It is sometimes claimed that the United Nations unreasonably singles out Israel in its resolutions and ignores anything done by the Palestinians. Elsewhere it has been asserted that it has remained "silent following every one of the hundreds of massacres of Jews by Palestinians" and that "the last 50 years is filled with a neverending stream of resolutions passed against Israel" (see here, as of this datestamp). This is not isolated, there is a prevailing opinion among many that this is the case.
What does the record reveal? Something somewhat different from what is asserted. First, we'll only look at resolutionsreports and letters will not be considered. Second, General Assembly resolutions (and other non Security Council ones) will be omitted because despite that, according to the UN, "they carry the weight of world opinion on major international issues, as well as the moral authority of the world community," they are not legally binding. SC resolutions are and they pertain to "peace and security." Since statements of the SC on violence carry more weight and are more relevant, let's address the record of the SC on the subject.
Between March 1948 and April 2002, 241 resolutions were passed (between 1949 and 2002, fifty resolutions were vetoed, to which we'll return). Since the implication is that Israel is continuously cited for violence toward the Palestinians, a look at the record should bear that out.
Because of the large number of resolutions, I decided to stick to the ones passed from 1990 to the present (April 2002initially, though I'll expand later). That's a total of sixty resolutions (almost twenty-five percent of the total). So, how many are these concerned solely with alleged/real Israeli violence to Palestinians? In fact, hardly any.
Going back from the present.
Five resolutions. Resolutions relating to Palestine: 4.
1391 Relates to the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in Lebanon overseeing the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the country (which was done as of June 2000). One should take note, because most of the SC resolutions being reviewed relate to the Lebanon question, most of which are calls for renewal of the mandate for the UNDOF. It is also of note the resolutions referring to violence state that the UN "condemns all acts of violence committed in particular against the Force, and urges the parties to put an end to them." All parties involved.
1397 Discusses the violence. But is not specific to either side. It voices its "grave concern at the continuation of the tragic and violent events that have taken place since September 2000, especially the recent attacks and the increased number of casualties" and the "need for all concerned to ensure the safety of civilians"note that it says "all." It also "demands immediate cessation of all acts of violence, including all acts of terror, provocation, incitement and destruction." Hardly an attack on Israel that ignores any Palestinian crimes. All violence is being condemned.
1402 This refers to both sides, "expressing its grave concern at the further deterioration of the situation, including the recent suicide bombings in Israel and the military attack against the headquarters of the president of the Palestinian Authority." It also calls for both sides to "move immediately to a meaningful cease-fire." It asks Israel to remove its troops from Palestinian cities and for everyone to cooperate with Special Envoy Anthony Zinni.
1403 Calls for the previous one to be implemented immediately.
Six resolutions. Ones relating to Palestine: 0.
1337, 1352, 1365, 1381 all relate to Lebanon. 1363 relates to peacekeeping forces in general and 1373 relates to terrorism, in general, as a result of the events of 11 September 2001.
Seven resolutions. Ones relating to Palestine: 1.
1288, 1300, 1310, 1328 all relate to Lebanon. 1296 deals with the need to protect civilians during conflict. It is a general resolution, targeting no one. 1325 is a comprehensive resolution on the conditions and rights of women. Only related in that women who are refugees are mentioned, though this is a general document, not specifically directed at any one nation.
1322 Discusses the "tragic events that have taken place since 28 September 2000, that have led to numerous deaths and injuries, mostly among Palestinians" ("mostly" but not "all"). It notes the "need for full respect by all of the Holy Places of the City of Jerusalem, and condemning any behaviour to the contrary." It "deplores the provocation carried out at Al-Haram Al-Sharif in Jerusalem...and the subsequent violence there and at other Holy Places, as well as in other areas throughout the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, resulting in over 80 Palestinian deaths and many other casualties" (again, "many other casualties," emphasis mine).
Acts of violence are condemned, "especially the excessive use of force against Palestinians." While this is more leaning toward Palestinian victims of violence (there is an ample record of "excessive force" being used over the years, well-documented by human rights groups and others), it does not "ignore" other victims. Importantly, it "calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and its responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War." Israel is an occupying power and nations who wield force (especially ones who have joined the UN) must adhere to the rules of International Law.
This does not claim Israel's alleged/real crimes/violations are worse than others, but as a recognized nation state, it has (as noted) "obligations" and "responsibilities." Finally, most importantly, it "calls for the immediate cessation of violence, and for all necessary steps to be taken to ensure that violence ceases, that new provocative actions are avoided, and that the situation returns to normality in a way which promotes the prospects for the Middle East peace process." Not specific to either side. Violence needs to stopthat goes for both parties.
