Thursday, October 01, 2020

Israel elected as vice-chair of the “Special Political and Decolonization Committee” despite strong opposition by the Arab group of UN member states

By Charlotte Drax - June 23, 2014
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [UN] [refugees]

Construction in an Israeli settlement. Photo (archive) by Lazar Simeonov.
Just weeks after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to unfreeze planning processes for over 3,000 new housing units in illegal settlements across the occupied West Bank, Israel has been elected as vice-chair of the UN’s “Special Political and Decolonization Committee.”
On Thursday, the UN General Assembly held a recorded ballot after a request was made by Arab member states in protest over Israel’s nomination as vice-chair. According to UN minutes, a website that tracks the happenings during UN meetings, Israel’s representative to the UN called the vote an assault on the rules and norms of the United Nations, asking delegates whether it served the General Assembly’s interests or the “hate-filled politics of a small group of nations.” The representative of the United Kingdom also expressed his disagreement to call recorded vote, stressing that “today’s action could set a precedent for other groups.”
Despite efforts by Arab member states, Israeli delegate Mordehai Amihai received 74 of the 76 votes available. This landslide victory was heavily criticised by several delegations. The representative of Saudi Arabia, whose own membership on the UN Human Rights Council has drawn much criticism, went as far to call the entire election a “sham.” He then went on to add that “it was a travesty of United Nations principles, based on the right to sovereignty and self-determination — the same rights denied by a country now in charge of a decolonization committee. This election was not a victory for Israel, but a defeat for the United Nations.”
In a statement released on Thursday, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed “deep disappointment” at the outcome of this vote and argued that the UN should “instead be holding Israel accountable for its criminal policies against the defenceless Palestinian people.”  He later questioned how Israel can “take up such a post when it continues to bar millions of Palestinian refugees from returning to the homeland from which Israel itself forcefully evicted them?" 
For Palestinians, the election of an Israeli as vice-chair of the Special Political and Decolonization Committee compromises the committee's presumed impartiality, since it is ostensibly devoted to handling issues relating to Palestinian refugees and human rights. According to UNRWA, United Nations Relief and Works Agency, more than 5 million Palestinian refugees currently reside in the occupied territories, Jordon, Syria and Lebanon after losing “both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” 


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