ZOA: Official UN Response To US Protest Over ‘Map Of Palestine’ Without Israel Is Unacceptable
January 23, 2006

New York – The ZOA has described as unacceptable the official response of the United Nations to a letter from the US Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, posing questions to the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, regarding the “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” held last November in New York under UN auspices and in particular the ‘Map of Palestine’ prominently displayed at the event from which Israel is erased. The ceremony was held at the UN headquarters in New York and was attended by Annan and the presidents of the UN Security Council and the General Assembly. The ‘Map of Palestine’ displayed was provided by the UN Division for Palestinian Rights, is kept within the UN Secretariat and paid for through the UN budget.

Ambassador Bolton wrote to the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, on January 3, 2006 posing three questions: “First, who is the highest level official within the Secretariat who approved the use of the map for the event? Second, does the United Nations intend to use the map in future U.N. sponsored functions and events? Third, in light of prohibitions under U.S. law to fund events such as this one, do you consider it appropriate for the United Nations to advertise and promote the event on its general website and other venues, which do in fact benefit from U.S. funds?”

The response to Bolton’s letter came not from Kofi Annan, but from Ibrahim Gambari, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, who shirked any UN responsibility for the event or the use of the ‘Map of Palestine,’ saying that “the decision to display the map is a decision of Member States not the Secretariat” — implying that the Secretariat has no control or authority over functions convened by UN bodies like this one.

In fact, as international law authority Professor Anne Bayefsky of Touro Law School (formerly of Columbia University Law School) has observed, “According to the UN Charter ‘The staff shall be appointed by the Secretary-General under regulations established by the General Assembly.’ So those staff members are directly appointed by, and responsible to, the Secretary-General. The UN Charter establishes six principal organs of the United Nations, including the General Assembly and the Secretariat. This gives the Secretary-General the capacity to refuse to associate himself, or his staff, with an action that is incompatible with the UN Charter. Actively taking steps to depict the erasure of a UN member state is hardly compatible with the Charter ‘principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.’”

Professor Bayefsky has documented the history of the UN Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) which organized the event and established the practice of displaying the map, quoting from the record of the Committee’s 1981 session, at which the map was first introduced, and which makes it clear that this occurred within the context of opposing Israel’s very existence.

Professor Bayefsky also explains, “The title of the map is not the ‘British’ Palestine mandate but just ‘Palestine.’ And what would the British mandate be doing with a flag on it representing Arab nationalism? The Sharifian flag was designed in connection with the Arab Revolt in 1916, and became a symbol of Arab nationalism. (In 1922 the order of the colored stripes was changed.) At the Palestinian conference held in Gaza October 1-3, 1948 the Palestinian National Council adopted the flag (as well as a bill purporting to establish a government and a declaration of independence).

“The adoption of the flag occurred after the May 14, 1948 expiration of the British mandate and the May 15, 1948 Israeli declaration of independence. A map dated 1948, entitled Palestine, with an Arab flag adopted by the Palestinian National Council along with a declaration of independence, making no reference to the 1947 UN division of the British mandate, is not merely historical except as a statement of the historical rejection of the state of Israel.”

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “The official response to Ambassador Bolton is simply unacceptable in addition to being an insult to the United States. The letter did not even come from the Secretary-General, as would be normal when receiving a written communication from a UN ambassador, and it also refuse to respond to Ambassador Bolton’s query, instead advising him to take up the issue with the Senegalese Ambassador, Paul Badji, who chairs the CEIRPP and who only last November accused Israel in the General Assembly for ‘provoking’ suicide-bombing. It is precisely Badji and the CEIRPP who are part of the problem, not the solution.

“We are also deeply disappointed that in Mr. Gambari’s letter, the Secretary-General is reported to be concerned about the ‘Map of Palestine’ solely in the context of the supposedly ‘new and very troubling connotation [the map takes on] in the light of the remarks made recently by the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran.’ Calls for Israel’s violent elimination are nothing new in the annals of the UN and the Secretary-General cannot seriously expect people to believe otherwise.

“Israel is the only UN state which is not a full member of any of the UN regional groups, key negotiating and appointment-making bodies. Within the last two months the UN General Assembly adopted 31 resolutions critical of human rights records of particular states, 19 of which were directed at Israel alone. It is hard to take at face value this expression of concern regarding the words of the Iranian president when there is so much entrenched institutional bias and anti-Israel extremism within the UN system itself.

“Mr. Gambari’s letter was an opportunity for the UN to face up to these problems and to show by addressing Ambassador’s Bolton’s questions in a timely and serious manner that it is committed to proper reform and justice for Israel. It is now clear that it is not. We applaud, however, Ambassador Bolton for raising these pertinent questions and are pleased that he has indicated that he will not drop this matter and others like it. Again, we praise President Bush for appointing John Bolton, a real fighter for reform, decency and fairness within UN.”

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