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Current Events at the United Nations

Aired August 6, 2004 - 21:00:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The United Nations has become the leading global purveyor of anti-Semitism.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Im going to ask you to speak a bit louder. I'm usually the one who is asked to do that, now I'm doing it to you.


RICHARD ROTH, CNN ANCHOR: Do you ever hear the United Nations General Assembly or Security Council condemn an Arab country or Muslim terrorist for an attack on Israel? It doesn't happen every day, nor every half century.

Welcome to DIPLOMATIC LICENSE. I'm Richard Roth.

Yes, there are political reasons behind some of this. Why there are hundreds of anti-Israel resolutions on the books, but none defending the nation of Israel, founded after the Holocaust, which led to the creation of the United Nations itself. But might the reason for some of this be anti- Semitism?

At a recent conference at the United Nations in New York, speakers accused the United Nations of tolerating anti-Semitism. One of the guests, a Holocaust survivor, Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel.


ELIE WIESEL, NOBEL PEACE PRIZE WINNER: After (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Israel's policies, which they outrageously exaggerate and acerbate and demonize, some intellectual thinkers encourage hatred towards the entire Jewish people and why not say it, anti-Semitism has even managed to penetrate the U.N. atmosphere.


ROTH: It's not often the United Nations is verbally blasted by people addressing functions inside the headquarters building. Of course, the anti-Semitism event didn't draw many U.N. country delegates. If they had attended, they would have caught an earful on the anti-Semitism issue.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The inability of the United Nations to confront the corruption of its agenda dooms this organization's success as an essential agent of equality or dignity or democratization.


ROTH: The United Nations secretary-general had left the room by then, but in his address earlier the secretary-general called on the United Nations to take action against what he termed an alarming resurgence of anti-Jewish hatred.

Annan said this time the world cannot be silent.


KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECY.-GEN.: Let us acknowledge that the United Nations record on anti-Semitism has at times fallen short of our ideals. The general assembly resolution of 1975 equating Zionism with racism was an especially unfortunate decision.


ROTH: Joining me now to discuss anti-Semitism and the United Nations and, I have a hunch, some other related issues, someone you saw earlier in one of those clips, Anne Bayefsky, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. And in Washington, Raeed Tayeh, director of communications for American Muslims for Jerusalem.

Welcome, both of you. Anne, let's start with you. You've written about this. You call it the United Nations' dirty little secret. Why is it?

ANNE BAYEFSKY, HUDSON INSTITUTE: Because the allegation of double standards usually operates in the other direction, but the real fact is that the United Nations has applied double standards to Israel for decades that it doesn't apply to anyone else.

ROTH: And do you think that the ambassadors, the governments, how many, do you believe, are acting out of anti-Semitism, out of just currying favor, out of just the way the split politically is inside that General Assembly hall? How much of it is anti-Semitism?

BAYEFSKY: Well, the fact is that it's a complicated issue. The United Nations works in regional groups and it works in ways that depend on coalition building, so the Arab league of 22 Arab states and the Organization of Islamic Conference, 56 members, operate in many ways from motivations directly related to anti-Semitism.

They question the existence of the state of Israel. They have engaged in an ongoing battle for the last half-century against the existence of the state of Israel and its manifest itself through the United Nations.

ROTH: Mr. Tayeh, what do you believe? There have been many, including Anne Bayefsky, who say that Israel, even if it's doing something wrong, is not treated fairly at the United Nations. There are hundreds of resolutions about Israel, but none on either Arab governments or Russia, on Chechnya, China or Tibet. What's your sense on the United Nations, Israel and anti-Semitism?

RAEED TAYEH, AMERICAN MUSLIMS FOR JERUSALEM: Well, first I disagree with the notion that the United Nations has not passed resolutions dealing with Arab countries. Since 1967, they've passed over 70 resolutions dealing with Iraq and now there is no longer the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

But I think that Ms. Bayefsky does what many supporters of Israel do, is blend the issue of anti-Semitism and criticism of the state of Israel. It is true that Israel is a Jewish state and Israel claims to be a Jewish state and is a homeland for the Jews.

