U.N. ‘Wicked’ But Hopeful Signs Exist
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U.N. ‘Wicked’ But Hopeful Signs Exist

In New York, a former Israeli Supreme Court justice weighs in on the world body

“There is an automatic majority to defame Israel,” Elyakim Rubinstein says.
“There is an automatic majority to defame Israel,” Elyakim Rubinstein says.

The failure of the United Nations last week to condemn the activities of Hamas for “repeatedly firing rockets into Israel and for inciting violence” is further evidence that the U.N. is a “wicked organization from a human rights point of view.”

That’s the view of Elyakim Rubinstein, retired justice of the Israeli Supreme Court, who said here this week that “you can easily condemn Israel at the U.N. There is an automatic majority to defame Israel.”

He noted that while democratic nations consider Hamas a terrorist organization, “the U.N. was not able to formalize it because of technical manipulations.”

He was referring to a procedural vote before the main vote that called for the resolution to be decided by a two-thirds majority instead of a simple majority. Thus, although a majority of nations — 87 — voted Dec. 6 in favor of the U.S. resolution, it failed to pass because 58 voted against it and another 32 abstained.

Rubinstein, 71, the Distinguished Professor of Touro College and University System who served as both deputy president of the court and attorney general of Israel, made the comments in an interview prior to a discussion last Wednesday titled, “Why We Cannot Ignore the U.N.,” at the Jewish Center in Manhattan.

He explained that the U.N. accepted Israel in 1949 and relations were good in the early years, but over time, “there was an automatic majority to defame Israel … and it became a very unhappy relationship despite Israel’s participation in agriculture, health and science and all other agencies.”

Rubinstein said the current secretary-general, Antonio Guterres of Portugal, “understands the malignant situation, the anti-Semitism and the declarations that Israel has no right to exist.”

Irwin Cotler, former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada, who joined Rubinstein in the Jewish Center discussion, told The Jewish Week that what is happening at the U.N. is that “the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is being used as a club to beat up on Israel. What we should be concerned about is how the U.N. and its fundamental values are being undermined.”

The U.N. has over the years declared Israel to be “the enemy of labor, the enemy of women, the enemy of peace and it was condemned by the World Health Organization,” he said. The U.N. General Assembly has passed more than 500 resolutions condemning Israel, but it has never adopted one condemning Hamas.

Still, Cotler pointed out some positive signs, like the invitation to have Leah Goldin, the mother of Hadar Goldin, the Israeli soldier who was killed in the 2014 Gaza war with Hamas and whose body has yet to be returned to Israel, speak at the U.N. The invitation was made by Ukraine.

Cotler said that “every member of the U.N. Security Council was there and all supported Goldin’s case,” and there is hope for the future. He noted the plurality in the vote last week to condemn Hamas.  “We are on the path to changes,” he said, “and we have to be engaged to be the change agent. Make it happen rather than withdraw from the U.N. and leave it only to the accusers to put Israel in the docket.”

Rubinstein’s arrangement with Touro is for three years, during which he will be featured at various public events to speak about different topics and will also speak with students at different yeshiva high schools.

“The kids’ [discussions] are the most gratifying part of the day,” he said. “It’s the best part of my visit.” 

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