June 30, 2021 | International Organizations Monograph

Palestinian Organizations at the United Nations

June 30, 2021 | International Organizations Monograph

Palestinian Organizations at the United Nations

Introduction

While Arab-Israeli normalization began to progress rapidly following the Abraham Accords in 2020, the United Nations continues to support multiple organizations that prolong the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In 1968, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) created the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, which produces annual reports cataloguing alleged Israeli abuses.1 The special committee reports to the UNGA’s Fourth Committee, which focuses on decolonization affairs.

In 1975, the UNGA created another Palestinian-specific body, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP). It was formed during the same session in which the assembly declared Zionism to be a form of racism, a move the body reversed in 1991. Two years later, the UNGA created what would become the Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR) as the secretariat of the CEIRPP.2 The DPR operates under the Division for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, which reports to the UN secretary-general.3

In 2004, the UNGA passed a resolution calling for another Palestinian-specific body, the UN Register of Damages (UNRoD), to assist Palestinians in filing claims against Israel for what Palestinians say were damages that were incurred during the construction of Israel’s security barrier in the West Bank, which was built after a significant increase in Palestinian terrorism against Israel.4

The United States contributes roughly $1.32 million a year to these bodies, not including contributions through other UN bodies and ancillary support provided by the UN Department of Public Information.5 The UNGA passes resolutions annually reauthorizing these entities.

Problems

The Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices has a mandate solely to investigate alleged Israeli abuses.6 Its reports spur anti-Israel activism, International Criminal Court investigations of Israel, and anti-Israel UNGA resolutions.7 The committee’s reports include unsubstantiated allegations, such as claims that Israel requisitions Palestinian homes by placing ancient Hebrew coins in them as part of an effort to claim Jewish heritage for the sites, or that Israeli excavations undermine the structural foundations of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.8

The DPR organizes meetings and conferences in coordination with anti-Israel non-governmental organizations (NGOs) promoting “advocacy for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people,” including the “right of return” – a euphemism for the demographic destruction of Israel. This advocacy often takes the form of hostile denunciations of Israel.9 As early as 2001, meetings held under the auspices of the CEIRPP called for boycotts, embargoes, and sanctions against Israel, even before the official launch of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign in 2005.10

The DPR also organizes an annual International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, which features untruthful attacks against Israel.11 For example, the CEIRPP’s 2020 Solidarity Day exhibit misleadingly portrayed David Ben Gurion, Israel’s founder, as an advocate of ethnic cleansing by attributing to him a quote in which he read someone else’s ideas.12 Meanwhile, a speaker at a Solidarity Day event in 2018 issued a veiled call for ethnically cleansing the Holy Land of Jews when he called for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea.”13 At a Solidarity Day event in 2012, boycott activist and musician Roger Waters falsely accused Israel of apartheid and ethnic cleansing.14 These lies, propaganda, and attacks on Israel come under the auspices of the United Nations, the world’s supposedly neutral peacekeeping body.

UNRoD is one of the clearer attempts by the United Nations to force Palestinian terms on Israel. UNRoD supplies Palestinians with assistance in seeking payment from Israel for purported damages caused by the security barrier; UNRoD does not make any payments itself. The 2007 UNGA resolution creating UNRoD makes no mention of the security considerations – the violent Second Intifada against Israel – that led Israel to create a separation barrier. Instead, the resolution focuses exclusively on damages incurred by Palestinians.15 The resolution also ignores the fact that Israel maintains its own system for compensating Palestinians, and that the Israeli Supreme Court ordered portions of the barrier to be rerouted to minimize harm to Palestinians.16 A May 2020 report by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services stated, “UNRoD expected that by the end of 2019, it will have largely completed the claims intake work,” calling into question the need for UNRoD’s continued existence.17

Collectively, these bodies reinforce often false Palestinian claims against Israel and ensure Israel faces a level of scrutiny and hostility no other nation receives. The United Nations is thus granting legitimacy to organizations and activists committed to destroying or harming the Jewish state.

