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September 15, 2016 5:34 pm

International Law Expert: UN’s Obsession With Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Robs It of Ability to Deal With More Serious Problems (INTERVIEW)

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Dr. Eugene Kontorovich. Photo: Northwestern University website.

Dr. Eugene Kontorovich. Photo: Northwestern University website.

The UN’s obsession with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has robbed it of the ability to deal with other more serious problems around the world, an international legal expert told The Algemeiner on Thursday.

Dr. Eugene Kontorovich — a professor at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law and head of the international law department at the Kohelet Policy Forum — said his research has found that the standards the UN applies to Israel regarding its policies in the West Bank are not applied to any other country.

“As I was doing research, one of the things I discovered was that even in situations which under international law clearly qualify as an occupation, the UN almost never uses the word occupation,” Kontorovich told The Algemeiner.

The professor further detailed this point in a Wall Street Journal op-ed he co-authored with Penny Grunseid that was published earlier this week:

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Our research shows that the UN uses an entirely different rhetoric and set of legal concepts when dealing with Israel compared with situations of occupation or settlements worldwide. For example, Israel is referred to as the ‘Occupying Power’ 530 times in General Assembly resolutions. Yet in seven major instances of past or present prolonged military occupation — Indonesia in East Timor, Turkey in northern Cyprus, Russia in areas of Georgia, Morocco in Western Sahara, Vietnam in Cambodia, Armenia in areas of Azerbaijan, and Russia in Ukraine’s Crimea — the number is zero. The UN has not called any of these countries an ‘Occupying Power.’ Not even once.

It gets worse. Since 1967, General Assembly resolutions have referred to Israeli-held territories as ‘occupied’ 2,342 times, while the territories mentioned above are referred to as ‘occupied’ a mere 16 times combined. The term appears in 90% of resolutions dealing with Israel, and only in 14% of the much smaller number of resolutions dealing with all the other situations, a difference that vastly surpasses the threshold of statistical significance. Similarly, Security Council resolutions refer to the disputed territories in the Israeli-Arab conflict as ‘occupied’ 31 times, but only a total of five times in reference to all seven other conflicts combined.

Speaking with The Algemeiner, Kontorovich said, “What Israel is told by the international community to do, which is to prevent its Jewish nationals from living in territories it controls, is told only to it. The important part of this research was not to show that there is a double standard and not to show that Israel is singled out — that’s a bit like saying cops stop minorities more on suspicion of illegal activities. What this shows is that what the UN is telling Israel to do is not legally required. In other words, the rule it says Israel is violating doesn’t exist. You can’t have a rule in just one situation.”

Kontorovich said that while change at the UN was a hopeless prospect, “the question is whether the American government will empower the UN by not vetoing damaging resolutions. Will America give greater strength and legitimacy to this dysfunctional institution?”

In their Wall Street Journal op-ed, Kontorovich and Grunseid concluded with a scathing assessment of the international body:

The evidence shows that the organization’s claim to represent the interest of international justice is hollow, because the UN has no interest in battling injustice unless Israel is the country accused.

At a time of serious global crises — from a disintegrating Middle East to a land war and belligerent occupation in Europe — the leaders of the free world cannot afford to tempt the UN into indulging its obsessions. Especially when the apparent consequence of such scapegoating is that the organization ignores other situations and people in desperate need of attention.

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  • Soon UNESCO will pass a resolution that the Vatican is not Christian, do you think it will be accepted? After all the Muslims are forcing all Christians to leave their countries.

    I think most educated people know the truth. UNESCO and UN resolutions are paper documents that have less value than toilet paper. The UN and its agencies are building up to their own demise, which is coming soon.
    YJ Draiman

    PS.
    The UN must be dismantled. It is a criminal enterprise.

    As an example of the way in which the principles of pan-Arab national self-determination then applied to Israel, Stone cited:
    a letter dated February 20, 1980 to the Secretary-General, transmitted for UN circulation to the General Assembly and the Security Council in connection with item 26 of A/35/11000-S/13816 (Situation in the Middle East) [which] declared a propos of inclusion in the Charter of a principle of non-use of force:
    “The principle of non-use of force shall apply to the relations of the Arab Nation and Arab States with the nations and countries neighboring the Arab homeland. Naturally, as you know, the Zionist entity is not included, because the Zionist entity is not considered a State, but a deformed entity occupying an Arab territory. It is not covered by these principles.

