UN Reform

Categories: Israel, Letters From Leadership
By Norman Gelman

Most Zionists are well aware that the United Nations General Assembly and the UN Commission on Human Rights are hotbeds of anti-Israel sentiment. Even the most well-informed may not know, however, that the UN budget pays for a worldwide propaganda campaign against Israel conducted year-round by a unit situated within the UN Secretariat: the Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR).

The DPR and two collateral bodies ? the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) and the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Human Rights Practices Affecting the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (SCIIHRP) ? have been in business for the past 30 years. They are perennially re-authorized in the parade of anti-Israel resolutions that are debated and adopted by the UN General Assembly.

CEIRPP and SCIIHRP are committees of the General Assembly but it is DPR that does the work. Lodged within the UN Department of Political Affairs, which is headed by an Under Secretary General and two Assistant Secretaries General, the DPR is on the same level as regional bureaus which, in theory, track major developments all over the world. The DPR is equivalent to two regional bureaus for Africa, one for the Americas and Europe, and one for Asia Pacific. One might have difficulty understanding how the DPR merits the same status, staff and budget as the aforementioned regional offices.

The DPR?s website explains its functions: The Division provides support and services to CEIRPP, planning and organizing its programs, including a round-robin of international conferences such as those discussed below. It maintains relations with a network of ?more than 1000 NGO?s (non-governmental organizations) from all regions active on the question of Palestine.? It organizes the annual ?International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People? mourning the UN resolution of November 29, 1947, which called for the Palestinian Mandate to be divided between a Jewish and an Arab state. (At this annual event, Israel is routinely denounced and the Palestinian ?right of return? is highlighted as a sacred principle.) The DPR prepares reports and publications ?on the inalienable rights of the Palestinian People? and, in cooperation with the UN?s Department of Public Information, promotes their worldwide distribution. The DPR also develops and maintains the Web-based United Nations Information System on ?the question of Palestine,? UNISPAL, which, in collaboration with the UN Department of Public Information, sends out anti-Israel press releases, funnels television footage to international broadcasters friendly to the Palestinians and hostile to the Israelis, and circulates news stories favorable to the Palestinians via email to 27,000 subscribers.

In the past three years, the DPR has arranged and staffed 10 international conferences
? officially sponsored by CEIRPP,? at which ?information? about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is disseminated to an audience of diplomats, NGO?s and representatives of other UN agencies. These conferences are sponsored and paid for by the UN. The most recent meeting, held at UNESCO in Paris on July 11-12, 2005, called for a campaign of divestment, boycotts and sanctions against Israel, consciously modeled on the effort to end the system of apartheid in South Africa. The previous session in Geneva on March 8-9, 2005, was devoted to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice denouncing Israel?s security barrier. As might be expected, no one on the program questioned the legality of the ICJ opinion or provided information about revisions in the fence?s route ordered by Israel?s High Court.

One might ask how it is possible for the UN to participate in efforts to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians as a member of the Quartet while at the same time sponsoring and funding programs as one-sided as those planned and carried out by the DPR.

There is a promising movement under way, as part of the American led effort to reform the UN, to abolish the DPR and to eliminate funding for the 30 year propaganda campaign against Israel.

About Norman Gelman

Norman I. Gelman was a public affairs consultant to major U.S. corporations including IBM, Citicorp, and Ford Motor Co., among others. Prior to that, he was on the professional staff of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, specializing in international trade policy. He is now retired. Mr. Gelman served as president of the American Jewish Committee's Washington, D.C., chapter and is currently a member of AJC's Board of Governors. He is also vice-chairman of the American Jewish International Relations Institute(AJIRI).
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