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Rumors of the U.N.’s Benefits Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

10:01 AM, Dec 7, 2011 • By ANNE BAYEFSKY
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Portraying President Obama’s U.N.-centered foreign policy as consistent with American values or pro-Israel has become increasingly difficult for administration officials. The result has been a steady stream of inaccurate accounts of goings-on at the organization.

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On Friday, December 2, the Obama administration made another attempt to justify its decision to join the disreputable U.N. Human Rights Council. The Council had just followed a discussion on Syria with a resolution promising to appoint a human rights investigator – four months from now in March 2012 – and rejected calls to seek the involvement of the Security Council and the International Criminal Court. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice tried to praise the body’s toughness: “No nation has been the subject of more than one special session, let alone three, in such a short amount of time.” 

In fact, while the Council held three special sessions on Syria between April and December 2011, it has held six special sessions on Israel and three of those occurred in a shorter amount of time, namely, between July and November 2006.

Rice continued: “I applaud the Council for holding its third special session on Syria since April, with a record 29 co-sponsors.” The state department press release claimed that 29 countries was “by far the largest number of co-sponsors for any special session since the Council was created.”  In fact, five other Council special sessions had more co-sponsors, including a session on Israel and the infamous Goldstone operation that had 33.

These aren’t the only  factual inaccuracies  being thrown around to shore upU.S. support for the Council, a body known to be no friend of Israel’s.

Esther Brimmer, assistant secretary of the bureau of international organization affairs at the State Department, is frequently trotted out to sell the Obama administration’s U.N.-bond, and to cover-up the body’s anti-Israel results.  In a speech on February 1, 2011 to the Brookings Institution, Brimmer said: “Since the United States joined the Human Rights Council, it has not held a single special session on Israel.” 

Except that the U.S. took its seat on the Council on September 14, 2009. The Council held its sixth special session on Israel on October 15 and 16, 2009 – an unforgettable session in which it endorsed the notorious Goldstone Report. And 8 months later, in June 2010, the Council, with slightly modified lingo, held an “urgent debate” – the first and only one of its kind – to condemn Israel’s lawful effort to stop Turkish-backed terrorists from breaking the Gaza blockade.

Slip of the tongue by Brimmer? Here she is repeating the same false claim again on September 1, 2011 at the University of Nevada: “Though the Human Rights Council held five special sessions on Israel in the three years before the United States took our seat, there have been none – none – in almost two years.”

With unnerving regularity, key members of the Obama administration misstate the facts on what happens at the U.N. and, hence, draw unsubstantiated conclusions about America’s best interests. 

Speaking of the Human Rights Council, Rice told a House Appropriations Subcommittee on April 6, 2011: “The results there were worse when America sat on the sidelines…Israel was relentlessly bashed…U.S. engagement and leadership are paying dividends.” In fact, just two weeks before her statement the Council concluded its March 2011 session by adopting more resolutions bashing Israel than at any other session in its history.

Brimmer told an audience at the University of Nevada on September 1, 2011: “I am pleased to report that the Human Rights Council has fundamentally changed over the past two years as a result of U.S. engagement.…[W]e have seen a dramatic improvement in that body’s effectiveness.”

Dramatic improvement? Canada, the country with the closest voting pattern to the U.S., was on the Council prior to U.S. membership for 11 sessions. When it came time for voting, Canada lost 88 percent of the time. Since the U.S. has been a member, there have been 7 regular sessions of the Council and 50 up or down votes. The Obama administration has lost 42 of them – 84 percent of the time. 

