Year in Review Business As Usual at the UN
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Year in Review Business As Usual at the UN

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— The 35th session of the UN General Assembly ended here last month almost the way it began: unnoticed, if not ignored altogether.

While the rest of the world was focusing attention on the growing upheavals within and external conflicts between Mideast countries, especially the continuing war between Iran and Iraq the growing tension between Jordan and Syria and the holding of American hostages by Teheran, the UN was conducting business as usual: condemning Israel, debasing it and reviling the Jewish State.

Israel’s long-time contention, that the Arab-Israeli conflict is not the sole reason for instability in the Mideast, was dramatically underscored by the Persian Gulf war and the massing of Syrian troops on Jordan’s border. The world realized that a solution to the Palestinian problem would not guarantee the Western world the flow of Arab oil.

The General Assembly, however, was oblivious to the real happenings in the Mideast and continued with its yearly ritual of passing anti-Israeli resolutions, instead of concentrating on how to end the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan or how to end the bloodshed between Iran and Iraq.


The Assembly– which officially opened Sept. 21 seemed at the beginning to bode ill for Israel. The Arabs, encouraged by the Security Council resolution on Jerusalem, which resulted in the transfer of all 13 foreign embassies to Tel Aviv, and the special emergency session of the Assembly earlier, which called for total Israeli withdrawal from the “occupied territories,” were planning to force the suspension of Israel from the 35th session of the Assembly.

The Arabs were also determined to do all in their power to have the UN impose sanctions on the Jewish State, instead of merely passing vicious anti-Israeli resolutions. But the turn of events in the Mideast proved that the Arabs and their allies, despite their overwhelming majority, do not operate in a vacuum and cannot, therefore, manipulate the international community at all times.

According to diplomats here, the Arab offensive against Israel did not succeed during the last Assembly, due mainly to three factors: The Persian Gulf war between two Moslem countries, both outspoken supporters of the Palestine Liberation Organization; the armed stand-off between Syria and Jordan; and the Presidential election in the United States.


“This General Assembly was a very bad time to promote the Palestinian cause,” one diplomat here observed. “For one thing, the prestige of the PLO has reached a new nadir as a result of the war between two Moslem countries that have adopted the Palestinian cause. For another, the Arab world was divided then, and still is, as it has not been for a long time.” In addition, the diplomat said, the Arab states were in a state of confusion during the American election uncertain as to who was going to be America’s next President and what approach the new Administration would pursue in dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Yehuda Blum, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, pointed to the decline of the PLO after the Assembly voted 98-16 with 32 abstentions to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank. A similar resolution the previous year had received broader support with a vote of 117-14 and 19 abstentions, Blum recalled. He contended that this showed an erosion in support for the PLO even at the UN.


While anti-Israeli debates and resolutions have been routine at the UN– so routine that very few delegates bothered attending the debates– a new ugly element surfaced during the deliberations of the last assembly: vitriolic, undisguised anti-Semitic statements.

A case in point was the statement by Jordan’s Ambassador Hazen Nuseibeh who– in line with the most notorious anti-Semitic slurs– charged that the Jews control the wealth of the world and from that position manipulates the rest of humanity. Blum, charging that delegates to the UN “enjoy an immunity to spread anti-Semitic invectives with an openness and in a way which will not be tolerated in any decent society,” accused the Jordanian diplomat of uttering “nothing but out-and-out anti-Semitism of the worst and most virulent kind.”

Although the PLO and its supporters did not succeed in isolating Israel this time, or bring about international pressure on Israel to yield to their demands, they added, however, to their long-term goal of delegitimizing the Jewish state, a new series of anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist resolutions contributing to their goal of legitimizing Palestinian nationalism.

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