Five resolutions. Resolutions relating to Palestine: 0.
1223, 1243, 1254, 1276 all refer to Lebanon. 1265 relates to a call for all countries in conflict to adhere and adopt humanitarian rules and human rights.
Four resolutions. Resolutions relating to Palestine: 0.
1151, 1169, 1188, 1211 all pertain to Lebanon.
Three resolutions. Resolutions relating to Palestine: 0
1095, 1122, 1139 all relate to Lebanon.
Six resolutions. resolutions relating to Palestine: 1.
1039, 1052, 1057, 1068 all relate to Lebanon.
1073 notes "deep concern about the tragic events in Jerusalem and the areas of Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem and the Gaza Strip, which resulted in a high number of deaths and injuries among the Palestinian civilians, and concerned also about the clashes between the Israeli army and the Palestinian police and the casualties on both sides." Note: "both sides." It also "calls for the immediate cessation and reversal of all acts which have resulted in the aggravation of the situation" and "the safety and protection of Palestinian civilians to be ensured."
Three resolutions. Resolutions relating to Palestine: 0.
974, 1006, 1024 all relate to Lebanon.
Five resolutions. Resolutions relating to Palestine: 1.
895, 921, 938, 962 all pertain to Lebanon.
904 (the full text of which can be found here: U.N. Security Council Resolution 904) Discusses the "appalling massacre committed against Palestinian worshippers...during the holy month of Ramadan." It is also "concerned by the consequent Palestinian casualties in the occupied Palestinian territory as a result of the massacre, which underlines the need to provide protection and security for the Palestinian people" along with a massacre in Hebron and "its aftermath" killing over fifty Palestinians and injuring several hundred others. This is truly appalling. As appalling as the suicide bomber violating the sacred tradition of the Passover meal in 2002, even though it boasts far higher casualties.
It also calls upon the "occupying Power" to "take and implement measures, including, inter alia, confiscation of arms, with the aim of preventing illegal acts of violence by Israeli settlers." Violence done by settlers is underreported and underpunished, though thoroughly substantiated. As the "Power" in the nation, those obligations and responsibilities fall on the recognized nation to take measures "to guarantee the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilians throughout the occupied territory," just as it should any civilians as well as "temporary international or foreign presence."
Four resolutions. Ones relating to Palestine: 0.
803, 830, 852, 887 all relate to Lebanon.
Six resolutions. Ones relating to Palestine: 2.
768, 790 relate to Lebanon.
726 and 799 both relate to deportations (not violence). The resolutions condemn the decision "to deport hundreds of Palestinian civilians, and expresses its firm opposition to any such deportation by Israel" citing the "applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949 to all the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem." It requests Israel stop deporting Palestinian civilians from the occupied territories and to "ensure the safe and immediate return to the occupied territories of all those deported."
One resolution. Resolutions relating to Palestine: 1
694 Relates to the deportations (again, not violence).
Seven resolutions. Resolutions relating to Palestine: 3.
648, 655, 659, 679 all relate to Lebanon. 681 relates to the deportation.
672 It "expresses alarm at the violence which took place...at the Al Haram al Shareef and other Holy Places of Jerusalem resulting in over twenty Palestinian deaths and to the injury of more than one hundred and fifty people, including Palestinian civilians and innocent worshippers." It also condemns "acts of violence committed by the Israeli security forces resulting in injuries and loss of human life."
There is also a request for the Secretery-General to go on a mission to the area, where he will compile a report "containing his findings and conclusions." 673 expresses alarm because the Israeli government rejected both the resolution and the Secretery-General's mission.
That's it. Sixty resolutions.
Number relating to Palestine: 13.
Number relating to alleged/real Israeli violence toward Palestinians (specifically): 5, 1 (673) being basically a reiteration of the demands concerning a previous resolution (672).
Number relating to the violence in general or speaking to both sides: 3, 1 (1403) calling for implementation of a previous one (1402).
So where are all these terribly biased SC resolutions condemning Israel for alleged/real violence against Palestinians that are asserted? Just over 8 percent of the resolutions over almost a twelve year period have anything to do with it. The majority have to do with the UNDOF in Lebanon and the renewal of its mission: 41, or just over 68 percent of the total. Sixty-eight percent of the resolutions have nothing to do with Palestine or any violence directed toward it. This speaks louder than implications and assertions to the contrary.
