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The UN’s dubious associates

By Anne Bayefsky

On Sunday, June 11, a boycott of Israeli academics, which had been adopted a few weeks earlier by the UK University and College Lecturers Union (NATFHE), was lifted after the move threatened to derail a merger plan with the larger UK Association of University Teachers. The development comes as the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) passed a resolution at the end of May to "support the international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions" against Israel. These actions, gaining steam on multiple continents, did not develop out of thin air. Lurking behind them, and many similar moves, is a little known UN cadre which is the subject of a report released in early June by EYEontheUN.org.

The multibillion-dollar UN system was once largely closed to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as the private playing field of member states. But NGOs have now found their way into the most intimate recesses of the UN. It is a development, however, that is not a one-way street with the members of so-called "civil society" as mere supplicants looking for an opening. Both the UN Secretariat and member states have found it extremely useful to operate through NGO "partners" or proxies. One element of this phenomenon is so familiar that the term "GONGO" has been coined, to discredit "government-operated non-governmental organisations."

But there is a much darker side to the UN-NGO nexus than the rise of these obvious interlopers in NGO circles. It is the large number of NGOs that have been empowered by UN-accreditation to spread antisemitism and hate, and encourage terrorism, from a UN platform. The call for boycotts and sanctions against Israel is a central plank of this campaign.

The UN accredits NGOs through its Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Department of Public Information (DPI), or in Israel’s case, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP). Accreditation brings with it a number of entitlements, in particular, the wider dissemination of the NGO’s views by way of the UN website, UN conferences, and publications. In Israel’s case, the UN website specifically links to so-called "like-minded" UN-accredited NGOs. Although the UN adds a disclaimer about the content of the non-UN sites, the only way to get on the list — and be granted the enormous benefit of being tied directly to a site accessed by millions worldwide — is to be approved by a "team" of UN officials.

The job of disseminating and amplifying the message that UN insiders can’t always convey conspicuously, is conveniently taken up by NGOs such as those on the UN "NGO Network on the Question of Palestine." Its direction is driven by the Inalienable Rights Committee and the UN’s Division for Palestinian Rights — the only committee and division in the UN system devoted solely to advancing the claims of a single people.

Reading Is Believing

The following is a sampling of direct quotes taken from the sites of UN-accredited NGOs. (Some of the sites contain generic disclaimers though the pieces have been deliberately featured.) The UN website links to some of these NGOs directly. They draw an inexorable line between antisemitism, belittling Jew-hatred, rejecting the legitimacy of a Jewish state, making wild allegations against Israel of human-rights atrocities akin to the Nazis (starting with Israel’s creation and not the 1967 occupation) and justifying armed struggle, murder, and terrorism. And for what has not been achieved by military force, there is the boycott.

That Star of David, which we are told is originally a religious symbol, symbolised hate and evil. Even today, I couldn’t imagine a more hateful sign.

[M]any Americans and westerners, long misinformed by the Zionist-controlled media especially after the events of September 11, 2001…

[S]o-called ‘anti-semitism‚’ has now become the single most important element of Jewish identity.

[A]nti-semitism has been taking place for 100 years in Palestine, against the Palestinian Arab semites, by European Jewish colonialists. A mini-holocaust.

Zionism is against true Torah Judaism. But Zionism is even more than that; Zionism and anti-Jewish feelings are faces of the same coin of racism. In fact Hitler talked about the "great movement" of Zionism (because both he and they agreed that Jews have no place in Europe)...

We denounce the racist and colonial character of Zionism, Israel’s State ideology.

[W]e must recall Ben Gurions [sic] doctrine: ethnic cleansing became an integral part of Zionism. If Palestinians cannot be removed by massacres and expulsion, they shall be removed by extermination.

Zionist apartheid, racism, and settler-colonialism in Palestine… is violative of the most basic human standards…Thus, the Palestinian resistance is justified.

[T]he suicide bombers…have been nurtured by the high unemployment, the harassment of the checkpoints, the death of a loved one and sometimes the need to redeem themselves from having been recruited as collaborators in the Israeli prison camps.

What do you think of the suicide bombings?...first of all we don’t call it a suicide attack‚ we call it a ‘martyr attack…’

[I]t is not only correct to call Israel an apartheid state but it is more imperative that we Americans stop funding and investing in such an oppressive regime…Some would argue that we would be singling out Israel or taking sides…We…did not say we took sides when we divested and boycotted…Nazi Germany (a boycott which was actually only violated by the Zionist movement in their collaboration with the Nazi regime).

Hate Is No Disqualification

This penchant of UN-accredited NGOs for hate and violence does not prevent them from achieving accreditation. In January 2006, the NGO called BADIL, Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, won accreditation despite the fact that BADIL advocates that "Zionism is racism" and the end of a Jewish state. But BADIL had a UN-insider on its side. Karen Koning Abu Zayd, Commissioner General for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), wrote a letter in support of its application, stating: "I take great pleasure in recommending BADIL… BADIL has had an excellent cooperative relationship with UNRWA."

Like-minded NGOs can get more than UN-accreditation, or a coveted link from the UN’s website. They can also advertise their political campaigns globally without charge courtesy of a UN newsletter called NGO Action News. According to the UN, this is a "bi-weekly newsletter issued by the Division for Palestinian Rights of the United Nations Secretariat and intended to provide information on worldwide NGO activities relevant to the question of Palestine." The UN solicits submissions, asking NGOs interested in sharing information about their activities to contact the Division for Palestinian Rights. As for accountability, the UN says: "[T]he final decision with regard to selecting material for inclusion in the newsletter rests with the Division for Palestinian Rights" — with a disclaimer about factual accuracy of events scheduled by third parties.

What does the latest edition of the UN’s NGO Action News advertise — free of charge? A campaign to object to proposed congressional anti-terrorism legislation (which was subsequently adopted). The April—May 2006 edition of the UN’s NGO Action News includes:

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation issued a press release on 11 April 2006 informing that over 300 US-based organisations have endorsed an open letter to Members of Congress against the H.R.4681, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 to ban assistance to the Palestinian Authority, introduced after the recent Palestinian legislative elections. The initiative has generated over 12,000 letters. For further information, contact E-Mail: us_campaign@endtheoccupation.org or visit the Campaign’s web site: http://www.endtheoccupation.org

The November 2005 issue of NGO Action News advertised an international seminar which included a workshop called "Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment," and a paper on "Local and International Perspectives on a One State Solution." The October-November 2005 NGO Action News announced a conference organised by the Palestine Center promising to discuss "Churches and Divestment: A Third Party Intervention."

The number of UN regulations violated by this UN-NGO cabal is voluminous, but one particular rule matters above all. It’s called the Charter of the United Nations, which bears repeating under the circumstances. The organisation was intended to "reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small." We’ve gone a long way — in the opposite direction.

Anne Bayefsky is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and at Touro College Law Centre. She is also editor of EyeontheUN.org. © National Review, reprinted by permission, all rights reserved. For the full report and supporting documents, go to www.eyeontheun.org.