by Gerald Steinberg in Jerusalem, The Canadian Jewish News
On the face of it, a new international court to try war criminals would seem to be a good cause.
However, even before it could start operations, this institution was hijacked by the same anti-Israeli
agenda that has poisoned other international institutions, including the United Nations.
In a deliberate move to create yet another base for attacking Israel, the UN-sponsored
conference bowed to Egyptian and Syrian pressure to include "settlements in occupied territories" in
the list of war crimes. Of course, the definition of "settlements" and "occupied territories" will not be
based on careful consideration of the facts, but will be a political and ideological decision determined
by the usual anti-Israeli majority.
The international "community" in general, and the UN in particular, are still far too biased to
provide moral guidance and dispense justice for the world. The vast majority of the states are
undemocratic, and many of the democratic ones are often willing to sacrifice principle for expediency.
When it comes to Israel and the Middle East, the gap between the ideal and political reality is still
Recent events in the UN highlight how little has changed since the dark days when a majority
of states declared Zionism to be racism. In the past few weeks, the president of the UN Security
Council issued a formal statement criticizing Israel's plan to expand the municipal boundaries of
Jerusalem (mainly to the west, in areas which have been part of Israel since 1948). This plan was
primarily designed to improve sewage services and traffic flow in the Jerusalem area. The reason for
the UN's interference was clear - the continuing Palestinian and Arab propaganda campaign designed
to isolate and weaken Israel politically. The Arab charge that this issue was related to the permanent
status negotiations was unfounded, but this did not prevent the UN from endorsing the Arabs'
In contrast, a few weeks earlier, the UN accepted an initiative that clearly violated the
agreement to leave permanent status issues to be negotiated between the parties. In an effort to
upgrade their status and move towards independence, the Palestinians sought to gain most of the
attributes of a member state. After some softening of support from Europe, the proposal was watered
down, but in the end, the UN General Assembly voted (124-4) to give the Palestinians the right to
participate in general debates and to co-sponsor draft resolutions. The message was that if the
Palestinians unilaterally declare an independent state in May 1999, in violation of the Oslo accords,
they will be recognized by the majority of UN members. However, their continuing support for
terrorism or questions regarding their ability to manage a state are not on the agenda.
While upgrading the Palestinians, the UN still discriminates against Israel. The UN is organized
in terms of regional groupings that are the basis for election to the Security Council, the UN
Commission on Human Rights and other UN bodies. Every UN member is also a member of such a
regional group, except for Israel. The Arab states have refused to agree to include Israel in the Middle
East group, and the Israeli application to join the Western European and North American group has
also been rejected, leaving Israel as a second class state in the UN framework. Despite the pledge of
Secretary General Kofi Annan to rectify this problem, (announced during his recent visit to Israel),
nothing has changed.
The use of the UN to promote anti-Israeli hatred also continues. Recently, the Palestinian
observer to the Commission on Human Rights charged that Israelis had infected 300 Palestinian
children with the AIDS virus. The chair of the Commission admitted that this charge was "an allegation
made without evidence, on the basis of a newspaper article ...proved completely false." However,
under Arab pressure, the chair backed down from earlier plans to make the statement publicly.
During an earlier session, the Syrian ambassador repeated the Damascus blood libel claiming
that Jews killed Christian children to use their blood to make matzah. The Western democracies (with
the exception of the United States) lacked the moral fortitude to challenge this age-old anti-Semitic
libel. As a result of such bias, the UN has lost credibility.
It is no surprise that the Oslo agreements were negotiated outside of the UN framework.
Indeed, since 1993, hundreds of Israelis have been killed and thousands injured by Palestinian terror
attacks. During the same period, 34 resolutions deploring Israel were passed at the UN, but not one
resolution focused on Palestinian terrorism.
Canada has a central role in the UN, but its representatives, like those of the European
democracies, have failed to end the abuse of this forum to attack Israel. It is time for the Canadian
government to use its influence to end this campaign of hatred against Israel and the Jewish people.