FACT CHECK: Does The UN Single Out Israel?

David Sivak | Fact Check Editor

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro claimed Thursday that most U.N. General Assembly resolutions that criticize a country are directed at Israel.

Verdict: True

The vast majority of critical resolutions passed by the General Assembly focus on Israel, and U.N. bodies like the Human Rights Council are frequently critical of Israel.

Fact Check:

Shapiro made the claim Thursday as the General Assembly voted to condemn a decision by the Trump administration to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

“Is it super shocking that the U.N. has decided to single out Israel, and say that Jerusalem is not Jewish territory?” asked Shapiro on his daily podcast.

He made the case that the U.N. not only singled out Israel, but has done so for years.

“In the U.N. General Assembly, as I say, the Star Wars cantina of garbage – of human debris – okay, from 2012 to 2015, the U.N. General Assembly has adopted 97 resolutions criticizing countries,” said Shapiro. “How many of those were against Israel? Does anyone have a wild guess?”

His answer: 83, or 86 percent.

The statistic comes from UN Watch, a nongovernmental organization that has, in part, monitored what it describes as the “disproportionate attention and unfair treatment applied by the UN toward Israel.”

We reviewed many of the resolutions in question, and experts at both the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Enterprise Institute confirmed that the statistic was credible.

Shapiro only cited four years of data, but the General Assembly has focused heavily on Israel for decades, a pattern that continues today.

“Decades of political maneuverings have created a disproportionate volume of resolutions, reports and conferences criticizing Israel,” said former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2016. “In many cases, rather than helping the Palestinian cause, this reality has hampered the ability of the United Nations to fulfill its role effectively.”

The General Assembly adopted 26 resolutions that criticized a country in 2016, of which 20 were directed at Israel. Ten critical resolutions were issued in a single day, including language that condemned “acts of violence, destruction, harassment, provocation and incitement by Israeli settlers” in what the General Assembly called “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

“The U.N.’s assault on Israel today with a torrent of one-sided resolutions is surreal,” Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, said at the time.

The measures passed with overwhelming support. One passed by a vote of 156 to 6; the others were adopted by similar margins.

Shapiro mentioned how other bodies of the U.N. including the Human Rights Council, adopt a disproportionate number of resolutions criticizing Israel as well.

“Literally half of all U.N. resolutions at the Human Rights Council criticizing a country have not been directed at North Korea, not against Iran, not against Saudi Arabia, not against Egypt, not against China, not against Venezuela, not against Cuba – against Israel, the only democratic free country in the Middle East,” said Shapiro. “Half of them.”

UN Watch compiled 135 critical resolutions from 2006 to 2016 and found that 68 of them, or 50 percent, were directed at Israel.

The council does take action to address human rights in many parts of the world. It issued a resolution in March critical of Myanmar and will send a fact-finding mission to the country to investigate human rights abuses. Critical resolutions have also been adopted this year for South Sudan, Syria and Iran.

But years of resolutions that focus heavily on Israel have left the country and its few allies with a strong impression of bias.

The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted a resolution in 2016 that many interpreted as denying the religious connection Jews and Christians have to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It referred to the holy site by its Islamic name alone and only acknowledged the historic value the Temple Mount has to Muslims.

A bipartisan coalition of over 39 members of Congress sent a letter to UNESCO in protest of the language.

“By declaring the site as solely sacred for Muslims, and utterly ignoring the indisputable Jewish and Christian ties, this resolution is fundamentally ahistorical,” said New York Rep. Jerry Nadler in a press release. “It willfully disregards historical facts in the pursuit of an anti-Semitic agenda from a body that routinely demonstrates an unfair bias against Israel.”

UNESCO resolutions regularly call Israel “the occupying Power,” and other bodies within the U.N. often display overt sympathy toward the Palestinian people.

The U.N. Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People marked “50 years of Israeli occupation” in August with movies and conferences. In one conference, participants “called for a strong show of Islamic solidarity with Palestinians in East Jerusalem.”

But Akshaya Kumar, deputy U.N. director at Human Rights Watch says these U.N. bodies are only part of the picture. “If you’re talking about the U.N., you have to talk about the whole U.N. system,” Kumar told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The U.N. Security Council, for example, condemned a terrorist attack in January in which a Palestinian killed four Israelis in Jerusalem.

Kumar pointed out how UN Watch does not include stats on the Security Council, a 15-member body that can pass binding resolutions. “The Security Council passes hundreds of resolutions, and there are very few that criticize Israel,” said Kumar.

But this is likely because a single permanent member can veto a resolution, whereas the General Assembly passes non-binding resolutions adopted by a two-thirds vote.

Since the U.S. traditionally blocks Security Council resolutions critical of Israel, they are few and far between.

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David Sivak

Fact Check Editor
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