by Richard Schifter
As the year 2014 begins, the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations sponsored by the United States have been underway for five months. Under the current schedule, they are to conclude at the end of April.
It is clear that Israel is prepared to agree to a two-state solution. The Palestinians, by contrast, continue to insist on their claim of a so-called “right of return,” the migration to Israel of more than 5,000,000 persons of Palestinian descent, 1 percent of whom are refugees of the 1948 war and 99 percent of whom are the descendants of refugees. That wave of migrants would end the existence of Israel as a majority Jewish state and is thus clearly unacceptable to Israel. Peace can be brought about only if that demand is dropped, as President Clinton proposed at the end of the Camp David talks of 2000.
If no agreement is reached, the Palestinians are expected to step up their anti-Israel campaign at the United Nations. Statements made on behalf of Fatah suggest that consideration is being given to proposing a resolution similar to the one adopted by the General Assembly in 1981 against South Africa, calling “upon all States … to impose comprehensive mandatory sanctions … [and] … strongly urging all States … to cease forthwith, individually and collectively, all dealings with [South Africa] in order to isolate it politically, economically, militarily, and culturally.”
The General Assembly’s resolutions are not binding, but a resolution of this type could do serious damage to Israel, particularly when re-enforced by a well-funded propaganda campaign stemming from the U.N. It is important to be ready for an anti-Israel resolution similar to the 1981 resolution directed against South Africa to be proposed if peace negotiations fail.
Since it would be based on the claim that it is a “recommendation with respect to the maintenance of international peace and security,” the resolution will require a two-thirds vote. The U.N.’s anti-U.S./anti-Israel bloc will undoubtedly vote for it. Unfortunately, they are often joined by states that have excellent relations with the U.S. and are in no way opposed to Israel, but vote against Israel as a result of pressure on their ambassadors to the U.N., or other inducements. It is possible to affect the votes of these states by reaching out to their heads of government to make certain that their U.N. ambassadors receive clear instructions not to vote against the U.S. position. Rather than wait until the problem faces us, it is important for the United States to reach out now to the heads of government of states that vote against Israel at the U.N. without having a national policy reason for doing so. They should be urged not to vote against the U.S. position on resolutions that could undercut all hopes for an Israeli-Palestinian peace. Our community needs to become fully engaged in this effort.
The campaign to use the U.N. to destroy the state of Israel has been underway since the early 1970s, when Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi joined in forming an anti-United States/anti-Israel coalition to take control of the U.N. General Assembly. Castro brought the Soviet bloc to this new union, whose objective was to damage the international standing of the United States. Gadhafi brought the Organization of the Islamic Conference, whose leaders sought to achieve at the U.N. what they had failed to accomplish in the 1973 War. To gain a clear majority for their coalition, they used the Non-Aligned Movement to persuade newly independent states in Africa and Asia to join them and to recruit support in the Western Hemisphere.
Through its control of the U.N. General Assembly, the coalition won approval of the “Zionism is Racism” resolution in 1975, and created at that time the U.N.’s anti-Israel propaganda apparatus. That apparatus has functioned ever since. It consists of the Palestinian Rights Committee, a committee of representatives of 26 states, most of them anti-U.S. or anti-Israel or both, and the Palestinian Rights Division, an office in the U.N. Secretariat. They use their U.N. status and U.N. funding for staff and operations to spread anti-Israel propaganda world-wide. It is this apparatus whose mandate and funding authorization was extended for another year (once again over U.S. opposition) on Nov. 26, when it was given the task of organizing activities in 2014, the year proclaimed by the General Assembly as the “International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.”
The apparatus has become increasingly sophisticated in spreading the anti-Israel message worldwide, seeking to demonize and delegitimize Israel. It reaches out to civil society organizations, academia, governmental officials, and, of course, the media and plays a key role in support of the boycotts-divestment-sanctions (BDS) campaign.
What role will the apparatus play in the “International Year of Solidarity”? Chances are that this phrase was inserted into the Palestinian Rights Committee resolution to justify a significant increase in the fund allocation for the U.N.’s anti-Israel propaganda program, funds that would certainly be available for use in the threatened major effort at the U.N. in case the negotiations fail to produce an agreement.
U.N. agencies sponsor many worthwhile programs, such as those of the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the United Nations Children Fund, and others. Heads of government of states not committed to the anti-U.S./anti-Israel program must be alerted to the fact that funds used for the U.N.’s international anti-Israel propaganda effort are diverted from these worthwhile causes.
Richard Schifter served as U.S. representative in the U.N. Human Rights Commission and deputy U.S. representative in the U.N. Security Council. He now chairs the board of directors of the American Jewish International Relations Institute.