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...

  • Music US & Canada Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Pop superstar Lady Gaga on Thursday accepted an award from Jewish human rights group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on behalf of her Born This Way Foundation, which strives to combat bullying among young people. “Your philosophies are so in line with ours,” she said of the ADL upon accepting the Making a Difference Award in a videotaped message, which was shown at a ceremony in New York City. “We want to help young people know that their feelings and who they are on [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    JNS.org – Eighty years young, Leonard Cohen fits many descriptions—singer, songwriter, poet, novelist, monk. From his Jewish upbringing in Canada to the present day, Cohen has always explored his spiritual side. This month, the singer-songwriter released the CD (May 12) and iTunes (on May 8 of this year) formats of his latest album, Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour, which features live recordings from his world tours in 2012 and 2013. Last year, Cohen’s Popular Problems was voted by Rolling Stone [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    JNS.org – Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) head Sepp Blatter said during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that contrary to Palestinian complaints, Israel has not violated any FIFA statutes and should not be suspended from international soccer’s governing body. “We should not come to one federation saying we will exclude them,” said Blatter, the Jerusalem Post reported. “If the national association is fulfilling its obligations then there is no need to intervene,” he said. “I’m on a [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Middle East Sports Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) said on Tuesday it was “appalled” by a Palestinian Football Association initiative to suspend Israel from FIFA, calling it another “front waged in the context of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign.” “We are appalled at the temerity of the Palestinan Football Association (PFA) demand that FIFA suspend Israel at your forthcoming Congress in Zurich,” wrote the group’s international relations director, Dr. Shimon Samuels, in a letter to FIFA President Joseph [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Star of Auschwitz Thriller Says ‘God Was Holding the Hand of Every Jew in the Gas Chamber’ (VIDEO)

    Star of Auschwitz Thriller Says ‘God Was Holding the Hand of Every Jew in the Gas Chamber’ (VIDEO)

    The lead actor in Son of Saul, an Auschwitz thriller featured at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, told the UK’s The Guardian that he believes God was “holding the hand” of each Jew who died in the Nazi gas chambers during the Holocaust. “I do not for one nanosecond like to pretend that God is off the hook. He could and should have stopped it at a much earlier stage,” Géza Röhrig, 48, said. ”But I would not be able to get [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Backstreet Boys Singer Howie D Gushes Over Masada During Israel Trip

    Backstreet Boys Singer Howie D Gushes Over Masada During Israel Trip

    Backstreet Boys singer Howie Dorough took to Instagram on Tuesday to marvel about climbing the famed Masada fortress with his band during their visit to Israel, where they will perform this week for the first time. The group’s second day of sightseeing in the Jewish state included the Masada hike, and taking a mud bath at the Dead Sea. A picture from the band’s official Twitter page shows the five singers covered in mud. While relaxing in the Dead Sea, [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews US & Canada ‘Arms and the Dudes:’ New Book, Film Detail How Ex-Orthodox Yeshiva Guys Became Top Suppliers for Afghan Army

    ‘Arms and the Dudes:’ New Book, Film Detail How Ex-Orthodox Yeshiva Guys Became Top Suppliers for Afghan Army

    A new book and its upcoming film adaptation tell the true story of how three former yeshiva students who habitually smoked marijuana scored a $300 million contract from the U.S. government to supply weapons for the Afghan Army, the New York Daily News reported on Sunday. Arms and the Dudes details how the Miami Beach potheads became “the most unlikely gunrunners in history,” according to the book’s author, investigative reporter Guy Lawson. The tale begins with Efraim Diveroli, nephew of [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater Natalie Portman: Israel-Themed ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ Not Political

    Natalie Portman: Israel-Themed ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ Not Political

    JNS.org – Natalie Portman, who directs and stars in the new Hebrew-language film adaptation of author Amos Oz’s A Tale of Love and Darkness, says that despite Oz’s record as a vocal left-wing critic of Israel, her film is not political. Like the book on which it is based, Portman’s film is about a young boy at the time of the founding of the state of Israel. “I think the movie is very much about this very particular, specific family story. Of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.