Anti-Israel ‘Double Standard’ at the UN: Why No Condemnation of Other Occupations and Settlements?

By Patrick Goodenough | September 15, 2016 | 4:17 AM EDT

The seats of the Israel delegation at the U.N. General Assembly in New York. (AP Photo, File)

(CNSNews.com) – The United Nations’ response to various situations of occupation and settlements around the world is extraordinarily uneven, with Israel virtually alone in the world body’s crosshairs, a comprehensive new research study shows.

An examination of seven other prolonged occupations arising during armed conflict – ranging from Turkey in northern Cyprus to Russia in Crimea – finds that in no other case is the country concerned formally described in U.N. General Assembly resolutions as an “Occupying Power.”

Israel, however, is referred to as an “Occupying Power” no fewer than 530 times in General Assembly resolutions, according to the study carried out by Eugene Kontorovich, professor of international law at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago.

Kontorovich, who is also director of the Kohelet Policy Forum, an Israeli think tank, studied all prolonged occupations that involved the movement of civilian population into territory occupied in conflict since the adoption of the Geneva Conventions – as well as the rhetoric and legal concepts used by the U.N. in relation to them.

It is Article 49(6) of the Geneva Conventions that is most often cited in international condemnation of Israeli policies. That article states that an “Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

Yet while Israel has been reminded in condemnatory U.N. resolutions of its obligations under the Geneva Conventions about 500 times since 1967, Kontorovich found, in all other seven  cases that had occurred a total of just two times.

In fact, the study found that no U.N. body has ever invoked Article 49(6) specifically in relation to any of the seven other cases.

And in all seven of those cases, settlement activity has taken place – often on a larger scale than in the Israel/Palestinian case, and involving “far-reaching demographic and economic consequences for the occupied population,” the study found.

Five of the seven situations are ongoing: Turkey’s occupation of northern Cyprus since 1974; Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara since 1975; Armenia’s occupation of parts of Azerbaijan including Nagorno-Karabakh since 1994; Russia’s occupation of Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia since 2008; and Russia’s occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea since 2014.

The other two situations are past: Indonesia’s 1975-1999 occupation of East Timor; and Vietnam’s 1978-1991 occupation in Cambodia.

(The study excluded China’s ongoing occupation of Tibet, which began in 1951 and has involved significant settlement, because it took place before China signed the Geneva Conventions.)

The research findings – also highlighted by Kontorovich and Kohelet Policy Forum researcher Penny Grunseid in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Tuesday – included:

--Although the seven identified cases of occupation involved settlement in the territory concerned, neither the U.N. Security Council nor the General Assembly has ever used “the legally loaded word ‘settlements’” to describe those communities. In Israel’s case, however, the word has been formally used 17 times by the Security Council and 256 times by the General Assembly.

--General Assembly resolutions have referred to Israeli-held territories as “occupied” 2,342 times since 1967 – the year Israel captured areas including the West Bank and Gaza during the Six Day War – while the other seven cases have been referred to as “occupied” just 16 times in total.

--The term “occupied” features in 90 percent of resolutions dealing with Israel; it only appears in 14 percent of the much small number of resolutions dealing with the other seven cases.

--The term “grave” is used to describe Israeli actions in General Assembly resolutions 513 times, compared to 14 times for all the other conflicts combined – even though, the researchers write, those other conflicts “involve the full gamut of human-rights abuses, including allegations of ethnic cleansing and torture.”

‘U.N. has no interest in battling injustice unless Israel is the country accused’

In their op-ed, Kontorovich and Grunseid argued that the U.N.’s skewed focus on Israel both undermines its legitimacy and “has apparently made the U.N. blind to the world’s many situations of occupation and settlements.”

“Our findings don’t merely quantify the U.N.’s double standard,” they said. “The evidence shows that the organization’s claim to represent the interest of international justice is hollow, because the U.N. has no interest in battling injustice unless Israel is the country accused.”

Kontorovich said Thursday  that the obsession with Israel meant other troubling situations around the world were being ignored.

“This shows Israel is the world’s scapegoat, and a scapegoat has two roles – it gets the blame, but it also lets everyone else be absolved,” he told CNSNews.com. “The focus on Israel is responsible for the U.N.’s ignoring occupation elsewhere, and that is why the numbers are so lopsided.”

Looking ahead, he pointed to concerns that President Obama may in the closing months of his presidency back away from a position of vetoing resolutions in the Security Council critical of Israel.

“It is crucial that Americans understand that a failure to veto a planned anti-Israel Security Council resolution would be a collosal betrayal of Israel, and candidates for office should be forcefully pushed to take a clear stand on it,”  he said.

Russian settlements get a pass

Kontorovich says his study is the first to examine Russia’s settlement polices in the parts of Ukraine and Georgia which it occupies.

It found, for example, that some 50,000 outsiders have settled in Crimea in the first two years of Russian occupation, roughly half of them Russians, the rest from other post-Soviet states or third countries. There are also efforts to force non-Russian minorities, including Ukrainians and Tartars, to leave Crimea.

“A very significant number of settlers have been moving to Crimea, attracted in part by Russian economic incentives. There is also a not particularly successful, but highly deliberate, settlement enterprise in occupied Georgia,” the study found. “Both of these enterprises appear to involve purposeful efforts to change the demographic composition of the territory.”

“Neither of these efforts has attracted any international interest or scrutiny, despite the high profile of the occupations within which they take place,” it said. “None of these efforts have been described as an Art. 49(6) violation by an actor outside the occupied states [Georgia and Ukraine].”

-- At the U.N. Human Rights Council session in Geneva this week, U.N. human rights commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein delivered a speech reviewing rights situations around the world.

Among them he mentioned Crimea, Georgia’s Abkhazia, and Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. But only once did he use the term “occupied” – in reference to the Palestinian areas.

During a segment of the session dedicated to input from non-governmental organizations, U.N. Watch executive director Hillel Neuer raised the point.

“The high commissioner mentioned Crimea, Abkhazia, and Nagorno-Karabakh — yet failed to say that, under international law, these are occupied territories. Instead, he only used that term in one case: for the Palestinian territories,” Neuer said. “Why?”

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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