Commentary and Newsletters

Anne Bayefsky

UN General Assembly President Accuses Israel of Apartheid and Calls for a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Against Israel

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

NEW YORK - The President of the UN General Assembly has launched an unprecedented attack on a UN member state from the Assembly podium. Going beyond even existing UN resolutions, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua accused Israel of apartheid and called for "a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions" against it. Reminiscent of a classic antisemitic slur, Brockmann (himself a Roman Catholic priest and one-time official of the World Council of Churches) also claimed our Palestinian "brothers and sisters are being crucified" by Israel.

His remarks were made on November 24, 2008 during the UN Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. This annual event marks the adoption of the General Assembly's partition resolution which called for the creation of a Jewish and an Arab state on November 29, 1947.

"Brockmann's assault is a gross abuse of the position of Assembly President," commented Anne Bayefsky, Editor of EYEontheUN. "He knows full well that his outrageous personal views will be translated into six languages and webcast around the world." Brockmann assumed the Presidency in September 2008, having been nominated by the Latin American and Caribbean regional group.

Brockmann made the apartheid allegation twice in one day, once in the morning at the annual meeting of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and again in the General Assembly in the afternoon. In his words:

    "I spoke this morning about apartheid and how Israeli policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories appear so similar to the apartheid of an earlier era, a continent away. I believe it is very important that we in the United Nations use this term. We must not be afraid to call something what it is. It is the United Nations, after all, that passed the International Convention against the Crime of Apartheid, making clear to all the world that such practices of official discrimination must be outlawed wherever they occur."
"Brockmann's call," said Bayefsky, "was in effect, a call for the political destruction of Israel by means of the same strategy adopted against apartheid South Africa." Brockmann said:
    "More than twenty years ago we in the United Nations took the lead from civil society when we agreed that sanctions were required to provide a non-violent means of pressuring South Africa...Today, perhaps we in the United Nations should consider following the lead of a new generation of civil society, who are calling for a similar non-violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel..."
The adoption of the 1947 partition resolution, accepted by Jews and rejected by Arabs, is now bemoaned by the UN. Former Secretary-General Kofi Annan described Palestinian Solidarity Day as "a day of mourning and a day of grief." This year, as in years past, the UN used the occasion to fly only two flags, that of "Palestine" and that of the United Nations. Though the resolution was ostensibly the UN's first commitment to a two-state solution, today the flag of the member state of Israel is left out.

United Nations Trusteeship Council Chamber, New York, November 24, 2008

The Palestinian flag is on the left, the United Nations flag on the right. Speakers from left to right who voiced no difficulty with the omission of the flag of Israel:

Riyad Malki, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Palestinian Authority; Jorge Urbina, Representative of the President of the Security Council; Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, President of the General Assembly; Paul Badji, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations; H.M.G.S. Palihakkara, Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories; and the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs.