The UN’s history of bias against Israel is well documented and deeply disturbing. In addition to the unfairness of constantly singling out Israel in international fora, it undermines confidence in the UN’s ability to play a constructive role in facilitating a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
But there are also moments when the UN does the right thing. This week was one of them. The UN released a powerful statement condemning the tragic terror attack in Jerusalem last Sunday. The Secretary General condemned the “terrorist attack by a Palestinian assailant,” saying in his statement that:
“All those responsible for such acts must be brought to justice, condemned and disavowed. Their acts should not be allowed to deter from the need for a renewed commitment to dialogue,” he added
The Security Council followed suit, stating that:
“Any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed,” the 15-member body reiterated in the statement, underlining the need for those responsible for this reprehensible act of terrorism to be held accountable.
Much of the American Jewish community reacted negatively and loudly to the Obama administration’s abstention of UNSCR 2334 by citing bias against Israel in the UN. While often this bias is real and must be condemned and addressed, in actuality, UNSCR 2334 criticized both sides and was supported by nations who care deeply about Israel’s future as the secure, democratic, national homeland of the Jewish people.
Sadly, there was essentially no acknowledgement in the pro-Israel community of this week’s strong statement against Palestinian terrorism.
This is a good example of the pitfalls of blanketly labeling the UN as an “enemy of Israel.” The UN has lapsed into real anti-Israel territory in the past, like the UNESCO Resolution that showed utter disregard for the Jewish people’s ties to the Temple Mount. But we should also laud statements like the one released this week and continue to encourage the UN to play a role in keeping a two-state solution on the table.
Moreover, if we want to successfully combat Israel’s delegitimization internationally, we must recognize both when the UN acts in Israel’s interests and when it doesn’t – and understand that the same institution can do both. There is a clear difference between denying the Jewish connection to the land of Israel and noting that settlements constitute an obstacle to peace. We must learn to distinguish between when the UN is being unfair and when it is genuinely trying to be constructive. And we must acknowledge that diplomats and governments can be friends of Israel and simultaneously deeply critical of the policies of the sitting government of Israel.
Advice offered for the sake of keeping a two-state solution alive is fundamentally pro-Israel – even if it entails criticism of the current Israeli government. If we cast all international criticism as “anti-Israel,” we as a community will lack the credibility we need to challenge genuine instances of anti-Israel bias. And we will miss important opportunities to engage the family of nations in supporting Israel and the Palestinian people in resolving a conflict that has caused immeasurable harm to both sides.
So let’s thank the UN for their strong stand against terror and support of a two state solution and criticize their agencies when they lapse into anti-Israel territory. But we should not make the mistake of thinking that one is mutually exclusive to the other.