By Anne Bayefsky
July 2, 2012
Today, at the United Nations, the Obama administration is turning its back on Israel. For the very first time, the U.N. Security Council has invited the U.N. high commissioner for human rights to “brief” the Council specifically on the subject of Israel and the commissioner’s list of trumped-up sins. Though the U.S. is a veto-holding power, the extraordinary move has full American approval, despite the fact that the global soapbox will be handed to Navi Pillay, a notorious anti-Israel partisan.
Moreover, the American-backed action exposes President Obama’s profound weakness on the international stage. It turns out that the deal to sponsor an Israel-bashing session at the highest levels was a trade-off for having the high commissioner brief the Council on the subject of Syria.
The Security Council has not acted on Syria since an April 21, 2012, resolution, which sent unarmed observers over to watch the bloodshed. France wanted a high commissioner briefing on Syria to generate more noise. Council member Pakistan said no, unless Israel was on the chopping block, too. The Russians also said no, unless Libya was on the table. Russia seeks to use the mess in that country to obstruct stronger measures on Syria.
At this point in the diplomatic game, the Obama administration could have insisted that Israel not be sacrificed as the quid pro quo for paying due attention to the Syrian carnage. Instead, they caved, agreeing to a spectacle which casts Syria and Israel as moral equals.
Team Obama’s only caveat? The Syrian briefing should be in the morning and the Israel briefing should be in the afternoon so that the briefings — by the same person — can be labeled “two” meetings and the trade-off will be less visible. Obama’s U.N. ambassador Susan Rice can then run to the cameras before the afternoon session and claim the Council’s consideration of Syria was a “success.”
The betrayal of Israel is especially outrageous in light of what the administration knows about Navi Pillay. She’s the U.N. official who questioned the legality of the killing of Osama bin Laden within hours of his death. She’s the lead champion of the Durban “anti-racism” declaration and conferences. She’s the human-rights aficionado who sat glued to her conference chair — while democracies walked out en masse — when speaker Iranian president Ahmadinejad questioned the veracity of the Holocaust.
Only last month, when Pillay sought a renewal of her term as high commissioner, the administration lobbied (ineffectively) against it, in part precisely because of her anti-Israel bias. But a month later, Obama officials are welcoming her into the U.N.’s inner sanctum as a supposed expert on Israel’s inequities and legitimizing her message.
Pillay’s lecture is eminently predictable. Back in July 2010 when she was asked to address the Security Council on the general subject of the “protection of civilians” anywhere in the world, she managed only two pleas, and both were directed at Israel. She “urged” the Council to force Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza — notwithstanding the obvious anti-human-rights consequences of creating an Iranian arms depot on the Mediterranean. And she “urged” the Council to support the infamous Goldstone report.
Last November, when she was asked to brief the Council on “the protection of civilians in armed conflict,” she placed alleged “violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers” alongside ending impunity for “summary executions, rape and torture” in Cote d’Ivoire, “brutal violence” affecting “tens of thousands” in Syria, and “systematic torture” in Afghanistan.
As for the burning necessity of more briefings by Pillay, the last time the Security Council was briefed in detail on “the Palestinian question” was all of 13 days ago on June 19, 2012. In fact, detailed briefings of the Council on the issue, including ritualistic condemnation of Israel by U.N. “experts” and a series of non-democracies, are already held monthly.
Furnishing Pillay with a Security Council podium to attack Israel, therefore, must be set side by side with President Obama’s reelection campaign verbiage. Voters are rightly concerned by the president’s full frontal embrace of the United Nations. So administration officials are being dispatched to address Jewish voters in key states like Florida quite specifically on the subject of the Obama response to the demonization of Israel at the U.N.
Here’s Esther Brimmer, assistant secretary at the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, speaking to a Jewish group in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, Florida on April 24, 2012: “Our diplomatic engagement…at the U.N., is rooted in an ironclad commitment by President Obama to support Israel across the U.N. system…. Our commitment to defend Israel throughout the U.N. system, both in countering biased anti-Israeli actions and in opposing those who seek platforms to expand anti-Israel efforts at the U.N., remains strong.”
And here’s U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice at a synagogue in Boca Raton, Fla., on May 10, 2012: “Not a day goes by — not one — when my colleagues and I don’t work hard to defend Israel’s security and legitimacy at the United Nations…. President Obama has insisted that the United States be clear: The treatment Israel receives across the U.N. system is unacceptable. Efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy have been met with the unflinching opposition of the United States.”
It ain’t so.
— Anne Bayefsky is Director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust.