European & US Lawmakers Urge EU to Back Israel at UNGA

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The 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) officially opened on Tuesday in New York City with the General Debate – an opportunity for representatives from all 193 member states to address the chamber – beginning the following week. Photo Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Edited by: TJVNews.com

In an unprecedented transatlantic initiative, 312 cross-party lawmakers from Europe, North America, and Israel urged European Union (EU) countries and democracies worldwide to help end the discrimination against Israel at the United Nations, as was reported by the Tazpit Press Service.

Spearheaded by the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI), the inter-parliamentary statement comes ahead of the opening of the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly.

The 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) officially opened on Tuesday in New York City with the General Debate – an opportunity for representatives from all 193 member states to address the chamber – beginning the following week.

The UNGA serves as the main deliberative and policy-making body of the UN, addressing complex world issues as well as the challenges facing individual members. It is the only body in the organization where all members have representation, as was reported by Al Jazeera.

According to the UN Charter, the body is charged with addressing matters of international peace and security not currently being addressed by the UN Security Council (UNSC). Al Jazeera reported that it also debates matters of human rights, international law, and cooperation in “economic, social, cultural, educational, and health fields”.

More concretely, the UNGA approves the sprawling organization’s annual budget, while one of its six main committees directly oversees the funding of peacekeeping missions around the world.

The UNGA serves as the main deliberative and policy-making body of the UN, addressing complex world issues as well as the challenges facing individual members. It is the only body in the organization where all members have representation. Photo Credit: State Dept

The leadership of the TFI sent the statement on Monday to the governments of all EU member states, the United Kingdom, Norway and Switzerland, to the EU leadership as well as the UN Secretary-General and the heads of major UN agencies. The signatories are overwhelmingly European legislators and include government ministers, party leaders, parliamentary vice-presidents, and chairs of key committees, according to the TPS report.

The lawmakers underline in the declaration that the UN’s bias against the Jewish state not only damages Israel but the UN’s own reputation and its effectiveness to tackle global problems.

“Within the context of rising global anti-Semitism, the relentless, disproportionate, and ritualistic condemnation of the world’s only Jewish state at the UN is particularly dangerous and must finally end. Israel deserves attention and scrutiny, as does every other nation. But it also merits equal treatment – nothing more, nothing less,” the text reads.

“By violating its own Purposes and Principles, which commit the organization to ‘develop friendly relations among nations’ and to the ‘principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members,’ the UN is undermining its credibility and losing public support,” the statement adds.

TPS reported that the declaration concludes with three concrete demands. First, EU members and fellow democracies should reject the excessive number of anti-Israel resolutions. Next, the lawmakers call for a reform of the Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the cancellation of its permanent anti-Israel Agenda Item 7. The UNHRC is infamously biased against Israel, with nearly half of its resolutions focused solely on Israel while it ignores war, strife and atrocities committed around the globe.

Daniel Schwammenthal, Director of AJC’s Brussels-based EU office, the AJC Transatlantic Institute, and TFI Secretary-General, stated that “the statement could not be more timely as next week the General Assembly will shamefully mark the 20th anniversary of the 2001 Durban World Conference against Racism.” Photo Credit: transatlanticinstitute.org

Finally, they demand the shutdown of discriminatory committees and programs within the UN system that single out Israel, as was reported by TPS.

Austrian MEP Lukas Mandl (EPP), Chair of the TFI group in the European Parliament (EP), stated that “the UN has shown a long-standing bias against Israel which is often targeted more frequently than all other countries combined. The time is long overdue to end this shameful practice. Democratic governments have a responsibility to bring about this much-needed change.”

TPS reported that Daniel Schwammenthal, Director of AJC’s Brussels-based EU office, the AJC Transatlantic Institute, and TFI Secretary-General, stated that “the statement could not be more timely as next week the General Assembly will shamefully mark the 20th anniversary of the 2001 Durban World Conference against Racism.”

Greek MEP Anna Michelle Asimakopoulou (EPP), TFI Vice-Chair in the EP, said that “it is time for EU member states and other democracies to follow the US’ example and vote against these one-sided UN resolutions that unfairly target Israel.”

Lithuanian MEP Petras Auštrevičius (Renew Europe), TFI Vice-Chair in the EP, noted that “when Israel, the Middle East’s only true democracy and a leader in gender equality, is singled out for allegedly violating women’s rights, but regimes such as Iran are elected to the UN Women’s Rights Commission, then you know something is seriously flawed. We must finally fix this UN bias.”

TPS reported that Austrian MP Martin Engelberg (ÖVP), incoming TFI Chair in the Austrian National Assembly, stated that “the surreal torrent of one-sided resolutions condemning Israel out of all proportion serves to demonize the world’s only Jewish state. This is an outrage and we Europeans have a special duty to put an end to it.”

