alive who may be entitled to repatriation or compensation. The rest, the descendants, are impoverished Palestinian-Arabs who will either become citizens of a future Palestinian state or be absorbed by Arab host nations.
While an official report was eventually sent to Congress, its contents were kept classified to keep the American public from knowing the truth. The Trump administration can take a giant step toward Middle East peace by declassifying that report, updating it and formally adopting a definition for Palestinian refugees that makes a clear distinction between refugees displaced by the 1948 war and their descendants.
The administration and Congress should work together to change the way America funds UNRWA, making clear to taxpayers how much money goes to refugee assistance and how much subsidizes a culture of welfare and terrorism. Future funding of the agency should be tied to a clear mission of resettlement, integration and economic self-sufficiency. A timetable and work plan should be established for UNRWA’s integration into UNHCR. Conditions should be set in the annual foreign bill, giving Haley the leverage she needs to force changes in the agency’s next biennium budget.
Nations of the world showed their true colors last week. Far too many cared more about castigating Israel than their relationship with the United States. UNRWA is a case study in the institutional bias that America helps fund at the United Nations. Shining a light on this agency and making it a centerpiece of a new reform agenda would be a victory for American taxpayers and a defeat for the international movement to castigate our closest ally in the Middle East.
JNS, Dec. 12, 2017
In October, the U.S. State Department notified the director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that America would be withdrawing from the U.N. body. The U.S. cited the need for fundamental reform, mounting arrears and “continuing anti-Israel bias” at the organization. But the problem is much deeper: UNESCO denies Israel’s very right to exist, a fact that its defenders would do well to acknowledge if they’re serious about reforming the agency.
In recent commentaries in The Hill and elsewhere, some have obfuscated UNESCO’s efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state. Commentators such as Dan Wagner, a special adviser to the UNESCO director-general, have minimized the organization’s troubling agenda, stating, “When it comes to Israel and some other hot-button political issues, the majority of UNESCO member nations and the U.S. have sometimes found themselves on opposite sides.” The reason? “Because UNESCO—as the U.S. insisted at its founding—is a fully democratic body that gives each member nation a single vote,” according to Wagner, “the majority truly does rule.” Yet this omits that the majority of UNESCO member nations have engaged in, or passively enabled, efforts to single out Israel. That it was done via “majority rule” hardly makes it any better, as the history of anti-Semitism regrettably illustrates.
UNESCO claims that it aims to “contribute to the building of peace,” and lists “fostering cultural diversity” and “intercultural dialogue” as some of its top objectives. But as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) and others have documented, UNESCO has engaged in political warfare against Israel, seeking to delegitimize the Jewish state and erase the Jewish people’s historical connection to their ancestral homeland. For example, on April 15, 2016, UNESCO adopted a resolution that removed any Jewish historical ties to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall area in Jerusalem, referring to the former as the “al-Aqsa Mosque/al-Haram al-Sharif” and the latter as “al-Buraq Plaza.” The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism. The existence of both structures—as verified by archaeologists—predates the founding of Islam by hundreds of years. UNESCO not only sought to strip these holy sites of their Jewish identity, but condemned Jewish visits and policing of the sites.
This politically motivated resolution is just one of many in UNESCO’s campaign against Israel. By singling out Israel for opprobrium—including during a period in which Islamists are targeting ancient sites throughout the world—UNESCO shows its bias. In October 2016, UNESCO passed another resolution that omitted mention of any Jewish connection to Jewish holy sites, referring to them only in Arabic and Muslim terms. That resolution charged Israel with being an “occupying power” in Jerusalem—a city that is not once mentioned in Islam’s Quran, but which has been central to Judaism for thousands of years.
As CAMERA Senior Analyst Ricki Hollander has noted, “This historical revisionism and attempted religious suppression is an affront to Jews and Christians alike as these sites are central to both religions.” In doing so, UNESCO blatantly takes the side of the Palestinian Arab leadership, which has sought to expunge any Jewish—and therefore important Christian—connections to Jerusalem’s holy sites. Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, for example, called the Jewish history of Jerusalem a “delusional myth” in an Aug. 1, 2015, speech that was aired on the official PA TV station. By passing politicized resolutions, UNESCO serves the objectives of the PA and other entities that routinely attack the Jewish state and, in the PA’s case, routinely incite anti-Jewish violence.
