Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Salvaging the United Nations

January 26, 2011 10:54 pm 0 comments

Author:

avatar

Share this Article

The northern wall of Ralph Bunche Park, engraved with the famous quotation from Isaiah 2:4. Photo: Capt. Phoebus.

Opposite the United Nations, on the northern wall of Ralph Bunche Park, is engraved the famous quotation from Isaiah 2:4: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” Founded on such utopian ideals, the UN is mandated with ‘reaffirming faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person’ and ‘saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war.’

During Shabbat services last week at the Park East Synagogue in New York, the congregation was addressed by the Secretary- General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon and the President of the General Assembly, Joseph Deiss. In attendance was a diverse group of UN Ambassadors and Consuls General representing countries from across the globe. This remarkable gathering could only have been orchestrated by the synagogue’s highly regarded Rabbi Arthur Schneier. The event was held in honor of Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27th.

Ban Ki -moon spoke of the UN as an organization that was created “in part to prevent a Holocaust from ever happening again,” and “to speak out for those who would otherwise not be heard.” He presented a replica of the ‘B’ that appears in the infamous inscription in the gates of Auschwitz: ‘Arbeit Macht Frei,’ and explained that, “prisoners at Auschwitz had been ordered to make that sign, and in their anger they decided to take a stand. If you look carefully at pictures of the gate, you will see that the ‘B’ is upside down. What might appear as a mere piece of design is actually a daring act of defiance. Hidden within the German message emblazoned on that gate, the prisoners of Auschwitz delivered a message of their own: all is not right here. Something is upside down, brutally so.”

The speech was moving and his sentiments were echoed shortly after by the President of the General Assembly, Joseph Deiss.

But let’s face it; despite these principled ideals that were no doubt expressed in genuine sincerity, many agree that the UN in its current state is a sham, an absolute mockery of the very ideals on which it was founded.

An organization that has allowed Libya a seat at its Human Rights Council, can never be taken seriously as an authority on Human Rights. Sadly, the UN has become not only a place of refuge but a platform for many of the world’s most oppressive regimes and worst human rights violators.

At her last public appearance prior to completing her tenure, Israel’s previous Ambassador to the UN, Prof. Gabriela Shalev, harshly criticized the UN saying:

“Sadly, there are countless human tragedies and immeasurable human suffering around the globe. Yet the United Nations reserves the overwhelming majority of its condemnation only for Israel. This can only be interpreted as the “politically correct” modern anti-Semitism. We cannot stop the witch-hunt against Israel that regularly takes place at the United Nations today.” She then concluded by saying that, “this hypocrisy, this double standard, this double talk, which is unleashed inside the United Nations, is checked only by one country, Israel’s best and closest ally, the United States of America.”

Both Prof. Shalev and the current Israeli representative to the United Nations shared with me that what they find hardest about working at the UN, is the volume of libelous accusations leveled against Israel on a regular basis.

Many believe that there are rare instances when the right to freedom of speech and expression is forfeited by an individual or organization, namely when this speech endangers the lives or jeopardizes the safety of others. Whilst there are others that may argue that no voice ever that deserves to be silenced, all should agree that to empower these individuals by placing them in positions of responsibility is simply criminal.

In truth, if the UN is to serve as an organ of morality it certainly can’t be achieved within the current framework and some serious restructuring is in order.

The first thing that needs to be made clear is that membership at the table of civilized nations is not a free ticket, and there are certain principles that member states will need to uphold. Not all methods of government are equal, and often the yardstick is the level of equality that is shared by all citizens of a particular state.

The UN must implement a thorough grading system whereby countries are assessed based on their human rights records, the freedom of their societies, and the extent by which the government was democratically chosen to represent its citizens. Membership at the UN should be multi-tiered, with levels of authority granted according to the above grades, and only those nations led by representative governments will wield the power to form resolutions and implement policy.

In some ways the system would be similar to the criteria used by other international alliances, except that the level of economic stability, education or natural resources of a country will not be taken into account. What will set the UN apart is that the grounds for acceptance and thus becoming a voice of authority on  an international stage will be purely moral.

What would it take to implement change on this level? Perhaps a failure similar to the one that prompted the disbanding of the League of Nations? After all, what is the value of the UN, if it is unable to sustain peace among the world’s peoples? What is the value of an international body that has strayed so far from its charter that it has all but lost the voice of morality that is so urgently needed?

For some of the world’s nations, we live in an unprecedented age of freedom and opportunity; for others, oppression and prejudice live on. If the UN is to truly serve as “a voice for those who would otherwise not be heard,” drastic change is essential.

The Author is the director of the Algemeiner Journal and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at defune@gjcf.com.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Features World Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Tour operators are calling attention to Jamaica’s little-known Jewish heritage by arranging visits to historic Jewish sites on the Caribbean island, including a cemetery where Jewish pirates are buried. A report in Travel and Leisure magazine describes the Hunts Bay Cemetery in Kingston, where there are seven tombstones engraved with Hebrew benedictions and skull and crossbones insignia. According to the report, centuries ago, Jewish pirates sailed the waters of Jamaica and settled in Port Royal. The town, once known as “the wickedest city in the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    JNS.org – Telling Israel’s story. It’s the specific title of a short film that Eyal Resh created last year. It’s also the theme behind the 27-year-old Israeli filmmaker’s broader body of work. The widely viewed “Telling Israel’s Story” film—directed by Resh for a gala event hosted by the Times of Israel online news outlet—seemingly begins as a promotional tourism video, but quickly evolves to offer a multilayered perspective. “I want to tell you a story about a special place for me,” a young woman whispers […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    JNS.org – The entrance to Jerusalem’s Sacher Park was transformed from April 25-27 by a fire-breathing robotic dragon, which flailed its arms and attempted to take flight. The robot, a signature feature at Jerusalem’s first-ever “Geek Picnic,” was one of more than 150 scientific amusements available for the public to experience. This particular dragon was designed by students from Moscow’s Art Industrial Institute in conjunction with the Flacon design factory, said Anatasia Shaminer, a student who helped facilitate the display. Children […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love. CreateSpace, 2015. The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love, is a very interesting novel. Equally a political and romantic thriller, at times a real page-turner, it gets you intimately involved in the dire situation in today’s Syria, as well as in the romantic entanglements of its mostly New York-based characters — whose entanglements just might determine the fate of that dire situation in Syria. Along the way it introduces a really important idea that somehow […]

    Read more →
  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →