December 13, 2023 | Flash Brief

U.S. Abandons Israel at the World Health Organization

December 13, 2023 | Flash Brief

U.S. Abandons Israel at the World Health Organization

Latest Developments

The United States on December 10 supported a resolution at a special session of the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) Executive Board that blamed Israel for a “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza and inaccurately declared parts of Jerusalem to be “occupied Palestinian territory.”

Notably, the resolution failed to condemn: the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel; Hamas’s detention of hostages and denial of medical visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); Hamas’s use of healthcare facilities within Gaza as bases of terror operations; Hamas’s use of ambulances to move terrorists and weapons; and Hamas’s widespread use of human shields.

The U.S. permanent representative highlighted the Biden administration’s “significant reservations” but allowed the resolution to be adopted by consensus. In contrast, the vote came just two days after Washington vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire, explaining that the Security Council resolution was missing key elements, including: condemnation of the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack; insistence that the ICRC gain access to and provide medical treatment for the hostages held by Hamas; and the Biden administration’s preferred policy of linking humanitarian pauses with the release of hostages in place of calls for a general ceasefire.

Expert Analysis

“It is time for new leadership at the World Health Organization. The WHO amplified China’s obstruction and obfuscation in the critical early days of the COVID-19 pandemic that killed more than a million Americans, welcomes dictators to its board, embraces terrorists, and singles out Israel for scrutiny.” — Anthony Ruggiero, Senior Director of FDD’s Nonproliferation and Biodefense Program

“The administration needs to explain why it would veto an inherently antisemitic resolution at the Security Council and then support it inside the World Health Organization two days later. Given the WHO’s enablement of Hamas war crimes in Gaza, and with an executive board composed of North Korea, Syria, China, Qatar, and Belarus, it’s time to recognize the failure of an engagement-only strategy to reform this broken agency.” — Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

The Executive Board of Dictators

The WHO’s embrace of Hamas is not surprising since the organization routinely elevates repressive dictatorships to its policymaking board. North Korea was elected to the board this year even though the United Nations described Pyongyang’s political prison camps as resembling “the horrors of camps that totalitarian States established during the twentieth century.” Syria is in its third and final year on the board, and Russia completed its term earlier this year. Damascus and Moscow have routinely bombed hospitals and civilian populations in Syria and Ukraine, respectively.

WHO Flawed Leadership

In addition to restoring U.S. funding for the WHO without first winning reforms, the Biden administration supported WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus for a second five-year term in fall 2021. Tedros’s fawning praise for China’s obstruction of the COVID-19 pandemic in January 2020 likely led to unnecessary deaths. He allowed Beijing to dictate the terms of the WHO’s pandemic investigation, essentially allowing the arsonist to investigate the fire it started. A major sexual abuse and exploitation scandal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo also stains Tedros’s leadership.

World Health Organization,” FDD Monograph

Hold the WHO accountable for embracing North Korea,” by Anthony Ruggiero

Suspend Syria and Russia from the WHO,” by David Adesnik


China International Organizations Israel Israel at War North Korea