However, the way that Israel conducts itself vis--vis the Palestinians does not live up to the Jewish tradition of Moses and the prophets. In fact, Israel has been on the receiving end of several U.N. resolutions since 1948, and I think that there are too many resolutions dealing with Israel. The United Nations needs to stop passing resolutions and start enforcing the ones that are on the books, namely returning to the 1967 borders and allowing Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes.

BAYEFSKY: That's a good example. Let's talk about refugees.

The United Nations has never said a thing about the almost 1 million Jewish refugees forced to flee Arab countries in the wait of the creation of the state of Israel. Instead, the United Nations contributes to this what I call big lie that the occupation is somehow the root of the problem of Palestinian -- the Arab-Israel conflict, when the reality is that the rejection of the state of Israel and an ongoing terrorist fight against Jews in Israel is the root of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

TAYEH: Well, not really. The Palestinians are not fighting Jews. They're fighting their oppressors. Whether they are Jews, Muslims or Christians is frankly irrelevant.

They're fighting the people who have occupied their land, who have stolen their land and who have.


BAYEFSKY: In many places, like in Kuwait, for example, they're not allowed.


TAYEH: Anne, you're mixing apples and oranges. The Palestinians live in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, they live in.


BAYEFSKY: Well, I think the refugees claiming a right to go home would disagree with you.

TAYEH: Well, the Palestinian refugees who live in those camps live in a terrible condition. And the United Nations, over the past 50 years, has carried Israel's burden of providing for those Palestinians when in fact they should go home.

I think that.


BAYEFSKY: They live in Lebanon, they live in Kuwait. If they really cared about the Palestinians and they cared about the children used as suicide bombers, the children who go to summer camps and learn to try to participate in armed conflict, in direct violation of Geneva conventions, why doesn't the United Nations talk about those Palestinian.


TAYEH: And see, Richard, here is the problem. Whenever you start talking about Israel and its human rights abuses and its violation of international law, they start talking about suicide bombing, which is a terrible phenomenon, but that's only been around since 1994.

Israel has been occupying the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since 1967. Israel expelled over 1 million Palestinian refugees between 1948 and 1967. That problem remains today.


BAYEFSKY: That's the bottom line. When you begin to talk about 1948, then we really know what you're talking about. You're talking about the creation of the state of Israel. That's what you have a problem with and that's.


TAYEH: I'm talking about the creation of the state of Israel on the land of Palestinians. I mean, David Ben-Gurion, after the 1948 war, said it very clearly. He said that before we were living here, the Palestinians were living here.


ROTH: Wasn't it the United Nations, though, the General Assembly, that established the way it was going to go, and it was the Palestinians that didn't want to respect the United Nations General Assembly on this.

TAYEH: Well, the United Nations, in 1947, came up with a plan to divide Palestinian, giving the Jews the majority of the country and the Palestinians the minority. The Palestinians rejected it because they said, hey, we live here. This is 100 percent of our land.


TAYEH: Let me finish. Let me finish.

But the Palestinians lived there. Jews who came over from Germany, the United States, Russia and everywhere else did not live there, and to say that, well, our forefathers lived there 2,000 years ago, therefore we have, you know, a deed to this land, is ridiculous.

BAYEFSKY: Mr. Tayeh, this is exactly the problem. You've written before that you wish Zionism would die, and I mean, I have to go back to the land -- I have to go back to the words of Martin Luther King, who said quite clearly, when they talk about Zionism, they mean Jews.

But, Richard, when you ask me why is this anti-Semitism, it's because there is self-determination for Palestinians and for every other people on earth, except for Jews. That's anti-Semitism.

TAYEH: No. That's not it. Jews can have their land, but the Palestinians didn't commit the Holocaust. That was Germany under the Nazis. Why not create a state in Germany?