In fact, one needs to go back to 1988 to find another one (611). The assassination of Khalil El Wazir (referred to as a Palestinian commando) by Israeli forces in Tunisia. This (admitted to by Israel) was a "flagrant violation of the Charter of the United Nations, international law and norms of conduct" as agents for a nation violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of another in order to take part in the killing of another (as outlined in the UN Charter chapter I, article 2, paragraph 4: "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations."). If a nation signs the charter, it has taken on the "legal obligations and its responsibilities" of the charter.
This is not to claim Khalil El Wazir is innocent or that his apprehension would be a violation, but the fact that another country's territory was invaded for the purpose of assassination deserves the resolution and condemnation in the strongest terms (assassination, itself, being a matter for another day). And it wasn't the first time, a PLO compound was attacked on Tunisian soil in 1985, eliciting another resolution condemning the act (573).
A spot check at the 1980s shows (again) primarily resolutions relating to the UNDOF and some other exceptions (more on expulsions, settlements, the attack on an Iraqi nuclear power plant). While one might claim that the invasion of Lebanon does relate to the Palestinian question (and it partially does), a review of the resolutions doesn't really bear that out as the issue isn't really touched upon. Nor would it really be analogous to the claim of "hundreds of massacres" (of Israelis) that the UN has remained silent on, being a war situation.
A possible exception is the resolution (521) pertaining to the Sabra and Shatila massacre of Palestinian refugees by a Maronite Christian group called the Phalange (the extent of Israel's culpability in the incident is outside of the scope here). The resolution condemns it and again calls for protection of civilians, no blame is assessed. Between 1980 and 1989 there were another seventy-five resolutions, the majority by far unrelated to violence against Palestine and only a small amount more relating to Palestine.
Another interesting thinggiven claims of the UN's "neverending stream of resolutions passed against Israel" and biasis to glance at the resolutions that were vetoed during that time (using the original 1990 to 2002 period).
During that time there were six vetoed resolutions relating to Palestine. One (S/21326; 1990) calls for the establishment of a commission of SC members to examine the "situation relating to the policies and practices of Israel, the occupying Power, in the Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem" and submit a report with its "recommendations on ways and means for ensuring the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilians under Israel occupation."
Three relate to the expropriation of land and the building of settlements (S/1995/394, S/1997/199, S/1997/241).
S/2001/270 does deal the Palestinian situation, asking for "immediate cessation of all acts of violence, provocation and collective punishment" and for both sides to "implement promptly and without preconditions the understandings reached at the Summit convened at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, of 17 October 2000." It also called for "an end to the closures of the occupied Palestinian territories to permit resumption of full normal activities of daily life." Not really some kind of smoking gun, nor is it unfairly biased, given Israel is the "occupying Power" and both sides are asked to support the agreements they signed. And it was vetoed.
As of this writing, the most recent is from December 2001 (S/2001/1199). It asks that the Palestinian Authority be recognized as the "indispensable and legitimate party for peace and needs to be preserved fully." Some might balk at that statement (which would not be without meritthat goes for both sides), but it seems clear that without the self-chosen representation which the PA is, there is little hope for peace. It also discusses the "importance of the safety and well-being of all civilians in the whole Middle East region, and condemning in particular all acts of violence and terror resulting in the deaths and injuries among Palestinian and Israeli civilians." Note: "Palestinian and Israeli civilians" (emphasis, mine).
It calls for the end of "all acts of violence, provocation and destruction," "condemns all acts of terror, in particular those targeting civilians," and "condemns all acts of extrajudiciary executions, excessive use of force and wide destruction of properties." The last is aimed primarily at Israel. Reportedly, the request for monitors was the main reason it was vetoed (one speculates how things would have turned out had monitors been put in place and both sides adhered to previous agreements).
It would appear that even when the vetoed resolution drafts are considered, the "endless stream" is more of a trickle (admittedly, much more relating to the topic does appear among other vetoed resolutions which are reviewed here).
As to the vetoes. Every one of the vetoesin fact, thirty-four of the last thirty-six (since September 1972)was by a single vote: the United States. Its position as a permanent member of the SC, makes any veto it makes effectively kill the resolution. Because of that, everyone that passed either had its vote or an abstention.
A claim that the reason the ones that passed did so because of Arab states essentially "ganging up" on Israel falls flat. There are zero Arab states which are permanent members at this time. Since 1990 only five "Arab" countries (Bahrain, Oman, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen) have been non-permanent members and none served at the same time. Non-permanent members serve for two years with five new ones added each year, cycling out five who'd served for their two. If one adds certain African nations that are predominantly Muslim and other Muslim countries (such as Pakistan or Indonesia), the assertion gains little. Only three from the previous decade are Arab nations and four from the 1970s.
