The UN’s decision to appoint Israel as chair of its legal committee is wildly ironic

The mother of Palestinian militant Mahmoud Abbas, who medics said was killed by an Israeli air strike, mourns during his funeral in Gaza City. (Suhaib Salem, Reuters)

The mother of Palestinian militant Mahmoud Abbas, who medics said was killed by an Israeli air strike, mourns during his funeral in Gaza City. (Suhaib Salem, Reuters)

If we look back at the origins of the United Nations, we will remember that the beginnings of international law arose from the ashes of World War II and the Nuremberg trials in 1945.

An organisation that defines itself as having a select few main purposes, including maintaining worldwide peace and security, developing relations among nations and fostering co-operation to solve economic, social, cultural or humanitarian problems, certainly has set high goals for itself in terms of monitoring global politics.

If it did indeed operate according to its eloquently worded charter, I doubt we would find ourselves in the turmoil that engulfs so many countries today.

Unfortunately, it has been an undeniable trend that the UN is often used as a tool by Western powers instead of being an impartial monitoring body.

The West will gladly use the force of the UN and the Security Council when it requires the moral legitimacy to go to war, yet it is prepared to circumvent the UN when votes don’t go its way.

Leaders often like to take the moral high ground when talking about human rights and how the wishes of the international community must be adhered to when the UN makes a decision.

But it has become increasingly apparent that these decisions only apply to certain countries, and others are completely exempt from it. A case in point is Israel, and the UN’s recent decision to elect Israel to chair the UN legal committee, the “Sixth Committee”, which oversees issues related to international law.

Israel has broken more UN resolutions than any other country in UN history. The evidence of this is a list of 80 UN Security Council resolutions directly critical of Israel over violations of Security Council resolutions, the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions, as well as other violations of international law.

The fact that Danny Danon, Israel’s former deputy minister of defence, will now lead the UN committee that monitors international law is almost too ironic to digest.

Putting in this position the representative of a country that categorically abuses international law is like getting a man who regularly beats his wife to head a group dealing with domestic violence.

According to Francis A Boyle, a professor of international law and a defence lawyer at the International Court of Justice, not only is Israel guilty of breaching international law, it is also responsible for crimes against humanity – as determined by the UN Human Rights Commission itself.

The commission was set up to push for fulfilment of the requirements of the UN Charter. The concept of a crime against humanity goes back to the Nuremberg Charter of 1945, devised to enable the trials of the major Nazi war criminals.

The paradigmatic example of a crime against humanity is what Hitler and the Nazis did to the Jewish people of Europe – this is what the UN Human Rights Commission determined that Israel is doing to the Palestinian people.

So, legally, Israel is guilty of the same crimes as Hitler – and, instead of facing the repercussions of these crimes, is invited to head the committee meant to monitor such crimes.

The double standards behind such a decision are glaring. There is little the UN can now do to salvage whatever authority it might have had. Appointing Israel to a powerful position in its bureaucracy is a nail in the coffin for UN credibility.

  Dr Aayesha J Soni is a medical doctor and the vice-chairperson of the Media Review Network. Follow her on Twitter @AayeshaJ.

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