The UN Against Peace

Interior of a conference hall, United Nations Building, New York City, New York State, USA
Interior of a conference hall, United Nations Building, New York City, New York State, USA

Throughout my adult life, I have been fighting for a two-state solution. First as a peace activist, then as a human rights campaigner, then as a journalist and writer -- I've been telling my fellow Israelis that we must take the risks involved in pursuing peace. The political battle has not been easy. Time after time, negotiations with the Palestinians have collapsed. Time after time, Israeli pullouts have produced not stability, but violence, turmoil and bloodshed. Yet like many others on the Israeli center-left, I keep insisting that our nation must stop settlement activities and give the Palestinian people an opportunity to build their own free nation alongside Israel. I beseech my country men and women to overcome the traumas of the past and give peace a chance.

Israel is a democracy. In fact, in its unruly neighborhood, it is an oasis of freedom surrounded by tyrants, radicals and extremists. Hence, there is no way to impose a two-state solution on its sovereign citizens. If reason is to prevail, we must win the hearts and minds of sensible, middle-of-the-road Israelis, who harbor legitimate fears. In order to do that, we need a trustworthy partner and an international community that will assure the people of Israel that it will have their backs should another peace gamble fail. We need the world to stand by the Jewish democratic state as it once again embarks on the road of a two-state solution. While the Middle East flounders, the Arab world is in a state of chaos and ISIS forces are on the rise, only staunch support from the United States, the European Union and the United Nations can persuade the majority of Israelis to consider moving forward and ending the century-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Alas, the international community is doing exactly the opposite.

On November 24, 2015 the General Assembly of the United Nations passed six anti-Israeli resolutions -- in one day. Some of them relate to issues that should be addressed: Occupation, settlement building, Palestinian rights, peace. But the text of each and every one is outrageous. It willfully ignores the bitter history and complex reality as they are. It endorses a simplistic, one-sided narrative that is completely pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli. It ignores the region's brutal circumstances and the fact that to this day the Palestinian National Movement has not recognized the Jewish people and its right to self-determination (in any part of the Holy Land). It overlooks the fact that the Palestinians have rejected Israel's substantive peace initiatives of 2000 and 2008. Engaging in intensive Israel bashing, the United Nations failed to make demands on Israel's counterparts and neighbors. By doing so, it proved that it is profoundly biased, unfair and irrelevant. And it has undermined its own moral authority.

What makes last week's UN vote-against-Israel day all the more absurd is the resolution regarding the Golan Heights. With a majority of 105 against 6 (US, Canada, Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Palau, and Israel) the General Assembly made the following statement: "Occupation of the Syrian Golan and its de facto annexation constitute a stumbling block on the way of achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region."

Really? Has any one of the distinguished diplomats favoring this resolution read a newspaper over the last few years? Do they really think that with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad using chemical weapons against his own people and with ISIS forces beheading men, stoning women and burning infidels, Israel's rule over the Golan region is the "stumbling block... to achieving... peace in the region"?

In what alternative universe have the delegates to the UN found themselves living? Frankly, there is nothing moral or just about being completely detached from reality. Neither is it a great way to promote real peace.

The six resolutions adopted by the General Assembly last week are non-binding, and some would argue that they have no practical implications -- that they do not matter. But they do. Because when the world's parliament adopts such a distorted view of one of the world's most dangerous conflict zones, it endangers peace everywhere. When the zeitgeist reflected by the UN is one that delegitimizes Israel and sees Israel as the source of all evil, we should all shiver. As Jews, we have been here in the past. We know what it is like to be held responsible for every possible wrong. So when we see that the international community is blithely willing to ignore reality and forsake fairness and pass up a sincere search for peace, we are appalled. We freeze. We find it difficult to take the risks we must take in order to advance a two-state solution.

In May 1967, Israel did not occupy the West Bank and Gaza. There was not one settlement, one checkpoint. But when the Arab armies were amassing on the borders of the 19-year-old Jewish state, the international community failed to act. UN forces deployed in the region in order to guarantee Israel's territorial integrity -- vanished. This formative trauma is now echoed by the incomprehensible behavior of the UN and others regarding the Middle East conflict. Ironically it is the organizations and individuals who are officially committed to peace, that are becoming an obstacle to peace by alienating the Israeli public and amplifying its deepest fears.

It is the role of Israeli moderates -- like me -- to do their utmost to change Israeli policy and to fight dark forces within our society in order to pursue peace actively and energetically. But it is the role of the United Nations to help us by being a partner, not an adversary. Only if the international community changes its ways, respects the Jewish democratic state and addresses its justified concerns, can it play a real and constructive role in bringing about the peace we all yearn for.