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Letter to the Editor, National Post, May 1 from Doris Epstein

The United Nations’ ‘despicable bias’

Finally, a journalist who exposes the UN’s despicable bias and irrational condemnations of the only democratic country in the Middle East — Israel. In Terry Glavin’s excellent article though, he didn’t go far enough with regards to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Not only has it weaponized the Arab refugees in its battle with Israel, keeping them in abominable conditions and refusing to resettle them, it is, in part, responsible for the surge of terrorism in Israel.

UNRWA’s influence in the Middle East is gigantic. It has a budget of US$1.6 billion, a staff of 29,000 and operates in six countries, overseeing hundreds of schools. Its teaching materials glorify terrorism, demonize Israel and incite genocidal antisemitism. Children as young as three are trained to be soldiers, to hate Israelis and Jews and hero worship terrorists.

Canada, the U.S. and the EU have given over $6 billion to the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA since 2008, with no prior conditions. UNRWA acts with impunity and has declared it has no intention of changing any of its policies.

The Canadian government condemns antisemitism, while funding the purveyors of the worst antisemitism in the world. Our government must suspend funding until UNRWA creates an educational system and social environment that promotes statesmanship rather than terrorism, peace rather than war.

Doris Epstein, Board member, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research


As Israel turns 75, the UN won't be invited to the party

Israel at 75: Condemning the Jewish State appears to be a major pursuit for the United Nations General Assembly

Terry Glavin, Apr. 25, 2023

The National Post has been celebrating the modern state of Israel ahead of its 75th anniversary on April 26, telling the remarkable story of its rebirth and resilience against all odds.

The circumstances attending to the 75th birthday of the world’s only Jewish state this week are not what you could call auspiciously pleasant. Yom Ha’atzmaut — Independence Day — is commemorated on Wednesday, immediately following Yom HaZikaron — Memorial Day. These are not exactly the best of times for a celebration.

The spectre of a bloody “third Intifada,” replicating the horrors of the late 1980s and the bloodletting of 20 years ago, has been on everybody’s minds lately, following some of the most precipitous violence in years. On top of all that, Israelis have been thronging in the streets by the hundreds of thousands to protest the intentions of Benjamin Netanyahu’s wobbly right-wing coalition to reshape Israel’s flourishing multicultural democracy with a drearily authoritarian judicial overhaul.

To make the best of it, Israelis will have to draw deeply from their hard-earned appreciation of absurdity and talent for sarcasm, and there’s one subject that always offers lots of opportunities for dark humour: the United Nations. Being the butt of jokes is perhaps the primary use the UN has made of itself to Israelis, from the beginning.

Over the past seven years, the UN General Assembly has passed a total of 208 resolutions targeting various countries for reported violations of the UN Charter and other transgressions, and 140 of those resolutions singled out Israel. Last year the UN General Assembly adopted 15 resolutions targeting Israel. Total number of UN condemnations aimed at all other UN member states last year, combined: 13.

While Israelis will be doing their best this week to celebrate their emancipation from the British Mandate that controlled the Holy Land in the years following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the event will be observed differently at the UN. In a “high-level” commemoration at the UN General Assembly in New York on May 15, the event will mark what it calls “the 75th anniversary of the Nakba.” In Arabic, nakba means disaster.

Meanwhile, the UN’s International Court of Justice is trundling through a timeline to manufacture a non-binding advisory opinion the UN General Assembly voted to request last December — that vote was the 15th of the UN’s 15 resolutions aimed at Israel in 2022. The IJC has been assigned to look into Israel’s “prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation” of Palestinian territory and other measures Israel has allegedly taken “aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status” of Jerusalem.

There was nothing in the resolution about the intentions of Hamas or Islamic Jihad or the Palestinian Authority with respect to the “demographic composition” of the Holy Land, which are fair to describe as not exactly favourable to Jews.