Indeed, in the speech noted above, Abbas falsely claimed that Jews held designs to “rid” Jerusalem of the al-Aqsa mosque, located on the Temple Mount. As the Middle East analyst Nadav Shragai has noted, this libel has long been used by Palestinian and Arab rulers to provoke attacks against Jerusalem’s Jewish residents. True to form, Abbas’s remarks were followed shortly thereafter by the so-called “stabbing intifada” in which dozens of Israelis were attacked, and in some instances murdered, with bats, knives, rocks, vehicles and firearms, among other weapons. Worse still, in an April 2016 resolution, UNESCO blamed Israel for the terror attacks that followed Abbas’s speech. By contrast, when Palestinians have been caught—including on camera—desecrating religious holy sites like Rachel’s Tomb, Joseph’s Tomb and the Church of the Nativity, UNESCO is often silent despite its stated goal to protect culturally significant sites. In 2013, for example, more than 200 terror attacks occurred at Rachel’s Tomb, where the Jewish matriarch Rachel is believed to be buried; 119 of those attacks included the use of explosives at the sacred site.
In September 2015, four Palestinian terrorists were arrested for plotting an attack on another Jewish sacred site, Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus—the biblical city of Shechem in Samaria. They planned to set off explosives at the site, but were caught and arrested by Israeli security forces despite the fact that the men lived in areas governed by the PA, which is bound by the 1993 Oslo Accords to apprehend terrorists and prevent attacks. This failed to merit a UNESCO resolution. Simply put, UNESCO does not consider Jewish culture and heritage worthy of protection.
New York Times, Jan. 4, 2017
Aharon Appelfeld, a prolific Israeli novelist and Holocaust survivor whose works examined the lost world of European Jews and the new lives they pursued in Israel, died on Thursday. He was 85. Writing in Hebrew, the Romanian-born Appelfeld penned more than 40 books and was one of Israel's most widely translated authors. Appelfeld's "Blooms of Darkness", the tale of an 11-year-old boy hidden from the Nazis by a prostitute, won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in London in 2012. Appelfeld was also awarded the State of Israel Prize for Literature in 1983 and was a Man Booker International Prize finalist in 2013. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, on Twitter, expressed sorrow "about the passing of our beloved writer".
Amos Oz, one of Israel's most prominent novelists, said on Army Radio that Appelfed shied away from graphic depictions of the Holocaust, choosing instead to describe its effect on the lives of his characters. "Appelfeld never wrote about gas chambers, never wrote about executions, about mass graves, atrocities and experiments on human beings. He wrote about survivors before and after. He wrote about people who did not know what was about to happen to them and about people who already knew everything but hardly spoke about it," Oz said on Army Radio. "He didn't want, or he was unable, to write depictions of the horrors – he said that too. They are beyond the ability of human language to express them. You have to approach them indirectly, tiptoeing from afar," said Oz, once Appelfeld's student in a kibbutz.
Appelfeld was a young boy when his mother was killed by the Nazis. He and his father were sent to a concentration camp in Transnistria in an area of Ukraine then under control of the German-allied Romanian forces. Aged 10 at the time, he escaped and spent three years hiding in forests in Ukraine. "I survived in the fields and forests. Sometimes I worked as a shepherd or taking care of broken-down horses," he told The New York Times in 1986. "I lived with marginal people during the war – prostitutes, horse thieves, witches, fortune tellers. They gave me my real education."
After the war, he immigrated to Israel – he learned Hebrew beforehand – and when he was 28 he discovered that his father had survived and they were reunited in Israel. "Even though I spent time on kibbutzim that tried to change me, I did not change. I remained, basically, the Jewish refugee child who survived," he said in an interview with Israel's Haaretz newspaper in 2015. American-Jewish author Philip Roth once described Appelfeld as a "displaced writer of displaced fiction, who made displacement and disorientation a subject uniquely his own". Works by Appelfeld translated into English include "Badenheim 1939" (1978), a tale set in a fictional Austrian resort on the eve of World War Two, and "The Immortal Bartfuss" (1988), a fictional portrait of a troubled survivor in Israel.
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A Crystal Ball on 2018: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 4, 2018—If you predicted one year ago that America would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Saudi Arabia would allow women to drive, and Avi Gabbay would become Labor Party leader, most people would consider you crazy.
America Has Sometimes Stood Proudest at the UN When it has Stood Alone: Stephen Daisley, Spectator, Dec. 22, 2017—Outvoted on a resolution on Israel, on the wrong side of international opinion, the United States ambassador responded with an intemperate address to the UN General Assembly.
Nikki Haley Takes on World Government: Seth Lipsky, New York Post, Dec. 20, 2017—Could Nikki Haley emerge as our Joan of Arc in the struggle against the folly of world government?
Bye UNESCO: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 24, 2017—Israel will join the United States in removing itself and its funding from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. It’s about time.