Moral Failure at the United Nations – An Analysis (24 March 2017) by Lawrence Davidson


Part I – Moral Failure


On 15 March 2017 the United Nations’ Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) published a report on Israeli practices and policies toward the Palestinians. Using international law as its comparative criterion, the report came to a “definitive conclusion” that “Israel is guilty of Apartheid practices.” The term Apartheid was not used in the report merely in a “pejorative” way. It was used as a descriptor of fact based on the evidence and the accepted legal meaning of the term.


Such was the immediate uproar from the United States and Israel that U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, in a moment of moral failure, ordered the report’s withdrawal. The head of ESCWA, the Jordanian diplomat Rima Khalaf, decided that she could not, in good conscience, do so and so tendered her resigation.



Part II – Reportage



The initial New York Times coverage of the incident paid little attention to the accuracy of the report, an approach which, if pursued, would have at least educated the Times’ readers as to the real conditions of Palestinians under Israeli domination. Instead it called the report, and those involved in producing it, into question. For instance, the NYT told us that “the report provoked outrage from Israel and the United States.” The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, was quoted as declaring that, “when someone issues a false and defamatory report in the name of the U.N. it is appropriate that the person resign.” At no point in the NYT story was it noted that Ms Haley’s charge that the report was false, was itself false. Other coverage by the NYT improved only slightly.


The NYT did pay attention to the fact that, among the authors of the report, was former U.N. human rights investigator Richard Falk. Falk served six years as U.N. Spacial Rapporteur for the Occupied Territories. According to the NYT, his presence had to “gall[ed] many Israeli supporters who regard him as an anti-Semite.” There is something troubling about a newspaper that claims to represent the epitome of professional journalism reporting such slurs without properly evaluating them. Richard Falk, who is Jewish, has an impeccable record of both academic achievement and public service. His reputation for honesty and dedication to the cause of human rights exemplifies the best practice of Jewish values. Thus, he has every right to say that “I have been smeared in this effort to discredit the report” – a study which “tries its best to look at the evidence and analyze the applicable law in a professional manner.”


Part III – Israel’s Behavior



An objective consideration of Israel’s behavior makes it hard to escape the brutal reality of its officially condoned practices.


On 17 March 2017, at the same time as the forced withdrawal of the ESCWA report, the U.S. State Department released a report on “grave violations against Palestinian children living under Israeli military occupation.” This was part of the department’s annual “country reports on human rights practices.” Among the problems cited were Israel’s practice of unlawful detention, coerced confessions and excessive use of force, including torture and killings.


Usually these annual human rights reports are made public by the Secretary of State. This year Rex Tillerson, who presently holds the office, was nowhere in sight. And, of course, President Trump failed to issue any of his characteristic tweets in reference to the Israel’s barbaric behavior.


Earlier, on 8 February 2017, it was reported that “Israel has banned anesthesia gas from entering the Gaza Strip.” There is a current backlog of some 200 patients in Gaza requiring surgical care, and some will die due to Israel’s ban.


A week later, on 14 February 2017, it was reported that Israeli officials were blackmailing Palestinian patients seeking permission to enter Israel for necessary medical treatment. A 17-year-old Gazan boy who suffered from congenital heart disease and needed a heart valve replacement “was explicitly told that in order to [leave the Gaza Strip and] have his operation, he would have to cooperate with the security forces and spy for Israel.” He refused and subsequently died. This is not a new or unusual tactic for the Israelis.


Part IV – Blackmail All Around



The moral failure at the U.N., represented by the withdrawal of the ESCWA report, is the result of Secretary General Guterres’s decision to acquiesce in a denial of reality – the reality of Israel’s practice of Apartheid.


On the other hand, it probably also stems from Guterres’s acceptance of the reality of U.S. financial leverage along with the apparent threat to bankrupt the United Nations. This is, of course, a form of blackmail. Significantly, U.S. use of its financial clout at the U.N. mimics the same practice by the Zionist lobby in the halls of Congress.


Obviously the United Nations, to say nothing of U.S. politicians, needs alternate sources of income. My wife Janet once suggested that the UN be awarded the right to exploit and profit from all undersea resources. Not a bad idea. Likewise, U.S. politicians should agree to, or be forced to rely upon, government-based campaign funding rather than be pressed into putting themselves up for sale.


However, such changes do not appear imminent. As it stands now, reality in Palestine is what the Americans and Israelis say it is because politicians and international leaders literally can’t afford to challenge their corrupted views.