Recommendations

These anti-Israel UN bodies perpetuate a systemic bias against the Jewish state. They support one claimant in a longstanding territorial dispute against the other. They often increase hostility in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and take actions wholly inappropriate for the world’s peacemaking body. The United Nations should eliminate these bodies. To that end, the United States should:

  • Withhold funding. U.S. law withholds American funding to Palestinian-specific UN bodies by an amount equal to the U.S. portion of the UN budget – some 22 percent.18 Congress should increase this amount to 100 percent as a step toward eliminating these bodies.
  • Launch a campaign for “no” votes. In 2020, a number of countries abstained on annual resolutions empowering the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices, the CEIRPP, and the DPR.19 Support for the special committee’s resolution has waned over the years. The United States should lobby member states to weaken it further.
  • Convince countries to withdraw from the CEIRPP. The United States should encourage allied countries with ties to Israel, including Cyprus, India, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates, to withdraw from the CEIRPP. These countries’ continued participation in the CEIRPP runs counter to improving their diplomatic ties with Israel. The United States should include withdrawal from the CEIRPP as part of all normalization agreements and, as applicable, as a prerequisite for receiving bilateral U.S. assistance for implementing the accords.
  • Introduce more stringent criteria for CEIRPP-accredited NGOs. The CEIRPP has accredited some NGOs that lack impartiality because they interface with terrorists or are supportive of boycotts against the Jewish state. As a member of the UN Economic and Social Council’s Committee on NGOs, the United States should demand that the council strengthen safeguards to prevent the inclusion of such groups.

Short of eliminating these bodies, the United Nations should:

  • Eliminate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. This day has become a circus of UN-sponsored anti-Israel propaganda and hate-filled calls to eradicate the Jewish state.
  • Reduce anti-Israel resolutions. The mandated reports and resolutions targeting Israel are gratuitous. If only for budgetary reasons, they should be consolidated to reduce redundancy. The Biden administration has said that it will not support “one-sided” resolutions against Israel. Caution ought to be taken that “two-sided” resolutions do not end up being unfairly weighted against Israel.

