An Open Letter on Israel to the UN Secretary-General
Dear Secretary-General Guterres,
On November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted in favor of General Assembly Resolution 181(II), known as the Partition Plan. This resolution called for two states — Jewish and Arab — to replace the British Mandate in Palestine.
The historic vote enshrined a “two-state” model in the international order, and recognized the legitimacy and importance of Jewish national self-determination. This framework has been the core of UN policy for 70 years, today reflected in the UN’s membership in the Quartet on the Middle East that seeks to promote an end to the conflict.
Unfortunately, many UN bodies are actively undermining this goal by systematically denying Israel’s legitimacy, denigrating Jewish self-determination and otherwise demonizing a UN member state. Tellingly, at the UN, November 29 is not observed as a day to celebrate and promote peace — but rather to advance rejectionism and to demonize and isolate Israel.
Too often, UN officials are willing and active players in this dynamic, applying double standards and singling out Israel for attack. Next week, as occurs every year, the UN will hold a special meeting in Geneva on the occasion of “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People,” featuring anti-Israel demagogues and highlighting agendas that undermine the spirit of UNGA Resolution 181.
The bias and political attacks on Israel by the Division for Palestinian Rights, the Human Rights Council and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People are well documented. Other campaigns are led under the auspices of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UNICEF, UNOCHA, UN Women, UNECSWA, UNESCO and other UN agencies. In addition, such UN activity is often reinforced by a network of influential NGOs that claim to promote human rights agendas.
These campaigns are carried out in several formats, including: UN-sponsored conferences that provide a platform for immoral attacks on Israel, the Jewish people and Jewish self-determination; a stream of UN reports recycling propaganda and laundering the claims of terror-linked NGOs, which are sourced almost exclusively from a narrow band of political advocacy groups that lack credibility; partnerships and projects carried out with anti-peace NGOs, many of which promote antisemitism, economic and political warfare, incitement to violence, and the rejection of Israel regardless of borders; and extensive funding of NGO projects aimed at internationally isolating Israel, promoting the agenda of terror organizations or denigrating Israel’s right to exist.
Three recent examples speak volumes to the insidious nature of Israel denial at the UN:
- In October 2017, 24 separate UN agencies contracted with the Palestinian Authority to spend more than $18 million on campaigns aimed at isolating Israel through coordinated political, economic, and legal attacks. (UN Development Assistance Framework State of Palestine, 2018-2022)
- A widely-circulated report (March 2017) authored by Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, in conjunction with OHCHR officials, promoted a virulent antisemite — who regularly incites violence against Israelis and Jews, and advocates for the destruction of Israel — as a “human rights defender.” Only after several complaints by NGO Monitor did OHCHR revise this report, while OHCHR failed to apologize or issue a public correction. OHCHR did not sanction Lynk for his unethical behavior, and never amended the failed reporting processes that allowed this incident to occur in the first place. Indeed, the old report still remains available on the OHCHR website.
- At a June 2017 CERIPP conference, “United Nations Forum to Mark Fifty Years of Occupation,” an official from the Palestinian NGO “Al-Haq,” Wesam Ahmed, remarked that Israel “was a colonial project from the very beginning and in fact Israel has been able to benefit from the historical colonial practices to develop what I call ‘best business practice model of colonization.’” (Video of this statement available on UN Web TV at 1:29:22)
November 29 should be an occasion for the UN to promote peace, but these institutions instead advance agendas of anti-Israel rejectionism and antisemitism.
We thank you for your efforts to date to tackle this problem, and we urge you to continue your efforts. Further steps are urgently needed, however, so that all UN agencies and officials accept the obligation to end the rampant and systematic discrimination against Israel that currently plagues the UN.
As we are sure you are aware, the UN cannot on the one hand serve as the primary platform for anti-Israel campaigning while on the other hand claim to be a leading part of the Middle East peace process. Only concerted and strong action across the entire UN system will enable the institution to live up to its founding promise and principles.
I look forward to your response.
Prof. Gerald Steinberg
The Institute for NGO Research (NGO Monitor)
NOTE: This is a slightly edited version of the public letter originally sent to the Secretary-General.