But that’s how things go at the UN. The IJC resolution originated in an “open-ended” commission of inquiry established by the UN’s Human Rights Council, which was established in 2006 to replace the UN Human Rights Commission, which was comically discredited owing to its capture by human rights abusers like China, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Cuba.

Since its founding 17 years ago, the UN’s HRC has adopted 90 resolutions condemning Israel in one way or another. This year’s council members include China, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Cuba, Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia. Only three in 10 of the council’s members are democracies.

Two years ago the HRC established a permanent commission of inquiry to examine Israel’s breaches of human rights norms in a vote initiated by Pakistan and the delegation from the Palestine Liberation Organization, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Among the HRC member states voting in favour: Russia, China, Eritrea, Sudan, Venezuela and Somalia.

Then there’s the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. UNESCO made a cruel joke of itself without any Israeli help in 2016 when the agency adopted a resolution that gave the impression of erasing Jewish associations with Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism, recognizing only its sanctity in Islam.

The following year UNESCO declared the Old City of Hebron in the West Bank to be a Palestinian World Heritage Site, seemingly overlooking Hebron’s place as Judaism’s second holiest place after Jerusalem. Hebron is the site of the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a cave long known as the burial place of Abraham and his family, from whom the 12 tribes of ancient Israel are said to have descended.

Last year, the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) was busy with 19 agenda items covering issues as diverse as disaster relief, science and technology, and women’s rights. Only one agenda item produced a resolution singling out a single country for criticism. That country was Israel, which the agency blasted last July for standing as a “major obstacle” to the rights of Palestinian women. At the time, Hillel Neuer of UN Watch said ECOSOC had turned a blind eye to the status of women under the patriarchal Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the viciously Islamist Hamas regime in Gaza, choosing instead to praise the Palestinian authorities’ initiatives to advance the status of women.

“ECOSOC’s 2022 session completely ignored the world’s worst abusers of women’s rights,” Neuer said, “refusing to pass a single resolution on the situation of women in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Chad, Qatar or Algeria, which rank among the 10 worst violators of women’s rights in the world.”

The UN agency with the key mandate in the Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio is the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA), established in the bloody aftermath of Israel’s war of independence and the first Arab-Israeli war of 1948 and 1949. UNRWA was initially charged with the relief of perhaps 850,000 Palestinians displaced in the fighting. Roughly the same number of Jews were driven out of Arab countries around the same time.

Most of the Jewish refugees found a home in Israel. But UNRWA now counts roughly six million Palestinians who qualify for its services — education, health care and so on. UNRWA also administers several dozen “camps” in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

UNRWA has no mandate to resettle these “refugees,” whose predicament will remain a de facto permanent limbo until such time as the Palestinian leadership agrees to a peace with Israel in a neighbouring Palestinian state — which the Palestinian Authority still more or less claims to want — or the Jews are driven into the sea, which Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other jihadist fronts would prefer.

In these ways, the UN offers little incentive to Israelis to play along with its various inquiries and tribunals and councils and commissions, so Israelis find friends wherever they can, and the Palestinians are stuck with leaders they don’t elect, and “the conflict” carries on.

Last year was the bloodiest year in the West Bank since 2005 — 146 Palestinians were killed in encounters with the Israeli Defence Forces, which says the vast majority of those killed were involved in terrorist activity that posed an imminent threat to life. Thirty Israelis were killed in terrorist attacks last year, and of the 18 Israelis murdered in terrorist attacks so far this year, all were civilians. Dozens of rockets were lobbed into Israel from Lebanon earlier this month — the worst barrage from Hamas and Hezbollah positions in Lebanon since 2006.

It is no wonder, then, that a majority of Israelis are set to mark their country’s 75th year of survival a bit pessimistic about their future, according to the results of a poll published last Friday. According to the Channel 12 news survey, 51 per cent said they were pessimistic, 43 per cent said they were optimistic, and six per cent said they didn’t know.

If there’s light at the end of this tunnel, one thing is without question. It won’t be shining from the United Nations.


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