Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

UN discusses Syrian conflict for an hour, spends five hours condemning Israel

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Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

After the current conflict in Syria had commenced, observations quickly began piling-up that it was receiving noticeably less coverage than it would if it were taking place just over Syria's eastern border in Israeli territory. As time went on and the Syrians began killing hundreds of Palestinians and displacing hundreds of thousands more, many -- including this author -- were a little struck by the hypocrisy of the anti-Israel movement. After all, they constantly claim to care about Palestinian lives and rights, yet here is a very stark example of Palestinians being butchered by someone other than Israel and they have been almost totally silent.

As the conflict approaches its second year and the death toll approaches 40,000, this point has been made so many times that it is almost becoming tired. Yet that is not to say it is any less valid. Occasionally, something comes up that really illustrates the extent to which the international community treats the mass murder in Syria as completely insignificant in comparison to even the most marginal allegations against Israel.

A perfect example is the recent UN General Assembly ('GA') discussion on Syria -- the first since last August -- as depicted in this video from Eye on the UN:

In its current plenary session, the GA spent one hour 'discussing' the situation in Syria, then five hours condemning Israel. That is one hour on a conflict that has killed 40,000 and counting -- including 400 Palestinians -- then five hours on a conflict that killed less than 200, including around 180 Palestinians.

Well, I am not being entirely fair. In fact, the GA did not really discuss Syria at all. As the video shows, what actually happened was that the Secretary-General spoke and the UN delegate to Syria spoke briefly. Next, after being instructed by the President that comments were limited to three minutes, the Syrian delegate spoke for 22 minutes. Not one person running the session tried to tell him that his time was up. After that, the meeting closed.

So it would not be correct to say that the GA discussed Syria. Rather, the Syrians discussed Syria -- in front of the GA.

There are a few notable topics that the Syrians forgot to discuss. For example, the Syrians did not mention the fact that they are reportedly prepping their chemical weapons for use on their own citizens. And suffice to say that they did not really address the allegations of torturing children or murdering tens of thousands of civilians. Or the reports about large-scale rape.

Although I am still being unfair. The GA had, in fact, previously discussed Syria -- they passed a Resolution condemning the 1967 Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights. It was during the two days spent discussing 'Palestine' (note: there have been 10 days in total), and was one of the 20 anti-Israel Resolutions passed so far, out of a total of 77 Resolutions. Australia abstained, as we did on the recent controversial Resolution to give 'Palestine' 'non-Member observer status'. No Resolution has been passed, or even discussed, to condemn the Syrian government's killing of its own people.

If the UN has its priorities in order, the situation in Israel comprises a quarter of all the problems in the world. Meanwhile, there is nothing really bad happening in Syria, certainly nothing worth passing a resolution about.

Importantly, Australia is now in a position to make a difference, given our seat on the Security Council. I guess we can hope that when the conflict in Syria is again raised for discussion -- which, if precedent is any indication, will not be before 2015 -- the discussion will last for a little longer and Australia will have something to say on the matter, rather than again taking the bold step of abstention.