Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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The United Nations General Assembly, the Golan, and Theater of the Absurd

by Elliott Abrams
December 3, 2016


This past week the United Nations General Assembly commemorated once again the “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” and took the occasion to pass six anti-Israel resolutions.

Ranging from the despicable to the absurd, these resolutions of course have nothing to do with reality in the Middle East, nor do they bring peace one minute closer. Let’s take a look at one–the resolution entitled “The Syrian Golan.”

This resolution (formally known as Agenda item 34 or document A/71/L.8) had many cosponsors. They included, and I quote, such world leaders as “Bolivia (Plurinational State of)” and “Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of),” plus Zimbabwe, Comoros, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and of course a bunch of Arab states.

The heart of the resolution is this: The General Assembly

Determines once more that the continued occupation of the Syrian Golan and its de facto annexation constitute a stumbling block in the way of achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region…

Demands once more that Israel withdraw from all the occupied Syrian Golan to the line of 4 June 1967 in implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions;

What precisely would happen were Israel tomorrow morning to withdraw from what the UN calls “the Syrian Golan?” Would Islamic State try to overrun it and slaughter Druze living there? Would Iranian-backed militias take part of it? More likely, would the butcher Bashar al-Assad’s Iranian-backed army try to seize it? Or, most likely of all, would Hezbollah forces seize it?

How would that affect the people living there? Or the people living in northern Israel? Or the people living across the border from the Golan in Jordan?

It seems that neither “Bolivia (Plurinational State of)” nor “Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)” cares much. But who voted against this mindless resolution? According to the UN, there was “a recorded vote of 103 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau, United States), with 56 abstentions.”

Amazing, isn’t it? The United States and Canada joined Israel–and got the support of three tiny Pacific island nations. That means the nations of the EU abstained; not one single European country could bring itself to acknowledge the truth about this resolution.

The UN press release notes this, though:

The representative of Syria thanked Member States that had voted in favour of the resolutions….the favourable vote sent a clear message to Israel that its killing, settlement expansion and forcible annexation of land ran counter to international principles.

It’s hard to think of a better example of why the United Nations has become the theater of the absurd. The representative of a regime that rules perhaps ten percent of Syria and has murdered half a million of its own people, including with poison gas, condemns Israel for its “killing.” The General Assembly spends a day passing six resolutions denouncing Israel. And representatives of democracies all around the world hide and abstain.

Post a Comment 13 Comments

  • Posted by Lon W.

    I have been getting more interested in the UN lately. None of the member state representatives are elected. The UN cannot “enforce” anything except through member states. What is the importance of the UN issuing anything. The UN representatives sent to Haiti (Nigerians or some other African country) messed up the sewage treatment at their living quarters and spread some disease that is responsible for something like 9000 deaths. And these UN reps are running around armed,… pushing around and lording over Haitians. What’s up with that?
    And as soon as I see some “palestinian” currency accepted as legal tender, and a palestinian passport accepted at international destinations… then, the “palestinians” (Ma’anids actually) might have some kind of recognition. As far as I am concerned there is no such thing as palestine in Cana’an.
    Sheesh. Sorry for the tirade.

  • Posted by Emile

    All these countries should rather take care of their own people. They don’t measure up to the Israelis.

  • Posted by hussein

    If those 56 had voted the results would have been 159 to 6. considering the “significance” of votes of Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau.
    Occupation is occupation and the fact is Israel is occupying the Syrian land, a land that it does not belong to Israel. With a pen artistry to justify to occupation and annexation does not sell in the world arena anymore.

  • Posted by Haroldp

    The Golan Heights were lost by Syria in 1967. They were used to attack Israel and will not be used for that purpose again. Syria can kiss the Golan Heights goodbye.

  • Posted by Charles Nutter

    There is no answer to peace unless Israel seizes all of the lands up to Egypt, Gaza strip, and all of Lebanon area to Jordan, and do it quickly. The next move is seizing all of Syria. This would shut down the violence in the region and raise the level of living for people that have known only war. Iran will do nothing,, Iraq is happy to be left alone, Egypt is powerless to resist, the US would sanction the move and so would Russia. But, this must be done rapidly with an occupation formula to house and treat medical problems. The UN is a joke so would do nothing as usual.