One Response to “Moral Failure at the United Nations”

  • Mr. Davidson

    Virginia Tilley and Richard Falk support an anti-colonial agenda i.e., righting the wrongs of the British and French colonial period. Their long time anti-Israel activism and support for the one state solution is underpinned by their view that Zionism was a nineteenth and twentieth century colonial project in the same mold as white settlements in Africa forming the racist regimes in (apartheid) South Africa and former Rhodesia. Jon Schwartz writes at the Intercept:

    “………..Thus European colonialism is the central fact of politics on earth………If we maintain the social silence around colonialism, our past and present will always be bewildering, like the above list. But if we break the silence, and talk about what truly matters, the confusing swirl of war and conflict can suddenly makes sense…….”

    Effectively, Schwarz blames much of the world’s problems on the colonial period. Falk and Tilley want to right the “wrongs” of colonialism (presumably everywhere in the world). The UN report is politically-motivated and falsely labels Zionism a colonial project. By labeling Israel an apartheid state, they redefine Zionism to meet their anti-colonial agenda. The UN report – for all intents and purposes – resurrected UN resolution 3379 which equated Zionism to colonialism and compared Israel to apartheid South Africa. The resolution passed at the UN in 1975, but was repealed in 1991. Calling Zionism a colonial project is used to delegitimize Zionism as well as deny the history of anti-Jewish bigotry which motivated the Zionist movement.

    Zionism and colonialism are related only because the great colonial power of the day helped Jews realize their dream of self-determination in Palestine (in much the same way as South Ossetia and Abkhazia have used Russia to attain autonomous regions in Georgia). Zionism differs from colonialism in several aspects:

    1. Jerusalem is and was the holiest city in Judaism with a long history of Jewish settlement (Land of Israel). Although Palestinian Arabs far outnumbered the amount of Jews in Palestinian when immigration began in the late 1800s, there were Jews living in Palestine and throughout the Middle East (for thousands of years). Jews did not see themselves as “foreigners”. This is completely different than European settlements in North America, New Zealand, Australia, Canada etc.

    2. Europeans were motivated by expansion and trade (economic benefits). Jews were motivated by centuries of anti-Jewish bigotry and pogroms (Wikipedia):

    “……..Beginning in late 1895, Herzl wrote Der Judenstaat (The State of the Jews), which was published February 1896 to immediate acclaim and controversy. The book argued that the Jewish people should leave Europe if they wished to………Only through a Jewish state could they avoid antisemitism, express their culture freely and practice their religion without hindrance.[19] …….”

    Anti-Jewish pogroms and racism were common in Eastern Europe especially in Russia where much of the immigration originated. Tens of thousands of Jews were killed in Russia between 1918 and 1922. Jews were long second class citizens under Islamic rule (throughout the greater Middle East). Jews were motivated by creating a homeland for the Jewish people to escape persecution.

    3. Jewish people did not claim Palestine in the name of one of the era’s great powers like Britain or France. They did ride the coattails of the great powers to obtain their goal of a homeland through the British Mandate in Palestine, but no immigrant got off the boat and stuck a British flag in the ground claiming it for Britain. The British washed their hands of Palestine in May, 1948. There was no war against Britain to obtain independence.

    4. Fourth, they didn’t fight or displace the natives like the colonial powers in the various locations around the world. They immigrated peacefully and obtained land mostly by buying from absentee land owners. There were no slaughters of the native population to obtain the land (although there was clearly tension interspersed with some violence). There was no ethnic cleansing prior to the war of Independence.

    Richard Falk and Virginia Tilley cite the 2004 ICJ decision (rightly) recognizing the Palestinian right to self-determination while at the same time the authors of the UN report apparently don’t agree that Jews have the same right (although the 2004 ICJ decision clearly grants Jews the same right to self-determination as the Palestinians). Tilley and Falk cite immigration and land laws that favor Jews to maintain a Jewish majority population. But Jewish people are a small minority world-wide requiring laws that maintain a Jewish majority. Jews have lived for thousands of years as a minority population withstanding second class citizenry, anti-Jewish bigotry and murderous pogroms including the Holocaust. Jewish nationalism arose because of persecution. Zionist leader Theodore Herzl writes in Der Judenstaat:

    “……..Beginning in late 1895, Herzl wrote Der Judenstaat (The State of the Jews), which was published February 1896 to immediate acclaim and controversy. The book argued that the Jewish people should leave Europe if they wished to………Only through a Jewish state could they avoid antisemitism, express their culture freely and practice their religion without hindrance.[19] …….”

    This was a really poor (UN) report which crosses the line from (rightly) criticizing Israel for denying the Palestinian right to self-determination to denying Jews the very same right. Tilley and Falk falsely equate Zionism to colonialism. The authors showed their extreme bias and blatant hypocrisy in their attempt to right the “wrongs” of colonialism.

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