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by Elliot Leven, November 29, 2010

The United Nations has been in the news again lately, and not in a good way.  One kerfuffle has surrounded Canada’s not getting a seat on the UN Security Council.  Among past Security Council members are Syria (2002-2003) and Libya (2008-2009).

The second UN story in the news is that Iran failed to get a seat on the board of the new “UN Women” organization, which will deal with women’s rights. Saudi Arabia did get a seat on the organization’s board.  Needless to say, Israel did not get a seat.

For many years, supporters of Israel have complained about the UN’s obsession with criticizing the Jewish State.  Whatever Israel’s shortcomings, the amount of time spent by the UN in bashing Israel cannot be justified by any objective standard. It is particularly hypocritical that the loudest critics of Israel’s human rights record at the UN have been such “paragons” of human rights as Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Even more hypocritical is the membership of the UN Human Rights Council.  The 47 members include Cuba, China, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan. It goes without saying that Israel has never been and never will be allowed to be a member.

How can the situation be improved?  Currently, any UN member state can be elected to any UN body or council.  If states with appalling human rights records have the numbers to get elected to bodies like UN Women and the Human Rights Council, they do get elected.

Critics of the UN argue that the organization does more harm than good and should be disbanded.  Failing that, western democracies like Canada should simply withdraw.

Defenders of the UN argue that, despite its many failings, the UN serves a useful purpose and that there must be some forum for the nations of the world to meet and talk.

I have a novel suggestion.  The UN should be replaced by a new entity called the United Democratic Nations (UDN).  Any democracy (as certified by an objective, blue-ribbon authority) would be allowed to join.  That means that nations like China, Cuba, the Arab World and Iran would not be eligible for membership (at least not today).

The UN has 192 member states. Freedom House (an independent non-profit organization which analyses civil liberties and democratic freedom around the world) ranks 116 nations as “electoral democracies”, but ranks only 89 nations as “free”. Not a single Arab World nation is “free”.

The main advantage of the UDN would be that the governments present would have the moral right to speak for the peoples they represent.  A second advantage would be that all of the member nations would meet minimum human rights standards and would have the moral right to speak about human rights issues.

From Israel’s parochial perspective, the UDN would not be as obsessively anti-Israel as the UN now is.  That does not mean that Israel would get a free ride at the UDN.  UDN member nations would undoubtedly continue to criticize Israel for its West Bank settlement policies. Because the UDN would have greater moral legitimacy than the UN does, Israel would find this criticism very embarrassing.  Nor would Israel be able to dismiss this criticism as mere biased propaganda, in the way it now dismisses some UN attacks.

There is even the possibility that a UDM might impose economic sanctions on Israel, perhaps to continue as long as Israel keeps expanding West Bank settlements. Depending on the UDM’s structure, these sanctions might be very serious.

Today, the United States knows that the UN is a biased, obsessively anti-Israel body with no moral legitimacy.  Therefore, it has no reluctance in vetoing UN Security Council resolutions against Israel.  The dynamic at the UDM would be very different.

Ironically, Israel might end up looking back nostalgically at the good old days of the UN.

I don’t really believe that the creation of a UDN is possible in the near future. Powerful nations like China would use their considerable economic might to oppose it.  Small nations would be reluctant to incur China’s wrath. Other nations might oppose a UDN on pragmatic grounds, arguing that it would be very expensive to create a large new organization from scratch, when the UN already exists.

However, it is conceivable that China may become a democracy in the medium-term future. If so, the notion of a UDM might no longer be so fanciful.

Whether it would be good for Israel or not, the UDM would be good for democracy and human rights in general.  It is worth discussing, if only as a distant goal.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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