    How many holidays do the Arabs-Muslims celebrate due to historical events in the land of ancient Israel and Jerusalem. r9
    The Jewish people celebrate most of their holidays and fast days in memory of Jerusalem and Israel since 70 AD (that is over 2,000 years).
    Jewish people pray at least 3 times a day, remembering Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple destruction. Pleading the Jewish goal and aspiration to return to Israel and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem – where it was before it was destroyed and desecrated by the enemies of the Jews. Most of the Jewish prayers for thousands of years recite the love of Israel and the Jewish aspirations to return to their ancestral land and bring back its glory and holiness.
    At Jewish weddings they break a glass in memory of Jerusalem and the aspiration to return and build the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
    Every day at the end of the meal the Jews recite a blessing and thank G-d for providing sustenance and beseech G-d to return and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.
    Most Jewish prayers mention our glorious memory of Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple and pleading to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.
    YJ Draiman

  • Jane Jackman

    Might the reason for holding Israel to a higher standard be that it is heavily supported by the US?

  • Dina Grossman Kjærgaard

    The term “Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT)” is used in all kinds of statistics. It is going to be a big job to change it, but I hope that progress in the UNGA and UNSEC will be able to get this changed to “Palestinian Authority (PA)” or something similar.

  • Sherlock Holmes

    Nothing new, just further proof of the double standard. The UN includes 50+ Muslim countries, plus many other countries that depend on Islamic oil. There is ONE Jewish country in the UN. That t5ells the story!

  • E Pluribus Wombat

    The UN exists for a singular purpose. To hasten along the completion of the Holocaust. Everything else is window dressing.

  • Myron Robinson

    The nay Sayers do not understand International Law. Never heard of Uti Possidetis Juris . It examines the standard international-law rule used to determine the borders of newly created countries but one that has for some reason been neglected in regard to Israel. Here is the abstract:

    Israel’s borders and territorial scope are a source of seemingly endless debate. Remarkably, despite the intensity of the debates, little attention has been paid to relevance of the doctrine of uti possidetis juris to resolving legal aspects of the border dispute. Uti possidetis juris is widely acknowledged as the doctrine of customary international law that is central to determining territorial sovereignty in the era of decolonization. The doctrine provides that emerging states presumptively inherit their pre-independence administrative boundaries.

    Applied to the case of Israel, uti possidetis juris would dictate that Israel inherit the boundaries of the Mandate of Palestine as they existed in May, 1948. The doctrine would thus support Israeli claims to any or all of the currently hotly disputed areas of Jerusalem (including East Jerusalem), the West Bank, and even potentially the Gaza Strip (though not the Golan Heights) What makes the uti possidetis doctrine so powerful its generality: As a rule of customary international law, it is applied to all cases of state formation, from decolonization in Africa to the collapse of the Soviet Union to the separation of Czechoslovakia. Moreover, the doctrine trumps Claims of self-determination, and any other kind of equitable objection to the former administrative boundaries.

    It also turns out that the same kind of objections made to the boundaries of the Palestine Mandate were made in regard to many other mandatory territories, yet in all cases the subsequently created countries received the full mandatory borders, despite strong contemporaneous doubts about their wisdom, stability and equity.

    Basically in the absence of a negotiated settlement the armistice lines become the de facto boundaries

  • Rules of law are for all! The collective Hebrew minds is deep rooted in western and in the Arab Islam world cultural existing fact history, becomes for UN unconsciously brain instinctively targeting Israel and the collective Hebrew minds worldwide to become a political cover ups tool for UN distracting the collective general masses brains from focusing on other countries much more serious political problems. Is a UN business for money making where politicians becomes rich. Is like a young women staving to become thin-sized dreaming of becoming a fashion model ending in hospital. I was claimed anti – Palestinian by a Norwegian porno newspaper Dagbladet in 2004 was a stage political fake event to terrorized min brain which can never take hold on my mind.I was never interested in politics! Politics can never be mixed with Visual Art Communication which sees beyond matters is Justice.

  • The UN must be dismantled. It is a criminal enterprise.

