This debate was convened to reaffirm international commitment to the principles of the UN Charter which speaks about the UN as a center for harmony among nations. The only harmony I hear is the chorus of condemnations against Israel.
Oscars for Maintenance of International Peace and Security
Seventy years ago, representatives of 50 nations met in San Francisco met to draw up the Charter of the newly formed United Nations. President Truman addressed the conference saying, “With this Charter the world can begin to look forward to the time when all worthy human beings may be permitted to live decently as free people.”
The signatories believed that every man and woman on this earth has dignity and rights. After witnessing the ravages of two world wars in the span of a generation, they understood that freedom is never free. It is not enough to write a charter or give a speech, freedom must be fought for.
Article 1 of the UN’s Charter outlines the institution’s four purposes.
The first is to maintain international peace and security and take effective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to peace.
The greatest threat to global security is posed by radical Islamist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Boko Haram. The battle being waged against these groups is a battle between civility and barbarism, between pluralistic and totalitarian societies, between tyranny and freedom.
Day by day extremism is spreading its ugly tentacles and in the process, destabilizing communities and nations. The threat is obvious and it is growing, and yet this Council has been reluctant to take decisive action. Worse, it has on occasion, surrendered to those nations that harbor, fund and support terrorist groups.
On January 28th Hezbollah terrorists fired anti-tank missiles at an IDF vehicle in northern Israel, killing two Israeli soldiers and injuring seven others. Hezbollah immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. One would think that in light of this clear admission of guilt, the Security Council would immediately and unequivocally condemn Hezbollah. Yet it took an entire week to release a statement that didn’t even mention the terrorist group.
If we intend to fight terror, we must not differentiate between terror and terror - there is no good terror or bad terror group, and we must treat them all alike.
Hezbollah has held Lebanon hostage for the better part of three decades and now seems intent on holding the Security Council hostage as well. Thanks to the backroom dealings of its Iranian patron, Hezbollah has been allowed to continue its reign of terror.
Here in the theater of the absurd, it wouldn't surprise me if ISIS was given a starring role on the Human Rights Council. Let me be clear - this institution cannot claim to uphold international security while indulging those nations that are actively undermining peace and security.
The second purpose of the UN Charter is to advance relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights.
If we are honest with ourselves then we will admit that we have not done enough to defend basic freedoms. One example is the Middle East - Across the Middle East repressive regimes seek to control what people think, how they are educated, whom they can love, and what they believe.
For 2,000 years, Christian communities dotted the landscape of the Middle East. Today that figure has dwindled to less than 10 percent. We saw an example of this brutal persecution just last week when ISIS beheaded 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya.
But it’s not just Christians being persecuted; all minority groups are at risk. As we speak, Yazidis, Bahai, Kurds, Christians and Muslims are being executed and expelled by radical extremists at a rate of 1,000 people per month.
Extremists have unleashed a plague of persecution believing that by silencing individuals, they can silence civilization. Nobel prize winner and humanitarian activist, Elie Wiesel said (and I quote), “Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe.”
Millions of men and women look to us to defend their dignity and their rights and we are simply not doing enough to help them.
The third purpose of the Charter is to promote and encourage respect for human rights.
The primary body responsible for upholding this principle is the Human Rights Council. Members of the Council currently include Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Algeria, and Venezuela. I imagine there isn’t a person in this room who would want to be placed on trial in one of the countries. And I would think that no one here would be willing to write an article criticizing one of these governments while living under its dominion - certainly not if you valued your liberty or your life.
Yet these and other human rights offenders are given leadership roles in this institution. In 2008, for example, Saudi Arabia - a regime notorious for public executions, lashings, and beheadings - was elected the special rapporteur of the UN’s Third Committee dealing with human rights.
The fact of the matter is that this institution has been hijacked. The ruthless autocracies that jail journalists rush to lecture us on the virtues of a free press. The repressive dictatorships that persecute political opponents filibuster on the sanctity of free and fair elections. And the mass-murdering tyrannical regimes preach to us about human rights.
Yet, instead of criticizing these regimes, the very nations that undermine international peace get elected to the UN bodies responsible for maintaining global security. In 2013, the General Assembly elected Iran to the UN committee that deals with disarmament and international security. This is like inviting North Korea to write a resolution on cyber security.
But the absurdity doesn’t end there. Last year Iran was elected to serve as Vice Chair of the UN’s legal committee - an unusual choice given that Iranian citizens are denied due process and fair trials. It’s remarkable that Iran is so active in international affairs given that its citizens are not afforded opportunities to participate in Iranian national affairs.
The fourth and final purpose of the Charter is to be a center for harmonizing the actions of nations.
Mr. President - you convened this debate to reaffirm international commitment to the principles outlined in the UN Charter. The Charter speaks about the United Nations as a center for harmonizing the actions of nations, but the only harmony I hear, is the chorus of condemnations aimed against Israel.
This institution will never live up to the principles in its charter so long as it persistently, consistently, and insistently focuses on Israel. Last year, the General Assembly adopted 20 resolutions singling out Israel for condemnation and only three resolutions to protest the actions of all other nations combined.
The worst humanitarian crisis of our generation is taking place in Syria where over 200,000 men, women, and children have been murdered by a regime that employs torture, starvation, chemical weapons, and barrel bombs. And yet the General Assembly passed just one resolution condemning the brutal Syrian regime.
Since 2006, more than half of all resolutions adopted by the U.N. Human Rights Council in criticism of a particular country have been directed at Israel. This isn’t logical, it isn’t moral - it is simply prejudice.
When the actions of the UN are placed against the yardstick of its Charter, the institution simply doesn’t measure up. We are failing those who need us most.
Last night Hollywood celebrated the Oscars, and as millions tuned in, I thought of the following.
If the Oscars for Maintenance of International Peace and Security were given at the UN, I would not be surprised if these candidates were awarded prizes.
In the Best Actor Category - for acting like a peace loving country while developing nuclear capabilities, denying the Holocaust, and threatening the destruction of another member state... the Oscar goes to Iran.
In the category for Best Supporting Actor - for its unrelenting support to the Assad Regime in killing hundreds of thousands of civilians... the Oscar goes to Hezbollah.
In the category for Best Visual Effects - for making women disappear from the public sphere, the Oscar goes to... surprise surprise... Saudi Arabia. No competition there.
And finally, for rewriting history, the Oscar for Best Editing goes to... the Palestinian Authority. But the truth is - the Palestinian Authority already received enough prizes from this institution.
Mr. President, Oscars aside, if we want to pursue peace and security in the real world, it is time to bring down the curtain on this theater of the absurd and return the original values of the UN Charter back to center stage.
Thank you, Mr. President.