The news that 2014 would be the “Year of International Solidarity with the Palestinians” landed with a great big thud in the Israeli community. The declaration, passed on Nov. 26 by a vote of 110 to 7 in the General Assembly, was accompanied by the passage of six other resolutions aimed at Israel, involving Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the West Bank. All these votes also garnered record number of “yes” votes.
These votes took place the day after the U.N.’s International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, a day that ended with a performance at the U.N. by the Arab Idol wunderkind from the Gaza strip, Mohammed Assaf.
The news that the character of the U.N. next year might be distinctly more pro-Palestinian than usual didn’t greatly faze Evelyn Sommer, chair of the North American section of the World Jewish Congress. “During the general debate, they passed 21 resolutions about the Palestinians, Jerusalem the settlements, the Golan Heights,” Sommer said. “This is just the newest one to come specifically to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.” The activities and events commemorating the International Year of Solidarity will be organized by this committee.
Sommer did not go so far as to speculate whether this would signal a possible increase in antagonism toward Israel in the coming year at the U.N., but pointed out, “they [the Palestinians] already have an enormous amount of solidarity,” she continued. “And the U.N. is spending $6 million on propaganda for them. There is always anti-Israel sentiment at the U.N., and this is not a positive development.”
Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a human rights watchdog group based in Geneva, said in a statement following the vote, that “The U.N.’s drumbeat of excessive, disproportionate and one-sided condemnations of Israel causes polarization, threatens to push the parties further apart, and is counterproductive to the already fragile peace process.”
Within the U.N., Neuer said, the new year could “bring escalated politicization of influential U.N. agencies worldwide, doing nothing to help Palestinians or Israelis on the ground, while inflicting yet further damage to the world body’s effectiveness and credibility.”
It might not be all bad for Israel at the U.N. in the upcoming year. As Sommer said, the U.N. is often a mixed bag. On the one hand, the perpetual passage of resolutions against Israel in the General Assembly and Human Rights Council don’t make for easy diplomacy. On the other, General Assembly did just pass Israel’s agriculture and technology development bill by record numbers, and the Western Europe and Others Group announced they will accept Israel into their group at the U.N. in Geneva, 13 years after Israel joined the same group in New York.
The American Jewish Committee hailed this announcement as a correction to a “shameful anomaly,” but emphasized there were many other issues to be overcome at the U.N., including the Human Rights Council listing a separate permanent agenda item for Israel.
“It is long overdue for Israel to be treated equally, and not in such a discriminatory fashion,” said AJC executive director David Harris in a statement.