    As an example of the way in which the principles of pan-Arab national self-determination then applied to Israel, Stone cited:
    a letter dated February 20, 1980 to the Secretary-General, transmitted for UN circulation to the General Assembly and the Security Council in connection with item 26 of A/35/11000-S/13816 (Situation in the Middle East) [which] declared a propos of inclusion in the Charter of a principle of non-use of force:
    “The principle of non-use of force shall apply to the relations of the Arab Nation and Arab States with the nations and countries neighboring the Arab homeland. Naturally, as you know, the Zionist entity is not included, because the Zionist entity is not considered a State, but a deformed entity occupying an Arab territory. It is not covered by these principles.

    How many holidays do the Arabs-Muslims celebrate due to historical events in the land of ancient Israel and Jerusalem. r9
    The Jewish people celebrate most of their holidays and fast days in memory of Jerusalem and Israel since 70 AD (that is over 2,000 years).
    Jewish people pray at least 3 times a day, remembering Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple destruction. Pleading the Jewish goal and aspiration to return to Israel and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem – where it was before it was destroyed and desecrated by the enemies of the Jews. Most of the Jewish prayers for thousands of years recite the love of Israel and the Jewish aspirations to return to their ancestral land and bring back its glory and holiness.
    At Jewish weddings they break a glass in memory of Jerusalem and the aspiration to return and build the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
    Every day at the end of the meal the Jews recite a blessing and thank G-d for providing sustenance and beseech G-d to return and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.
    Most Jewish prayers mention our glorious memory of Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple and pleading to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.
    YJ Draiman

  • (David Ben Gurion, Zionist Congress, Basel, Switzerland, 1937.)

    “No country in the world exists today by virtue of its ‘right’.
    All countries exist today by virtue of their ability to defend themselves against those who seek their destruction

    “No Jew has the right to yield the rights of the Jewish People in
    Israel. No Jew has the authority to do so. No Jewish body has the
    authority to do so. Not even the entire Jewish People alive today has
    the right to yield any part of Israel.”

    It is the right of the Jewish People over the generations, a right
    that under no conditions can be cancelled. Even if Jews during a
    specific period proclaim they are relinquishing this right, they have
    neither the power nor the authority to deny it to future generations.
    No concession of this type is binding or obligates the Jewish People.

    Our right to the land — the entire land — exists as an eternal
    right, and we shall not yield this historic right until its full and
    complete redemption is realized.”

    *** David Ben Gurion, Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, 1937
    Less talk and more action and results.

    “In Israel; We have to undue and reverse the decades of nonsense that the peace industry has fermented, which led us to the position where the world thinks we the Jews are occupiers in our own ancestral land. If something is false and it is repeated enough times it becomes sort of common wisdom. We have to undo that.”

    Arab-Palestinians; you have to be a country first, which you are not, before you can be a country under occupation. Furthermore, the Arab-Palestinians have a State it is called Jordan which was created illegally from Jewish territory.

    The UN cannot make a country for the Arab-Palestinians. They have no such authority under the UN Charter; Moreover, The UN cannot abrogate International law and treaties. The UN is only an advisory capacity and all UN resolutions must be accepted by all the parties in writing to be valid, The Arabs did not agree, therefore the resolutions have no meaning whatsoever.
    YJ Draiman

  • NuritG

    It is NOT UN’s obsession with Israeli-PalArabs conflict, it is pure anti-Semitism that pours out of the UN halls and the UN total inapt to do the jobs it has been assigned to do. Anti-Semitism is a disease that takes away all humane behavior….look at the German-Nazi nation. We all know what they have done to the Jews of Europe when they were infected with the anti-Semitism disease. What we know now is that the UN lost is ability to deal with more serious issues in the world because its senseless anti-Semitism makes this organization dysfunction and poisonous to humanity.

  • Jerry Ram

    Bravo! The problem is the UN. They and really, everybody else. The issue is, how does one alter stupidity of the UN’S members? I have often asked, can an anti-Semite be edited to become a non anti-Semite?

    • The United Nation hates the State of Israel. The Jewish people, since they left the slavery of pharaohs, fought for millennials to recover the land of their ancestors. It is written in the bible and was proved in the recent archeological discoveries. Waiting for our president to help Israel is an utopia. The United nation wants to implement a new world order with an universal law.

