(September 14, 2018 / JNS) I feel a certain perverse pleasure in the fact that Italy is getting a taste of the United Nation’s complete brazenness and double standards now that it has announced that it will send investigators (not “peacekeepers”) in order to ascertain to what extent Italy is failing to uphold human rights.
Now perhaps Italy will begin a process of re-evaluating its relationship with the world body, and stop voting or abstaining in order to please the automatic majority that solely condemns Israel.
As when, on Dec. 23, 2016, former U.S. President Barack Obama took a parting shot at Israel by ordering his U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Powers to abstain on a resolution that not only betrayed Israel, but also subverted its traditional caution, which had always upheld Resolution 242 as a benchmark, and not the unilateral Palestinian condemnation of settlements. Or associating itself with specialized organizations, such as the U.N. Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that makes irrational and misguided moves like declaring the Western Wall as part of Muslim heritage.
All U.N.-related institutions are privy of any basic common sense, including the Human Rights Council and the International Court of Justice. Association with dozens of U.N. organizations becomes, year after year, increasingly embarrassing. Moreover, their behavior costs the world’s taxpayers an arm and a leg, and is regularly predisposed towards protecting tyrants and covering up their human-rights violations while undermining Western values. Which are by no means perfect, but if the latter were less willing to bend in order to receive a caress from its enemies, well then, perhaps it could facilitate some change.
Why? It’s simple: because out of 193 member states that make up the United Nations 119 belong to the so-called “Non-Aligned” group, and 57 are part of the Islamic group. The U.S.-based non-governmental organization Freedom House deems less than half of all these countries “free.”
Therefore, it’s truly a stretch of the imagination to assume that we are witnessing democratic debate inside the U.N. General Assembly. This is an absurd notion because many of its delegates represent countries that don’t even know what democracy is. Earlier this summer, in June, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who since her mandate began has been an exemplary bearer of truth, announced that her country will leave the Human Rights Council (UNHCR) because it’s “a cesspool of political bias.” The body whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the world has 47 members who are elected for staggered three-year terms. Africa and Asia hold 13 seats; Latin America and the Caribbean hold eight seats; Western Europe and others, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand have six seats; and Eastern Europe also holds six.
We (meaning, the West) are outnumbered. The vast majority have atrocious human-rights records—from Venezuela, where the opposition has been physically crushed; to the Philippines, where political assassination is commonplace; to Ethiopia, Cuba and subsequently all the Arab countries in the grips of war, which have left hundreds of thousands slaughtered, and perpetuate violence and mass murder without anybody saying a damn word.
The list of absurdities at the United Nations is infinite: Iran sitting on the Commission on the Status of Women, Syria on Disarmament (perhaps chemical weapons weren’t included!); the lack of consensus on a resolution defining terrorism (because your terrorist can be my freedom-fighter); 20 years without any emergency meeting of the General Assembly, apart from summoning it together in order to attack Israel; two-thirds of the resolutions of condemnation of the HRC devoted to Israel while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, along with the Chinese, Russians and Iranians, skid by unharmed through months and years of U.N. meetings at all levels and in all branches. Rwanda and Sudan have also been basically ignored, and so, too, have other exterminations and mass murders.
Therefore, as far as Italy—now accused of neglecting the human rights of immigrants and minorities—is concerned, it’s not that it shouldn’t be exempted from asking its government fundamental questions about the problems of refugees, foreigners, and migrants. No, it’s necessary that Italy discusses this; it’s a difficult issue. We’re operating in a universe of questions in which the answers are attempts to quickly remedy decades of indifference and guilty absence.
However, we want to say that the decision of the new U.N. human-rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, is essentially silly—quite evidently a political response to the character of the Italian government that is by now seen as related to the great changes that affect the whole of Europe. This is not the way to discuss it. It is not the United Nations that can judge. Not that same United Nations that during the Durban “anti-racism” conference in 2001 kicked off a wave of anti-Semitism that had since been shamefully directed towards the State of Israel and the collective Jew, while clinging to the Palestinians and Islamic violent strategy.
The United Nations promotes polarization, endorses simplification and magnifies backwardness. Italy should now respond with a smile of pity, but it should also be ready to engage in a large discussion in which it advances itself with complexity of thought, sincerity and broadmindedness. Just like Nikki Haley.
Journalist Fiamma Nirenstein was a member of the Italian Parliament (2008-13), where she served as vice president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Chamber of Deputies, served in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, and established and chaired the Committee for the Inquiry Into Anti-Semitism. A founding member of the international Friends of Israel Initiative, she has written 13 books, including “Israel Is Us” (2009). Currently, she is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Translation by Amy Rosenthal.