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August 01, 2005

The Perfect Task For John Bolton
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

During the first month or two after John Bolton's nomination I wrote reams about him, so I won't revisit all that now (anyone whose curious can just click on the United Nations sub-heading on the Categories menu to the left.  My take on the merits of the recess appointment can be found here.  Bottom line is that I am proud of those on the SFRC for the fight they put up, and eager for a substantive debate this fall over what the Administration will accomplish during this all important General Assembly session devoted to UN reform.

Speaking of reform, I just published an article in the current issue of Dissent magazine arguing that:

Though no one realizes it, Israel may be a linchpin in this year’s historic push for change at the United Nations. Israel’s tortured history at the UN is emblematic of much (though by no means all) of what is wrong with the world organization. Longstanding U.S. perceptions of the UN membership as anti-Western, unprincipled, motivated by petty biases, and dominated by a herd mentality stem largely from—and are given continuing basis by—the body’s history of anti-Israel conduct. An organization that has been too fractured and passive to confront the moral challenges of our time—including Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur—has managed to adopt more than twenty resolutions chastising Israel each year since 1985. The isolation of Israel at the UN has strained the U.S.-UN relationship and undercut the legitimacy of the global body in the eyes of many Americans.

UN secretary-general Kofi Annan is seeking to restore the UN’s credibility after an era of scandal and paralysis. In March he issued a set of recommendations based on the work of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change he set up to propose reforms. Although Annan’s proposals do not directly address Israel’s anomalous position, they do get at certain conditions that have contributed to the ostracizing of Israel. If implemented, these measures should begin to show that the organization is serious about reform. At the same time, simply enacting the Annan reforms will not root out entrenched patterns. The reforms should go hand in hand with a political push led by the United States to put Israel on an equal footing with the organization’s 190 other states. If Israel’s standing does not improve after a major reform effort, Secretary-General Annan and the High-Level Panel will have failed to check the organization’s worst impulses, and the UN’s credibility crisis will persist.

The continuation is posted here

Given that one of his signature credentials for the UN post was over-turning the organization's notorious Zionism is Racism resolution, if the Administration is right that Bolton can be effective at the UN, why not have him tackle the betterment of Israel's status at the world body?  Let him show us what he can do.


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And why isn't Zionism racism?

Here's an explanation credited to the Anti-Defamation League:

What self-serving bullshit. Any ideology designed to displace the native inhabitants of a land in favor of some group that claims a mythical title to that land is inherently racist. Zionism is racist because it presupposes that individuals of Jewish descent have a greater claim to the physical land of Israeli than its previous inhabitants.

Israeli is a fact. We can't rewrite history. But it's establishment was ill-considered and presumptuous and is the result of a sense of religio-ethnic self-importance that, if it isn't racism, is it's obnoxious kid brother.

One can't reasonably call Zionism racism, given the tremendous diversity included within the historical movement called "Zionism" and the enormous multiplicity of views encompassed by that term. There are cultural Zionisms, religious Zionisms and political Zionisms, with each type of Zionism including a large number of sub-types. Zionism is above all a nationalist movement, and while I am not a fan of nationalism myself, it won't do to go about branding all nationalisms as forms of "racism".

Yet there certainly are *forms* of Zionism that are deeply ethnocentric and chauvinistic, and even racist. And there are forms of Zionism that, while perhaps not inherently racist, nevertheless advocate agendas that run contrary to modern international norms. These agendas should not be endorsed by the international community, and should be judiciously criticised.

The "Zionism is Racism" resolution is not judicious - it is a silly and incoherent General Assembly ejaculation, in which fragments of decent points are lost in a jumble of irrelevancies, inflated rhetoric and illogicality, and I would have no problem with its prompt overturning and repudiation.

Yet I would certainly reject any effort to exploit a move to retract that piece of general assembly tripe as a trojan horse for a further effort to repudiate the record of perfectly sensible and appropriate Security Council resolutions dealing with Israel.

And I am not sure what it means to "put Israel on an equal footing with the iragnaizations 190 other states." No two members of the UN are on an equal footing, other than in the broad sense of being equally member states, and equally subject to the UN Charter. Israel's full rehabilitation in the UN should only follow its prompt and unconditional fulfillment of its obligations under those UN Security Council resolutions, particularly UN 242, which is really the focal point of almost all the rest.

In the years since the passage of SC 242, Israel has, under the cover of a defensive occupation of hostile territories, and with rosy suggestions of an eventual "land for peace" give-back, pursued a policy of settlement, colonization and de facto anexation - abetted by military force wielded in a lawless manner - that one can only conclude is designed over the long term to drive the Palestinian Arabs from the occupied territories of the West Bank. This is a blatant violation of both the spirit and letter of UN resolutions, and of established, civilized standards of international behavior. And it should be clear by now that there is no serious political determination within any significant faction of the Israeli government and leadership to pursue a policy that might result in the envisaged "land-for-peace" swap, and return the West Bank.

To what extent this settlement policy is motivated by racism, and to what extent it is motivated my something else, are of no moment. What is important is that is lawless, and an affront to clear interntaional standards and pronouncements.

I might add that if Arab Palestine were to become a UN member state tomorrow, I would advocate an immediate resolution on Palestine declaring it a state sponsor of terrorism, and establishing sanctions designed to bring that sponsorship to an end. But, of course, Palestine is not a state.

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