The fact that Israel is there now.

ROTH: You're saying -- what are you saying? You're saying there should be a state for Jews in Germany?

TAYEH: No. My point is, the Palestinians had no part in the Holocaust, yet Jews came over and took the Palestinians land. That happened in '48.

We're dealing with reality in 2004, but when you criticize.


BAYEFSKY: The reality is five years of war.


TAYEH: Let me finish, please. You criticize the state of Israel and you criticize Zionism, you're labeled as an anti-Semite. If you're Jewish and you criticize Zionism, you're labeled as a self-hating Jew and you're slandered this way in order to intimidate you so that you do not speak out against what Israel is doing.

ROTH: All right, I want to talk about what may happen in the future. The General Assembly is, according to Kofi Anna, should come up with a resolution condemning anti-Semitism. Yet a resolution that Ireland and others were talking about last year, that went nowhere. They didn't have any new information for me this week on where it stands. Do you really think the General Assembly, Anne, is going to come up with a resolution condemning anti-Semitism?

BAYEFSKY: Well, this is a very good question. I mean, in 50 years, almost 60 years, the United Nations has been incapable of producing a single resolution specifically directed at anti-Semitism. It has resolutions on anti-Arab and anti-Muslim discrimination, as is justified. But it doesn't have anything about discrimination against Jews.

Now, last year for the first time there was an effort to have such a resolution, and the Irish, who were head of the E.U., were intimidated by Arab and Muslim opposition. This year, Kofi Annan called for such a resolution, but the reality is that so far the European Union is backing off. I understand that Germany is very reluctant. They want a seat on the Security Council in the future and are intimidated because currying favor with Arab countries is more important to them at this point that condemning anti-Semitism.

ROTH: What about the barrier issue? Do you have a problem with the International Court of Justice saying the barrier should not be on the, quote, "occupied" territories, and should be moved back at all?

BAYEFSKY: Yes, indeed I have a problem with it.

First of all, the whole ICJ, International Court of Justice or ICJ decision rested on a set of facts which were only partial. The secretary- general himself produced a report which was largely the basis of the ICJ decision, which said not one word about the terrorism that proceeded the fence.

So there was no context to the decision and, in fact, the ones lauding the decision more than anybody are Hamas, Islamic Jihad, because the court said that you don't have a right of self-defense against non-state actors.

ROTH: Well, the court noted that Israel had a right to protect itself, or noted the security but said that the barrier should not go into the Palestinian territories. Got to get, Raeed, some sense of this.


TAYEH: And I think that that's an important point. The way that Israel built the fence, it went into Palestinian territories, snaked through, cutoff Palestinian villagers and farmers from their farmland and has caused a humanitarian crisis never seen before in the Palestinian territories.

I think what the ICJ said, you want to build a wall, build it on your own damned land, but don't take the Palestinian's land in the process and create more of a hardship and create more complexities in this political situation.

BAYEFSKY: That is, of course, exactly the -- the question is, whose land is it? I mean, the last I heard, there was Oslo and agreements between the Palestinian and Israeli side and.


TAYEH: So the West Bank is not Palestinian land?

BAYEFSKY: . and the property was depending and the borderline was depending on ultimately negotiations. That's what the roadmap calls for.

TAYEH: So the Palestinians -- the land that Palestinians own is up for negotiation? The land that they live on, the farms that they farm?

I mean, is this not a racist ideology? I mean, you know, you can't have your cake and eat it too.


BAYEFSKY: The borderline depended on negotiations. That's what the roadmap said.

TAYEH: Anne, you can't have your cake and eat it too.


TAYEH: You can't expand and have a colonial occupation and then cry foul when you're criticized and say that it's anti-Semitism. You're talking about a political issue, and anti-Semitism is a religious issue, and frankly I was disappointed in your speech to the United Nations. You didn't talk about anti-Semitism in our country, in the United States, or in Europe. You focused on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which is a political issue, and frankly I think people in the world are sick and tired of it.