  • Posted by M. Davison

    To “Hussein”:

    I’m sure it would surprise you to learn that the area of the Golan Heights presently under Israeli control was actually part of the Palestine Mandate up until 1923, when the British government illegally ceded it to the French Mandate for Syria under the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 ( a time when that area was under Ottoman rule).

    Additionally, the so-called “1967 borders” are actually noting of the sort, but actually the 1949 Rhodes Armistice lines. The Rhodes Armistice agreement specifically states that the cease-fire lines are “not to be construed as recognized international borders in any way, shape or form”.

    The cease-fire lines were exactly that: lines indicating which of the belligerents in Israel’s War of Independence controlled which areas at the time of the cease-fire.

    Final borders were supposed to be determined during negotiations between the parties, but guess what? The ARAB states refused to negotiate with or even recognize the existence of Israel.

    For 19 years, successive Syrian governments used the Heights to support terrorist actions and to bombard civilian farms and towns with artillery fire.

    Since 1967, Syria has adhered to the Khartoum Resolution of the Arab League… “NO peace with Israel; NO negotiations with Israel; NO recognition of Israel”.

    For its entire history, the Golan Heights “belonged” to Syria for only 44 years all told. This is the blink of an eye in the course of history, hardly worth mentioning.

  • Posted by hussein

    Response to Haroldp & M. Davison:

    Those days for nations to occupy by force annex and it is mine are over. We live in era that respect to other nations land, borders and property are guaranteed by international laws to assure peace in the world. A nation can not keep on land grabbing. When Saddam invaded Kuwait he was made to withdraw. Assad was forced to withdraw from Lebanon. No reason same rule should not apply to Israel.
    Furthermore, I wonder what your argument would be If Syria takes the land back by force, or Hizbullah occupies the northern Israel or Egypt conquerors Negev Desert?

  • Posted by Marjorie Stamm Rosenfeld

    Hussein, better read the 1922 Mandate for Palestine and its history. You will see when you read the Mandate that all of Western Palestine was reserved, by the international community, for the Jews in which to reconstitute their historic homeland. And this territory originally included the Golan. In fact, it originally included at least part of Eastern Palestine (now the Kingdom of Jordan), and lopping off these territories violated the Palestine Mandate’s Article 5. The Mandate was termed a “sacred trust,” and it has never been amended, abrogated, or superseded. Also, although it is against international law to acquire territory by force, the rules are different for territory acquired in a defensive war, which Israel’s 1967 war was.

  • Posted by hussein

    Response to Marjorie Stamm Rosenfeld:

    May I suggest that you should read the UN Resolution 242 & 348. These mandates are much later dated than 1922 mandates and making previous ones obsolete.
    If the history of 1922 is making the ownership of any land legal may be we should go back another 5 years to 1917 and all middle east should be given back to Turks. Sounds ridiculous? I bet you agree.

  • Posted by Paul Horsten

    @Charles Nutter – you are spot on regarding the fact that the UN is a joke. Just look at their last 2 leaders – hugely ineffective.

  • Posted by Rick Veleke

    If the United Nations were a meritocracy where the accomplishments and the level of commitment of the member states carried weight but also helped focus nations on what they needed to work on, would there be a movement to enhance their international status rather than have the U.N. become a stage from which to cast aspersions against Israel? I have attempted to research how many measures there are of a nation with little success, but if the responsibilities were broken down into the subsections accounting for all of the areas the U.N. considers important, would it temper the claims of member states.
    Perhaps, even go so far as to have all the nations of the world to sign onto an agreement where, in the interest of all of the people of the world, to facilitate peace and prosperity, that, from this day forward, the past stays in the past?

  • Posted by Raphael E A

    Since all religion including Islam and Judaism claims to worship the God of Abraham and also accept the sanctity of the Torah and old testament prophets, then we should know and accept that the boundaries of Israel is as stated in the Holy Bible, which covers the whole of Canaan and sorrounding areas.

  • Posted by Raphael E A

    Since all religion including Islam and Judaism claims to worship the God of Abraham and also accept the sanctity of the Torah and old testament prophets, then we should know and accept that the boundaries of Israel are as stated in the Holy Bible, which covers the whole of Canaan and sorrounding areas.

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