Salvaging the United Nations

January 26, 2011 10:54 pm 0 comments

Author:

avatar Dovid Efune

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.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    JNS.org – Five months after Israeli forces tried to assassinate Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif in Gaza, Deif appears to have signed a letter that the terrorist group claims he wrote in hiding. The letter, addressed to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, expressed Deif’s condolences for the death of Hezbollah terrorists during Sunday’s reported Israeli airstrike in Syria. Deif is said to have survived multiple assassination attempts, but he has not been seen in public for years. According to the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    JNS.org – The cracks that had been simply painted over for so long began to show in Ferguson, Mo., in November 2014, but in truth they had begun to open wide much earlier—on Saturday, July 13, 2013. That is when a jury in Sanford, Fla., acquitted George Zimmerman of culpability for the death of a 17-year-old black man, Trayvon Martin. The cracks receded from view over time, as other news obscured them. Then came the evening of Aug. 9, 2014, [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    A controversial scene in the season finale of Homeland sparked outrage by comparing former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to a fictional Taliban leader, the UK’s Daily Mail reported. In the season 4 finale episode, which aired on Dec. 21, CIA black ops director Dar Adal, played by F. Murray Abraham, justifies a deal he made with a Taliban leader by referencing Begin. He makes the remarks in a conversation with former CIA director Saul Berenson, a Jewish character played by Mandy [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Shining Light on Fiction During the North Korea-Sony saga, we learned two important lessons. The first is that there are two sides to this story, and neither of them are correct because ultimately we should have neither inappropriate movies nor dictators. The second is that we cannot remain entirely fixed on the religious world, but we also must see beyond the external, secular view of reality. It’s important to ground our Torah-based thoughts into real-life activism. To view our act [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    JNS.org – Hollywood has had its share of big-budget biblical flops, but until now, the Exodus narrative has not been among them. Studios have brought Moses to the big screen sparingly, but in ways that defined the image and character of Moses for each generation of audiences. The first biblical epic In 1923, director Cecil B. DeMille left it to the American public to decide the subject of his next movie for Paramount. DeMille received a letter from a mechanic [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – The story of the Exodus from Egypt is a tale as old as time itself, to borrow a turn of phrase. It’s retold every Passover, both at the seder table and whenever “The Ten Commandments” is aired on television. But the latest adaptation—Ridley Scott’s epic film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”—fails to meet expectations. Scott’s “Exodus” alters the source material to service the story and ground the tale, but the attempt to reinvent the biblical narrative becomes laughable. Moses [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Lifestyle ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    JNS.org - In December 2007, leaders of the Hazon nonprofit drafted seven-year goals for what they coined as the “Jewish Food Movement,” which has since been characterized by the increased prioritization of healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and food-related activism in the Jewish community. What do the next seven years hold in store? “One thing I would like to see happen in the next seven years is [regarding] the issue of sugar, soda, and obesity, [seeing] what would it be like to rally the [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Education Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    JNS.org – Forget the dioramas. How about working on an Israeli Air Force drone? That’s exactly the kind of beyond-their-years access enjoyed by students at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) industrial vocational high school run by Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the largest education network in the Jewish state. More than 300 students (250 on the high school level and 68 at a two-year vocational academy) get hands-on training in the disciplines of aviation mechanics, electricity and energy control, and unmanned air [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.