TAYEH: . and that's reflected in the United Nations.

ROTH: Do you think, Raeed, do you note a huge anti-Semitism wave growing in Europe? The French government reporting statistics doubling in the half-year of 2004 over 2003. You have Prime Minister Sharon, who always says this, but said French Jews should return to Israel, which didn't exactly move the relations between those two governments closer together. Would you say there is a problem with anti-Semitism now breeding in Europe? And what's responsible for it?

TAYEH: I think the statistics show that throughout the world, anti- Semitism is growing just as Islamaphobia is growing. I think the world has a problem with hate. The world has a problem with the human rights and the United Nations needs to fix its broken process and deal not just with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It needs to deal with all of these conflicts and needs to deal with what's going on in Sudan, what's going in Chechnya, and we don't need rhetoric.

Frankly, every time they pass a resolution that supports the Palestinians that doesn't have any teeth on it, that may be a moral victory, but that doesn't solve problems, and what we need to do is solve problems.

BAYEFSKY: It's not actually a moral victory. It's actually directly inconsistent with the United Nations charter, which calls for the equality of nations large and small.

Israel is the only country excluded from the regional group mechanisms of the United Nations. It's kept on the outside of the negotiating process at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The subject of 30 percent of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights resolutions is.


TAYEH: And that's because it's in violation of U.N. resolutions since 1948.


BAYEFSKY: Israel has never had a single resolution on Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia.


ROTH: Does the United Nations continue to be the place for all of this? What about the Durban Conference, which was about racism, but the way it was reported and for those who were there, a lot of people said it just got steered against Israel. Were you in Duran?

BAYEFSKY: I was at Duran.

ROTH: And what.

BAYEFSKY: . the entire time, and it was quite clearly an anti-Semitic festival. It was an anti -- it was a racist anti-racism conference.

It only -- it decided, in the end of it, that there was only one country guilty of racism in the world today, and that was Israel, when the reality is quite different.

I mean, let's just examine the racist allegation. 1/5 of Israel's population is Arab, but the surrounding Arab countries are literally (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Jews can't live on Arab land, but Arabs -- the only place where Arabs can get a fair.


TAYEH: Now, that is not true, Anne, and you know that.

BAYEFSKY: . trial before their Supreme Court is the Supreme Court of Israel.


TAYEH: Anne, that is not true. Jews live in Arab countries and in some countries they live very well, and they're protected.

You talked about the 20 percent of Arabs who live inside Israel, and if you look at reports by Human Rights Watch, which detailed how there is a second class system for Arabs in the education sector, and how Arabs are being treated in Israel in general. You don't need to look further than inside the state of Israel and the way they treat Arabs.


TAYEH: . and the way they treat.


ROTH: We've got about one minute left, so get your final thoughts in.

BAYEFSKY: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) U.N. Development Report, for example, says specifically, what's the matter with Arab countries. I mean, the deficit - - they call it the deficit in freedom from fear and a freedom from want. Some of the lowest statistics on civil and political rights anywhere in the world. That's what.


TAYEH: And the Middle East needs reform, Anne, and I agree with you. The Middle East needs reform.


BAYEFSKY: That's the Arab reality. That's not the reality of Arabs living in Israel.

TAYEH: The Arab people need reform. The Middle East needs reform. But that does not take away from the fact that Israel is an occupying power. Israel is oppressing the Palestinians and it needs to stop and comply with U.N. resolutions.

BAYEFSKY: Israel would be only too happy to end the occupational situation, provided there was peace and terrorism stopped.

TAYEH: Well, by the building of new settlements every week by the Sharon government, I don't think that's going to happen.

ROTH: All right, we're going to have to leave it there.

Anne Bayefsky, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, you were a guest at the U.N.'s anti-Semitism conference and you've certainly been keeping the heat on the United Nations on this, and human rights, which is another issue we'll have you back for, though we promise after three years we'll eventually do it. And in Washington, Raeed Tayeh, the director of communications for American Muslims for Jerusalem, thank you very much for appearing here on DIPLOMATIC LICENSE.

