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For nearly half a century, the United Nations condemned prejudice in all its forms. It spoke out against racism, discrimination against women, and the abuse of migrant workers. But it wasn’t until 1994 that the U.N. Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) passed a resolution explicitly condemning anti-Semitism. Ironically, even as the UNHRC was making (belated) history ...

For nearly half a century, the United Nations condemned prejudice in all its forms. It spoke out against racism, discrimination against women, and the abuse of migrant workers. But it wasn’t until 1994 that the U.N. Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) passed a resolution explicitly condemning anti-Semitism.

Ironically, even as the UNHRC was making (belated) history by condemning hatred of Jews, the delegation from the Jewish state could only watch from the sidelines. For more than 40 years, Israel has been the only U.N. member denied representation on the world body’s most important agencies — not just the UNHRC, but also the Security Council, the World Court, UNICEF, and the Economic and Social Council.

Israel’s second-class (or, in this case, last-class) status is a byproduct of geography. In the early 1960s, as a growing number of nations joined the United Nations, the member states organized themselves into five regional groupings: Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Western Europe and Others Group (WEOG). Although not formally enshrined in the U.N. Charter, these regional blocs have become entrenched within the U.N. system, acting as de facto voting blocs and, more importantly, as forums for nominating member states to serve on U.N. agencies.

Geographically, Israel belongs in the Asia group. But, the Arab countries have repeatedly blackballed the Jewish state from joining. So, in 1993, Israel turned west and began lobbying for a place in WEOG, which includes Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. Some European states — Italy, Ireland, and Spain — had reservations about accepting Israel into the Western democracy club. But U.S. pressure finally compelled weog to grant Israel temporary membership in 2000, subject to review every four years.

In 2003, a nomination from WEOG won Israel a vice chairmanship on the General Assembly Working Group on Disarmament — the country’s first committee assignment since 1961. Yet, other plum committees remain outside of Israel’s diplomatic reach due to the conditions of its temporary membership. Israel can only participate in WEOG activities at the U.N. headquarters in New York, effectively shutting it out from bodies in Geneva that include the World Intellectual Property Organization and the International Labour Organization’s Governing Body. Israel also agreed that its affiliation with WEOG would not upset the regional grouping’s existing timetable for rotating membership in U.N. agencies. That means it will be more than a decade before Israel can be nominated for a seat on the Security Council. And weog won’t have an opening for the Economic and Social Council, which coordinates the work of dozens of prominent U.N. agencies and commissions, until 2021.

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