U.N. Secretary General Gets Caught in Flip Flop Over Israel

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The New York Sun

Yes and no. Those are Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s answers to a twice-asked question: Does the United Nations discriminate against Israel?

Yes, Mr. Ban admitted Friday during a meeting with Israeli students in Jerusalem.

No, he told me today during a press conference here, convened to recap his two-day trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories.   

On Friday, amid a blitz of meetings with top officials of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Ban attended a Q&A session with “model U.N.” Israeli students. They gathered at the Jerusalem headquarters of the U.N. mission there to hear him talk about the organization he heads.

One of the students asked about institutional bias against Israel at Turtle Bay. According to several press accounts of that session, Mr. Ban’s answer was quite revolutionary.

“Unfortunately, because of the [Israel-Palestinian] conflict, Israel’s been weighed down by criticism and suffered from bias – and sometimes even discrimination,” Mr. Ban said, according to the Times of Israel.

As several reports noted, Mr. Ban thus became the first secretary general to acknowledge what many Israelis and their supporters have long suspected: Turtle Bay isn’t a place where they can get a fair shake.

As goes the cliché, admission of a problem goes a long ways toward solving it. Or does it?

Today, when I asked what he, as secretary general, intends to do to correct the problem, Mr. Ban said, “No, I don’t think there is discrimination against Israel at the United Nations.”

He acknowledged that “the Israeli government” alleges “some bias” against the country at Turtle Bay.

Mr. Ban then added that as one of the U.N.’s 193 Member States, “Israel should have equal rights and opportunities without having any bias, any discrimination. That’s a fundamental principle of the United Nations Charter and thus Israel should be fully given such rights.”

I turned to Jerusalem’s ambassador at the U.N., Ron Prosor, for some clarity.

“So we need to remind the Secretary General that until the year 2000, Israel had no membership in any regional group,” Mr. Prosor said.

Before joining the West Europeans and Others Group that year, Mr. Prosor explained, Israel was the only UN member that was ineligible for election in any of the organization’s bodies. It was, for example, the only country in the world that couldn’t even try for a two-year stint at Turtle Bay’s most prestigious group, the 15-member Security Council.

Additionally, Mr. Prosor said, each year the General Assembly passes 21 resolutions condemning Israel, while it condemns no other state.

The Human Rights Council has two separate agenda items that deal with general violations: item four is universal, addressing “human rights situations that require the Council’s attention,” while item seven is dedicated specifically to “human rights situations in Palestine and other occupied territories.”

This means, Mr. Prosor said, that “One agenda item talks about human rights violations everywhere – in North Korea, in Syria, in Libya and all across the Middle East – and the other deals exclusively with Israeli violations.”

He could have added that the U.N., similarly, has one agency that deals with settling refugees of war and natural disasters across the world, the High Commissioner for Refugees, and another, the Relief and Works Administration, that exclusively tends to the needs of descendents of Arab refugees of Israel’s war of independence in 1948. Supporters of Israel have a long list of additional ways in which the U.N. judges Israel by stricter and harsher standards than it uses for other countries.

“If this isn’t discrimination, I don’t know what is,” Mr. Prosor said.

The New York Sun

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