Concerned About Anti-Israel Bias, Republicans Introduce Another Bill Targeting U.N. Funding

Patrick Goodenough | January 19, 2017 | 4:18am EST
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The U.N. Human Rights Council meets in Geneva. Israel is the only country among 192 U.N. member-states to be the subject of a permanent item on the HRC's agenda. (U.N. Photo, File)

( – Republican lawmakers on Wednesday introduced yet another bill targeting United Nations funding, this time including a special focus on the U.N. Human Rights Council’s heavily anti-Israel agenda.

The bill introduced by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) aims to combat what they describe as “systematic bias and targeting of the Jewish state of Israel at the United Nations.”

It calls specifically for U.S. funding to be withheld until the president certifies that no U.N. agency or affiliated agency grants official status or recognition to any organization promoting or condoning anti-Semitism.

American taxpayers account for 22 percent of the regular budget of the U.N., plus almost 29 percent of the separate peacekeeping budget. The U.S. additionally provides billions of dollars more each year in “voluntary contributions” to a spread of U.N. agencies, ranging from the International Atomic Energy Agency to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

Under the new legislation, the Geneva-based Human Rights Council would be deprived of U.S. funding until it drops a permanent agenda item focusing on Israel and the Palestinian territories.

As has reported, Israel is the only country out of 192 U.N. member-states that is the subject of a permanent item on the HRC’s agenda.

The item’s existence means that Israel is routinely condemned at every regular month-long HRC session – three times a year – irrespective of what crises and conflicts may be occurring anywhere else in the world.

When the HRC in 2011 held a review of its first five years in operation, the Obama administration sought to have the Israel agenda item removed. Although the move was unsuccessful, the administration chose not to vote against the final review report that left the item intact.

The Rubio-Cotton legislation says that until the secretary of state can certify that the Israel-centric item has been removed from the HRC agenda, the U.S. will be neither able to fund, nor run for a seat on, the council.

Also in the crosshairs is UNRWA, which has been dogged over recent years by allegations about associations with Hamas, and staff members’ posting of anti-Semitic messages on social media

Established after the 1948 war launched by Arab nations against the newly-declared state of Israel, UNRWA is the only U.N. agency to deal exclusively with one group of refugees. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees is responsible for refugees from all other parts of the world.

The U.S. has long been UNRWA’s largest bilateral donor, providing it with $380.5 million in 2015. Since 1950, American taxpayers have accounted for more $4 billion in contributions to UNRWA.

In their bill, Rubio and Cotton make future U.S. funding for UNRWA contingent on the secretary of state certifying that no UNRWA official, employee, consultant, contractor (etc.) is a member of Hamas or any other U.S.-designated terrorist group; or has “propagated, disseminated, or incited anti-Israel, or anti-Semitic rhetoric or propaganda.”

Further, the secretary must certify that no UNRWA school, hospital or other facility is being used by Hamas or affiliated terror groups for operations, training, recruitment or fundraising

It also calls for independent audits to ensure no UNRWA resources are being diverted to Hamas or other terror groups.

“This bill simply puts into law what should be common sense,” Cotton said Wednesday. “Americans’ tax dollars should not fund anti-Semitic activities or nefarious efforts to undermine the legitimacy of Israel.”

“For too long, the world's worst actors have used the United Nations as a forum to point an accusatory finger at Israel and deflect from their own failings,” Cotton added. “That will stop only when America leads, stands on principle, and uses its considerable leverage to force true reform at the United Nations.”

Rubio said it was time the U.N. was “held accountable for targeting and singling out Israel while countries that actually threaten international peace and security – like Russia and China – go unchallenged.”

Other pieces of legislation already introduced in Congress this month seek to prohibit either assessed or voluntary U.S. funding for the U.N. – or both – or to tie future such funding to specific actions by the world body or to funding reports by the administration.

One, introduced by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) last week, would cut off all U.S. funding to the U.S. until last month’s U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel is repealed.

Another bill, the American Sovereignty Restoration Act introduced by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), calls for an outright U.S. withdrawal from the U.N.

The Pew Research Center reported last fall that only 43 percent of Republicans have a favorable view of the U.N., compared to 80 percent of Democrats – the largest margin between the two measured by Pew in the 27 years it has polled the issue.

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