Perhaps if one looks at the membership of the League of Arab States. But it fares little better. One could argue three in 1993 and 1994: Djibouti and Morocco and Djibouti and Oman (Pakistan counting for the third both years, though not a member of LAS). 1978 saw both Kuwait and Mauritania and in 1974 and 1975 Iraq and Mauritania. Going back further, in 1971 Somalia and Syria and 1972 Somalia and Sudan (although Somalia did not become a member until 1974). Regardless, there has been no great Arab voting block that could push through anything they want. And given the many US vetoes, combined Arab action could still do little to pressure through resolutions.
In order to avoid overrepresentation, the UN implemented rules for choosing the ten non-permanent member states in 1965: five from African and Asian states; one from Eastern European states, two from Latin American and Caribbean states; and two from Western European and Other states.
Even looking at the General Assembly (which is a much harsher critic of Israel), to get a resolution on peace and security passed, requires a two-thirds majority vote. Even with all members of the LAS (with the exception of Palestine, making it twenty-one states), it is doubtful they can sway things enough to get any vote that doesn't already have a clear majority (there are currently 189 members with 126 votes necessary to pass).
Since it might seem the review is more heavily weighted to more recent years (1990 to 2002 with a look at the 1980s), perhaps a glance at the first ten (all 1948, five before statehood, five after) will be instructive to see if something might have been missed.
42 "resolves" to remain apprised of the situation and asks "all Governments and peoples, particularly in and around Palestine, to take all possible action to prevent or reduce such disorders as are now occurring in Palestine." 43 notes increasing violence and asks for an immediate truce. It also calls for the Jewish Agency for Palestine and the Arab Higher Committee to make representatives available to discuss a "truce between the Arab and Jewish communities of Palestine" with "heavy responsibility which would fall upon any party failing to observe such a truce." It also calls for both "Arab and Jewish armed groups in Palestine to cease acts of violence immediately." 44 notes having received monthly reports on the then current situation, having made consultations on them, and the decision to hold a meeting to help determine the "future government of Palestine."
46 again discusses the need for a truce on both sides. It calls for a cessation of "all activities of a military or paramilitary nature, as well as acts of violence, terrorism and sabotage," both sides must stop bringing in "armed bands and fighting personnel, groups and individuals, whatever their origin," they must cease any "importation or acquisition of weapons and war materials," both sides should refrain from political activity that would "prejudice the rights, claims, or position of either community," they need to work with the Mandatory to ensure order and "essential services" ("transportation, communications, health, and food and water supplies") are maintained, Holy Places in Palestine are off limits and access must be assured. It also appeals to the surrounding countries not to allow armed people into the area or the importation of weapons.
48 establishes a Truce Commission. 49 notes that previous resolutions have not been followed and insists that "all Governments and authorities, without prejudice to the rights, claims or positions of the parties concerned, to abstain from any hostile military action in Palestine and to that end to issue a cease-fire." It also calls for the truce and negotiations to be the "highest priority." 50 calls for the earlier things in stronger, more urgent terms, this time including by name (Palestine, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Transjordan and Yemen) the countries involved. 53 "addresses an urgent appeal to the interested parties to accept in principle the prolongation of the truce" (that's it, almost the entire resolution in a sentence).
54 notes that the Provisional Government of Israel has accepted the truce, though Arab states have not (leading to "hostilities") and "orders the Governments and authorities concerned" to halt military action and adopt a cease-fire, including an "unconditional cease-fire" for Jerusalem. 56 states that "each party is responsible for the actions of both regular and irregular forces operating under its authority or in territory under its control" and must "use all means at its disposal to prevent action violating the truce by individuals or groups who are subject to its authority or who are in territory under its control." Violators of the truce must be brought to trial for conviction and no side can "gain military or political advantage through violation of the truce." Perhaps most importantly, "no party is permitted to violate the truce on the ground that it is undertaking reprisals or retaliations against the other party."
Nothing anti-Israel in the first ten. In fact, 54 is a condemnation of the Arab states for not accepting the truce. It's quite balanced and there is no specific mention of Israeli violence to Palestinians (or ignoring Arab-Palestinian violence). That brings it to almost thirty percent of the total without the alleged pattern. The spot check of the 1980s shows it to be even higher.
As for whether it is a reflection of world opinion, a review of newspapers outside of the US and Israel shows there to be strong agreement with the UN assessment of the situation.
(Sources: www.un.org/Depts/dpa/qpalnew/security_council.htm, www.globalpolicy.org/security/membship/mem2.htm, www.leagueofarabstates.org/e_Members.asp)