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