  • stevenl

    UN, the EPICENTER of International House for Antisemitism!

  • Jay Lavine

    An important distinction, though, between Israel and the other countries that are occupying land is that the latter are occupying parts of established countries whereas Israel is occupying land that does not officially belong to any country. The significance of this is that Israel’s occupation with its establishment of settlements is seen as an attempt to prevent the formation of another state or at least to take land away from what will be a future state. Israeli occupation of the territories may be justifiable at present for security reasons, but there is no excuse for the settlements, which lie at the core of the controversy.

    • Ephraim

      Israel is not occupying any land. The PA controls its own areas, and, other than the fact that they cannot legally build armed forces, are essentially autonomous. Occupation means governing, and Israel is essentially hands off, except for security concerns. If the PA acted in good faith, and discouraged rather than encouraging and exhorting savage actions against Israel, this would be a dead issue.

      And legally the land belongs to Israel by right of conquest. The previous owner was the Ottoman Empire, which sold most of the land to Zionists to begin with. The British oversaw it under the mandate of creating a Jewish state, the partition plan OFFERED by the UN was rejected. Jordan occupied the land, and now It belongs to Israel.

      • Jay Lavine

        Yes, the Arabs screwed up by not accepting the UN partition plan and by waging war on Israel. And, yes, Israel conquered the land by winning a war it did not begin. And, yes, the PA has further screwed up by not acting in good faith and seeking peace.

        But if Israel felt it now owned the land it won, it should have annexed it. It did not, probably because so doing would have made citizens of the Arab residents (the one-state solution). By not annexing that land, Israel was making a statement that it didn’t really own it.

        So where do we stand? Call them the disputed territories rather than the occupied territories if you like, but expanding the settlements under the present circumstances is counterproductive. We need to get out of the rut we’re in before it becomes an abyss and do some rosh gadol thinking.

      • Zg

        Correct.

      • If all you say is true, why not just make the west bank part of Israel and give all its inhabitants Israeli citizenship ?
        You know the answer -you just don’t like that truth.
        Arik sharon said “you cannot hold another people at the other end of your guns forever”. He was the LEADER of the right wing – until he looked at reality in the face. As you have yet to do.

        “Legally the land belongs to Israel by right of conquest” !?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
        Hello !!!!
        If I forcibly take over your house at gunpoint, does it legally belong to me by right of conquest ?
        Saying something is legal does not make it legal.

    • David Dancyger

      Actually, Jay Israel took control of that territory prior to the idea of the country to which you allude. They took it from Jordan. It seems to me that if that land isn’t Israel proper then it’s occupied Jordanian territory. Yet Jordan is at peace with Israel, and not asking for that land back. If the Palestinians really want to create a country maybe they should just sit down and talk with Israel about that. After all Israel did pull out of Gaza, the left Lebanon, gave back the Sinai, and pulled back to the Golan after being a good deal further east. That just doesn’t sound like the occupying, colonialist power you seem to believe it is. Don’t hate yourself, Jay.

    • Zg

      Absurd logic. The so called Palestine is a disputed territory, and Jewish people have no reason not to settle there as well, which will not preclude a Palestinian state with a Jewish minority, unless racist principles are at play.
      Distinction between wannabe states and existing occupied nations? According to you the ethnic cleansing of Tibet of it’s own people and settling ethnic Chinese which made Tibetans a minority in their own country is more acceptable then a minority of Jews settling in Palestine?
      What is the logic here?

  • dante

    Kontorovich is great, one of the most energetic, intelligent and perceptive experts on international humanitarian law and the law of belligerent occupation.

    everybody, un and eu officials, the dummies of the foggy bottom, etc., “knows” that “the occupation” is illegal. they all know it but what they know is not true. they repeat it and clueless clowns hear and repeat the thoughtless chant. if they cared about decency, integrity, respect for legal authority, for accuracy, they would read Kontorovich. I’m not counting on that happening anytime soon.

  • Lia

    I’ve believed for some years now that the USA should defund the UN and sell the green tower to help pay off the USA debt. Should the UN desire to continue what it’s doing it can move to the Middle East, all of which would welcome the UN for its submission.

    • Ephraim

      Amen.

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