  1. UN Information System on the Question of Palestine, “Documents Archive,” accessed March 26, 2021. (https://www.un.org/unispal/documents/?wpv-wpcf-document-date_min-format=d-m-y&wpv-wpcf-document-date_max-format=d-m-y&wpv_view_count=4164&wpv_post_search=&wpv-wpcf-document-date_min=&wpv-wpcf-document-date_min-format=d-m-y&wpv-wpcf-document-date_max=&wpv-wpcf-document-date_max-format=d-m-y&wpv_sort_order=desc&wpv-document-source%5B%5D=special-committee-to-investigate-israeli-practices&wpv-wpcf-document-symbol=)
  2. Anne Herzberg and Gerald Steinberg, “The UN’s Integral Role in Palestinian Rejectionism,” Jewish Policy Center, Fall 2011. (https://www.jewishpolicycenter.org/2011/08/31/united-nations-palestinian-rejectionism)
  3. UN Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, “Palestinian Rights,” accessed June 8, 2021. (https://dppa.un.org/en/palestinian-rights)
  4. UN Register of Damages, “About UNRoD,” accessed June 8, 2021. (http://www.unrod.org)
  5. UN General Assembly, “Proposed programme budget for 2021,” A/75/6, April 23, 2020. (https://undocs.org/A/75/6(Sect.3)); UN Office of Internal Oversight Services, “Audit of the United Nations Register of Damage,” April 9, 2020. (https://oios.un.org/file/8542/download?token=8g1QUb1y)
  6. UN Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, “Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories,” A/70/406, October 5, 2015. (https://www.un.org/unispal/document/auto-insert-188822). The committee’s name reflects its mandate, which is to “investigate Israeli practices,” making Israel the target of the committee.
  7. Prosecution request pursuant to article 19(3) for a ruling on the Court’s territorial jurisdiction in Palestine, Situation in the State of Palestine, ICC-01/18 (ICC, January 22, 2020). (https://www.icc-cpi.int/CourtRecords/CR2020_00161.PDF)
  8. UN Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, “Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories,” A/70/406, October 5, 2015. (https://www.un.org/unispal/document/auto-insert-188822)
  9. UN Information System on the Question of Palestine, “Accredited Civil Society partners of the Committee – by country,” accessed February 23, 2021. (https://www.un.org/unispal/data-collection/civil-society/list-of-intl-civil-society-partners/national-civil-society-partners-of-the-committee); UN Information System on the Question of Palestine, “Report of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People,” September 1, 2020. (https://www.un.org/unispal/document/2020-annual-report-of-committee-on-the-exercise-of-the-inalienable-rights-of-the-palestinian-people-to-the-un-general-assembly-a-75-35). Several of these NGOs have staff and board members allegedly affiliated with terrorist groups, including the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, reportedly the agricultural arm of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
  10. UN Division for Palestinian Rights, “United Nations NGO Meeting in Solidarity with the Palestinian People,” July 19, 2001. (https://www.un.org/unispal/document/auto-insert-203429); UN Division for Palestinian Rights, “United Nations NGO Meeting in Solidarity with the Palestinian People,” April 18, 2002. (https://unispal.un.org/DPA/DPR/unispal.nsf/0/2697DBCE56C7D70A85256BC9004C3103); UN Information System on the Question of Palestine, “Special Bulletin on the Commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People,” 2005. (https://www.un.org/unispal/document/auto-insert-201927)
  11. UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, “International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian People – CEIRPP special meeting – Verbatim record,” November 25, 2013. (https://www.un.org/unispal/document/auto-insert-193855); Reema Khalaf, UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People,” November 29, 2010. (https://www.unescwa.org/ar/node/7470); UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, “Palestinian Day in Beirut,” December 5, 2016. (https://www.unescwa.org/news/palestine-day-beirut)
  12. UN Exhibits, “The Writing is on the Wall: Annexation Past and Present​,” accessed March 26, 2021. (https://www.un.org/en/exhibits/exhibit/writing-on-wall-annexation); “UN’s Virtual Palestinian Exhibit Distorts Facts,” UN Watch, December 16, 2020. (https://unwatch.org/un-virtual-palestinian-exhibit-distorts-facts/?fbclid=IwAR1obJtqIqjz8rA4cTe40aRJdGSEJOGoYYPGjZCfXhjwKSuVgOcIHEcqb0U)
  13. Marc Lamont Hill, Remarks Delivered at the Special Meeting of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in Observance of the UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, November 8, 2018. (Available at: https://www.jadaliyya.com/Details/38202); Micha Danzig, “‘Palestine From the River to the Sea’ Has Always Been a Call for Annihilation Not Liberation,” Jewish Journal, December 3, 2018. (https://jewishjournal.com/commentary/blogs/242943/palestine-river-sea-always-call-annihilation-not-liberation). Creating a “free Palestine from the river to the sea,” a slogan often spouted by the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Hamas, envisions Palestinian control over the entire land of Israel, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. This would mean purging Jewish inhabitants or, at minimum, stripping them of their autonomy.
  14. Roger Waters, Remarks Delivered to the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, November 29, 2012. (Available at: http://www.russelltribunalonpalestine.com/en/3140/roger-waters-specch-at-the-un.html)
  15. UN General Assembly, Resolution ES-10/17, January 24, 2007. (http://www.unrod.org/docs/ResolutionES-10-17.pdf)
  16. Herb Keinon, “UN to create fence complaints registry,” The Jerusalem Post (Israel), December 15, 2006. (https://www.jpost.com/international/un-to-create-fence-complaints-registry)
  17. UN Office of Internal Oversight Services, “Audit of the United Nations Register of Damage,” April 9, 2020. (https://oios.un.org/file/8542/download?token=8g1QUb1y)
  18. “U.S. Funding to the United Nations System: Overview and Selected Policy Issues,” Congressional Research Service, April 25, 2018. (https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R45206.pdf)
  19. UN General Assembly, Press Release, “General Assembly Adopts Draft Resolutions, Decisions from Fourth Committee, Including Texts on Middle East,” December 10, 2020. (https://www.un.org/unispal/document/general-assembly-adopts-draft-resolutions-decisions-from-fourth-committee-including-texts-on-middle-east-press-release-ga-12299-excerpts)

Issues:

International Organizations Palestinian Politics