A coalition of more than 30 members of parliament from across Europe and the UK several weeks ago launched a global appeal, spearheaded by the Geneva-based non-governmental human rights group UN Watch, urging countries to pull out of the UN’s upcoming commemoration of a 2001 conference on racism that was plagued by virulent displays of anti-Semitism.

The September 22nd follow-up meeting of the Durban Conference, named after the South African city where the first edition was held in 2001, is scheduled to bring together world leaders on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Spearheaded by the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI), the inter-parliamentary statement comes ahead of the opening of the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly. Photo Credit: transatlanticinstitute.org

Citing concerns over anti-Semitism, numerous countries have already announced they are boycotting what has become known as “Durban IV,” including Austria, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the US.

“We welcome these announcements and hereby call on all other countries to follow,” said the lawmakers. “We recall that the Durban process, since its inception at the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, has included ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism.”

The 36 parliamentarians — from Austria, Croatia, Finland, France, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK — called attention to “a worldwide surge of anti-Jewish violence and inflammatory language that demonizes the Jewish state as uniquely evil,” which they said echoes accusations of “genocide” and “apartheid” leveled in 2001 in advance of the Durban conference at a UN preparatory meeting in Tehran.

“We urge all UN member states not to legitimize this event,” said the MPs. They voiced firm support for combating racism “outside of the tainted Durban process,” where nations “must continue to work to combat racism, bigotry, and racial discrimination in all forms and all places.”

In tandem with the parliamentary appeal, UN Watch has launched a new petition and website calling on Brazil, Denmark, Italy, New Zealand and other countries to pull out of Durban IV.

On Monday, the AP reported that more than 100 heads of state and government are planning to attend the U.N. General Assembly’s annual gathering of world leaders in person next week, including President Joe Biden, King Abdullah II of Jordan and the presidents of Brazil and Venezuela, according to the latest speakers list.

The prime ministers of Japan, India and the United Kingdom will also be at U.N. headquarters to deliver their country’s speech to the 193-member assembly, along with Israel’s new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. And 23 ministers are slated to speak in person as well, according to the list obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

The Geneva-based non-governmental human rights group UN Watch is urging countries to pull out of the UN’s upcoming commemoration of a 2001 conference on racism that was plagued by virulent displays of anti-Semitism. The September 22nd follow-up meeting of the Durban Conference, named after the South African city where the first edition was held in 2001, is scheduled to bring together world leaders on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the U.N.’s members decided to make this year’s gathering hybrid, offering nations the possibility of sending leaders to New York in person or making prerecorded statements to be shown in the assembly chamber, as virtually all countries did last year.

The AP reported that many diplomats and leaders have complained publicly that virtual meetings cannot substitute for in-person one-to-one or group contacts to tackle regional and global challenges and crises.

The high number of leaders planning to attend in person — 73 heads of state and 31 heads of government — reflects the importance of the annual U.N. gathering, officially called the General Debate, and its role in diplomacy. While all countries speak publicly in the assembly, a lot of the world’s business gets discussed at private meetings, lunches and dinners on the sidelines.

Among those delivering prerecorded statements this year will be the presidents of Iran, Egypt, France, Indonesia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

A report in the New York Times indicated that each delegation in the General Assembly hall will be permitted up to five members, compared with two in 2020, when the speeches of all member-state leaders were delivered via prerecorded video on a large screen to largely empty seats. The lack of spontaneity, physical contact and unscripted encounters created a stilted, artificial ambience that participants want to avoid replicating.

The NYT also reported that António Guterres, the Portuguese statesman who was elected to a second five-year term as secretary general this year, told reporters on Friday that the United Nations, like many institutions, had come to appreciate the value of virtual-meeting technology in coping with the pandemic.

Nonetheless, he said, in-person diplomacy remained far more preferable, and the arrangements this year sought to strike a balance between the two.

AP reported that the high-level week begins Sept. 20 with a closed meeting on climate change between Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and world leaders. He will deliver his state of the world address at the following day’s opening of the global gathering, officially called the General Debate, followed by in-person speeches by Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, Biden and .about three dozen other leaders.

The last scheduled speakers on Sept. 27 are from the delegations of North Korea, Myanmar, Guinea and Afghanistan.

The credentials of Myanmar’s current ambassador, from the country’s ousted democratic government, are being challenged by the military junta, but diplomats say it’s unlikely that challenge will be heard before high-level week by the General Assembly’s Credentials Committee. Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers have not yet submitted a letter challenging the credentials of the previous government’s ambassador, and neither have the leaders of the recent coup in Guinea.

Under measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, member states have agreed to limit the delegations entering U.N. headquarters with a leader or minister to six people, with only four of them allowed in the General Assembly chamber. The secretary-general has also mandated that all U.N. staff in the building during the week be vaccinated.

AP reported that U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said all people entering the U.N. headquarters complex, including visitors, delegates, and contractors, will have to “attest through their swipe card or escorted entry that they do not have symptoms of COVID-19 and have not tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 10 days.”

(Sources: Tazpit Press Sevice, UN Watch, Al Jazeera, and AP)