Anti-Israel bias exists throughout the UN system, its main bodies and committees, and even its specialized agencies.
With support from Arab- and Muslim-majority countries, the Soviet bloc and many African states, the UN General Assembly in the 1970’s passed Resolution 3379, which falsely equated Zionism with racism and spuriously linked Israel with aparthied practices in South Africa. It also simultaneously created the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) and the Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR) to carry out its anti-Israel agenda. While Resolution 3379 was repealed in 1991, the work of the CEIRPP, DPR and the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (SCIIHRP) continues on, despite the negation of its founding justification.
AJIRI focuses on the work of these two special committees and a division of the UN Secretariat because of their advocacy of the “right of return,” which is the single most important obstacle to the achievement of a two-state solution and peace in the Middle East.
The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) was established in 1975 to promote the idea that the creation of the State of Israel was a historical injustice. Its mandate focuses on the so-called “right of return” of Palestinian refugees—a cohort of over five million people that includes not only the few remaining survivors from the 1948 Israeli War of Independence, but also five generations of their descendants. Nowhere else in the world is refugee status inherited in such a manner. CEIRPP is the only General Assembly human rights committee devoted to a single cause, which is to end the existence of Israel through mass migration. The Committee is currently composed of 25 UN member states: Afghanistan, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, Cyprus, Ecuador, Guinea, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Laos, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Namibia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tunisia, Turkey, and Venezuela.
The budget of these three entities, which work year-round to attack Israel in the name of the UN and which publish and distribute anti-Israel materials through the UN’s public information system, costs the member states of the UN millions of dollars each year. Their advocacy of the right of return, a formula for the destruction of Israel through a program of mass migration, runs contrary to the principles enshrined on the UN Charter and the UN High Commission for Refugees, and makes a two-state solution impossible to achieve. No other cause receives such treatment or funding from the UN.
In addition to those three entities, other highly problematic bodies include the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO):
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). In 1947, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution recommending a partition of the UN Mandate of Palestine into two countries: one Arab and one Jewish. After the Arab side rejected the resolution, Israel declared itself an independent state within the territory designated for the Jewish state in the resolution. The armies of the neighboring Arab states immediately invaded Israel and a multi-front war ensued. During that war, many Arab residents of the areas in which the heaviest fighting took place, some encouraged by Arab propaganda, fled from their homes to territory occupied by the invading Arab armies. Thus, when the armistice agreements were signed in 1949, many former residents of what had become Israel found themselves on the Arab side of the demarcation lines. Shortly thereafter, UNRWA was established to provide assistance to and work programs for the several hundred thousand Palestinian refugees. Unlike the three entities described above, UNRWA’s funding is not provided by the UN budget, but rather from contributions from various countries, including the United States. UNRWA’s initial efforts to integrate the refugees into the countries to which they had subsequently fled were rejected by the governments in those countries and the refugees themselves, in their hopes for an eventual repatriation back to Israel as part a future peace deal. As a result, UNRWA became an ever-expanding welfare program and permanent job bureaucracy for Palestinian Arabs. Through indoctrination via its 370 schools serving more than 300,000 students, it has promoted anti-Zionist and antisemitic views.
In addition to labeling Israel as an illegitimate entity and a racist state, at the core of the work of these UN entities is the perpetuation of “the right of return” narrative, the ultimate purpose of which is to end the existence of the Jewish state through mass migration by demanding that all Palestinians considered by the UN to be refugees be granted a “right to return” to the land that is now the State of Israel.
However, the Palestinians’ claimed “right of return” has no legal basis. The key document cited by supporters is Resolution 194 (1949), which passed in the wake of the first Arab-initiated war against Israel. Arab states have since continually violated its central provision, which called for the creation of a Conciliation Commission and negotiations between the parties to reach a final settlement. Moreover, the resolution itself did not provide a repatriation as the sole remedy for the refugees; rather, it (and subsequent UNGA resolutions) placed repatriation, resettlement, and payment of compensation on an equal footing.
Because of UNRWA’s unique regulations, Palestinian Arabs became the only post-World War II refugee group to, by definition, inherit refugee status from generation to generation – unlike all other refugees that are supported by the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR. Though fewer than 50,000 of the 1948-49 Arab refugees were estimated to have survived by the second decade of the 21st century, there are now over 5 million Palestinian “refugees” under the UNRWA definition.
The purpose of insisting on the “right of return” is clear: If Israel is forced to accept the return of over 5 million Palestinians, then the democratic Jewish State will no longer exist. While Hamas seeks to destroy Israel through violence, the Palestinian Authority seeks the same result through demographics — allowing them to achieve their stated objective of a single state “from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea”. Of course, no Israeli government would ever agree to the destruction of the Jewish State. For that reason, the Palestinian demand for a “right of return” is an insurmountable obstacle to a two-state resolution of the conflict. Every serious proposal for peace—including those made by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump –recognizes this and has provided for the resettlement of the refugees in other countries with massive financial assistance provided by Western nations.
For a comprehensive examination of this issue see, Adi Schwartz and Einat Wilf, The War of Return (New York: All Points Books, 2020).
In the initial years of the existence of the United Nations, the United States played a dominant role in influencing the organization’s agenda. Many highly worthwhile subsidiary organizations were formed, including the World Health Organization, the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN International Children’s Fund and the Food and Agriculture Organization. As the years passed and the membership of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) grew, the influence of the United States in the UN system declined. In September 1973, in a meeting in Algiers, Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, who had competed for leadership of the NAM, reached an agreement to work together in an effort to take control of the UN system, focusing on efforts to weaken the international role of the United States. With this shared goal, they could agree to end the existence of the State of Israel. As a consequence of this agreement, Cuba broke diplomatic relations with Israel.
Qaddafi brought the support of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to this arrangement, while Castro brought the Soviet bloc and other countries influenced by the Soviet Union. Together they enlisted the support of sub-Saharan African states by emphasizing support for a program under which former colonial countries and the United States would share their wealth with former colonies. Toward this end, Israel was equated with apartheid South Africa.
It was in keeping with that new approach that the UNGA at its 1974 session granted the Palestine Liberation Organization observer status and then invited the PLO leader Yasser Arafat to address the Assembly. In his speech in November 1974, he declared that “Zionism is an ideology that is imperialist, colonialist, racist.” He also made it clear that he was committed to the one-state solution — the end of the State of Israel. Nine days later, the UNGA adopted Res. 3236 (XXIX), which declared it to be “the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they had been displaced and uprooted” and called for their return.
With support from Arab- and Muslim-majority countries, the Soviet bloc and many African states, the UN General Assembly attempted to delegitimize the national liberation movement of the Jewish people by passing in November 1975 Resolution 3379, which provided “that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination”. At the same time, the UN created the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) and the Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR) to carry out its anti-Israel agenda.
In 1991, the UN repealed the “Zionism is Racism” resolution. But the mandates of the CEIRPP and the DPR have been renewed yearly. They continue to obstruct peace and attack Israel. By promoting the falsehood of a Palestinian “right of return,” these groups have institutionalized a commitment to end the existence of the Jewish state through the mass migration to Israel of all Palestinian refugees. Ending such initiatives is AJIRI’s mission.
See the historic speeches by Israeli Ambassador Herzog and U.S. Ambassador Moynihan here:
Your support will enable AJIRI to expand its research capacity, deliver the message and engage our growing network of contacts and supporters. It will also enable us to be prepared to counter the expanded anti-Israel efforts as well.