Brimmer told the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) on September 7, 2011: The Human Rights Council is a “serious human rights body.” There are no membership qualifications to serve on the U.N.’s lead human rights body, which therefore includes such human rights exemplars as Cuba, China, and Saudi Arabia. The standing agenda of the Council has one item devoted to criticism of Israel alone and another for all other 192 U.N. members. Forty-four percent of all the condemnations of specific states made by the Council have been directed to Israel.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Rice announced on March 31, 2009 that the Obama administration would seek to join the Council because it “is scheduled to undergo a formal review of its structure and procedures in 2011, which will offer a significant opportunity for Council reform.” U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Council Eileen Donahoe said in the New York Times on September 13, 2010:  “[I]f we do not sit at the table with others and do the work necessary to influence the process, U.S. values and priorities will not be reflected in the outcome.”

The Council “reform” process ended on June 17, 2011. Of the 42 proposals put forward by the American delegation, only three—all on minutiae—were accepted. The agenda item on Israel remained exactly the same. No criteria for membership on the Council were instituted and yet the sham review resolution passed the General Assembly with flying colors. After the vote the Syrian delegate summed up what really went down: “Warmest thanks…Our efforts were crowned by arriving at the document before us today…The objective of our work was not reform…”

Clinton addressed a letter on October 12, 2011 to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in which she said:  “The United States strongly supports serious, sustained reform of the United Nations….We will…sustain our vigorous and principled push for fair treatment of Israel.”

Vigorous push?  In March 2011, months before the Human Rights Council “reform” finally crashed and burned, and a year before any decision needed to be made, the administration formally announced that it would seek a second term on the Council—jettisoning the only bargaining chip for reform it might have had left either then or now.

The Obama administration’s story telling goes beyond the Human Rights Council.

Clinton told Reuters on October 11, 2011: “[W]ith respect to…UNESCO, we are legally prohibited from continuing to fund organizations that accept the Palestinians as members…I am strongly making the case to Members of Congress that at some point we need some flexibility because pretty soon, if we don’t pay into these organizations, we lose our right to participate and influence their actions.”

Failing to pay dues to U.N. bodies eventually results in the loss of voting privileges, but it does not result in the loss of a right to participate. In fact, on November 2, 2011, two days after the State Department indicated that U.S. funds to UNESCO would be stopped following the Palestinian move in accordance with U.S. law, the United States was reelected to serve on UNESCO’s executive board.

When it comes to the U.N. role on the big-ticket items that go to the heart of American national security interests, the misinformation campaign is also in full gear.

Rice told a House Appropriations Subcommittee on April 6, 2010: “[T]he U.N. helps halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons.” Brimmer similarly told the U.S.I.P on September 7, 2011:  “[T]he International Atomic Energey Agency…has been invaluable in sounding the alarm on illicit nuclear activities in Iran [and] Syria…”

Actually, for twenty years under the stewardship of Egyptian Mohamed El Baradei the IAEA delayed supervision of Iranian behavior, lobbied against sanctions, and withheld damning information, drastically reducing the available strategies today for preventing an Iranian nuclear bomb. The Security Council is still twiddling its thumbs. U.N. “alarm-sounding” on Syria started 10 months after Israel destroyed its nascent nuclear reactor. North Korea, which has twice tested nuclear weapons and is developing missiles to carry them, was appointed in June to chair the U.N. Conference on Disarmament for its meetings this past summer.

Brimmer told USIP in September: “On counterterrorism, U.N. bodies are uniquely important.”   And Rice told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in April: “the U.N. helps isolate terrorists.” To this day the United Nations has no definition of terrorism because Islamic states insist on exempting preferred targets like Israeli and American “occupiers.” The Security Council has the representative of a terrorist organization as a full member, namely, Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon. The U.N.’s central Counter-Terrorism Committee has still never named a single terrorist, terrorist organization, or state sponsor of terrorism. And on November 11, 2011, for the first time in 15 years, the General Assembly decided to cancel the spring session of the committee charged with drafting the first comprehensive convention against terrorism because U.N. states are deadlocked on what they are against.

The Obama team’s erroneous and exaggerated accounts of the pluses of the United Nations are increasingly disgraceful, as they are detrimental to both Israel and the United States. Not surprisingly, they have been unable to defend the indefensible with the facts.

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