There was good news this week for Israel from the United Nations of all places. Some of it was official, some not.
Israel received an invitation Monday to join the Western European and Others Group in Geneva effective Jan. 1. That paves the way for it to join the UN Human Rights Council it cut ties with in March 2012 to protest what it said was that group’s anti-Israel bias. The group had condemned Israel 46 times in its five-year history — far more than any other country in the world. (See Editorial on page 6.)
All 193 member nations in the UN are divided into regional groups both in New York and in Geneva through which they are elected to participate in various UN organizations. Israel said it would join UNHRC only if it were admitted to the WEOG in Geneva; it was elected in 2000 to that group in New York.
Israel’s deputy director for UN and International Organizations, Aharon Leshno Yaar, was quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying that now that Israel is a WEOG member in Geneva, it can be elected to positions in the UNHRC and “participate in related activities such as meetings with senior UN officials.”
The news from Geneva prompted a pledge from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to work to end the anti-Israel bias at the UN. He said admitting Israel into the WEOG in Geneva was an “overdue” step and that the U.S. would “continue to support efforts to normalize Israel’s treatment across the UN system as a full and equal member of the community of nations.”
“It goes without saying that at a time when the scourge of global anti-Semitism is on the rise, it is more important than ever for Israel to have a strong voice that can be heard everywhere,” he added.
That anti-Israel bias was on display at the UN here last month when the General Assembly adopted nine anti-Israel resolutions, something it routinely does each year. As in the past, it is expected to adopt a total of 22 resolutions condemning Israel, as opposed to only four against all other countries combined.
But this time, Australia shifted its position and decided to abstain on two of the resolutions. Its foreign minister, Julie Bishop, said Australia would not support “one-sided” resolutions that “pre-judge the outcome” of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.
The excessive criticism of Israel even caught a UN translator by surprise. Speaking to a colleague and unaware her microphone was on, she was heard to complain that Israel was being treated unfairly.
“I mean I think when you have five statements, not five but like a total of 10 resolutions on Israel and Palestine, there’s gotta be something. … C’est un peu trop, non? [It’s a bit much, no?] I mean, I know, yes, yes, but there’s other really bad sh– happening, but no one says anything about the other stuff,” she said.
The female translator made her comments while translating from Spanish to English the anti-Israel speech of Salvadoran diplomat Carlos Enrique Garcie Gonzalez.
Gonzalez stopped speaking when chuckles were heard throughout the hall. He laughed himself as the meeting’s secretary announced, “I understand there was a problem with interpretation.”
The translator then apologized twice before the meeting resumed.
The Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu played a video clip of the incident during the weekly cabinet meeting.
“I hope nothing happens to the interpreter,” he reportedly said. “But in order to remove all doubt, I can say that a place of employment is assured her in Israel if things go in that direction. Sometimes the veil of hypocrisy over the incessant attacks against us is ripped off, and this interpreter did that.”
Israeli media tried without success to contact the translator, whose name is still unknown. She is believed to be still working at the UN.