Well, we couldn't solve it here by words. How about music? The Israel mission to the United Nations sponsored a concert by the Arab- Israeli Orchestra of Nazareth in the visitors lobby at the United Nations this week. Traditional classic and folk Arabic music from the 1950s.






ROTH: I was going to ask you, just on a procedural thing, who pays for these lunches? Is it each ambassador's country, their president? I mean, who pays for it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no idea.

ROTH: No one asks for the check? There is no bill? It's just.


ROTH: Who pays for that lunch? I was grilling German Ambassador Gunter Pleuger after the monthly Security Council luncheon with the usual honored guest, Secretary-General Kofi Annan. It appears the German bookkeepers are hiding the check from the ambassador since the custom is that the country which holds the rotating monthly president of the Security Council picks up the tab.

On the menu at the United Nations Friday, Oil For Food. Paul Volcker's special panel set up to investigate the Iraq humanitarian program which may have lined the pockets of a lot of people met with Secretary- General Annan. No cameras allowed by the United Nations.

Later, Volcker told reporters he expects Kofi Annan to release his preliminary report on Monday.

Meanwhile, Annan has nothing new to report on countries contributing troops to protect a U.N. personnel move back into Iraq.


ANNAN: We haven't had much success attracting governments to sign up for the dedicated force to protect the U.N. personnel in Iraq and property, so for the time being, for practical measures, we have no other choice but to rely on the multi-national force.


ROTH: The U.N. goal remains getting several thousands troops, apart from the U.S. led coalition, in order to appear beholden to no one on the dangerous return to Iraq.

At the United Nations, an agreement. The ceremony looked like a traditional treaty-signing event, but instead this was a U.N. official and the president of the Le Monte (ph) clothing company. Time for a new donation of United Nations visitors guide uniforms. Two sets of uniforms for each of the United Nations' 60 tour guides. Take the public tour. I'm trying to arrange for a peace of the action to help support this program.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While conflicts in the world will not cease overnight, if we could have peace for 16 days, then maybe, just maybe, we could have it forever.


ROTH: The president of the General Assembly, Julian Hunte, calling for a truce, an Olympic truce, no war, just the commercialization of the Olympics; latest version coming up this month in Athens, Greece.

The tradition of the Olympic truce goes back to ancient Greece, 9 B.C. That's before cable. A decade ago, the International Olympic Committee in the U.N. General Assembly revived the concept. Now, will a gunman in Colombia or an abusive husband in Tacoma stop the violence while a Gold Medal is up for grabs?

If United Nations delegates had question about the beauty of the Olympics, they could have gotten a vivid reminder at an exhibition on the very grounds of the United Nations. Originally from the former Yugoslavia, Croatian artist Charles Vilic (ph) thinks feuding nations should settle all disputes through competition on the playing field.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We here at the United Nations are working towards peace every day in a very technical manner.

My idea of bringing Charles and his artwork here is so that people who work towards peace every day see art and peace come together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wise men of Greece in the past during the Olympic primordial days used to settle their scores in sports arenas. I can only hope that one of these days (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this great spirit and do away with blood-letting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is not only that of an artist who is very well-known, but also he is profoundly convinced of his political beliefs and in his own home country, which is the former Yugoslavia, he had actually suffered imprisonment because of articles he wrote while a college student, which didn't find favor with those in authority. And he served a very lengthy term of imprisonment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see the United Nations as the only (UNINTELLIGIBLE) hope that we have as resolution of the bloody conflicts waged around the world.


ROTH: The exhibit was titled Humanity United. Artist Vilic's (ph) other works include East Timor's official independence painting and a little something for the 50th anniversary of the International Committee for the Red Cross.

That's DIPLOMATIC LICENSE. I'm Richard Roth, in New York. Thanks for watching.



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