The Corner

When Geraldine Ferraro Said No to U.N. Israel-Bashing

From 1994 to 1996, Geraldine Ferraro was the American ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva. I was an adviser to the Canadian delegation to the commission and had the opportunity to watch Ferraro in action behind closed doors in meetings of the “Western European and Others Group” (WEOG).

At WEOG meetings, Western states hammered out shared policy on issues of common interest before stepping into the full morass of the U.N.’s top human-rights body. At that time, one quarter of all the resolutions adopted by the commission that were critical of specific states condemned Israel alone, while the commission remained silent on almost all egregious violations of human rights around the world. For 25 years, the formal agenda of the commission, which governed every meeting, had contained one item devoted to demonizing Israel and one item to human rights on the almost 200 other U.N. members.

This was the environment into which Ferraro stepped. In addition, she found herself in the middle of an attempt at U.N. “reform.”

The reform effort of that era came to a head in one memorable meeting of WEOG when it became clear that the Europeans had caved to Arab and Muslim states and were prepared to agree on proposals for “reform” that left the Israel-demonization agenda item exactly as it was. In walked Geraldine Ferraro. I don’t remember her staying long or saying much. She just said no. Such a reform sham was not consistent with American values and the United States would not be part of it. She couldn’t be bullied by the multilateral pressure to appear “cooperative.”

With extraordinary poise and straight talk she put everyone else in that room to shame. I remember having to restrain myself from jumping up and clapping in that stuffy chamber, composed almost entirely of men who had spent their careers clawing to the top of foreign offices by being exactly the opposite of Geraldine Ferraro.

In a twist of fate, only a day before she died, virtually the same scenario played out in Geneva 15 years later. A “reform” package was before the Human Rights Council. Again it was a sham. And again it left the same demonization-of-Israel agenda item in place. Only this time, President Obama and Eileen Donahoe, a former fundraiser and his ambassador to the council, desperate for the approval of an un-American audience, waved it through by consensus. Today among Democrats the moral courage necessary to withstand the U.N. hordes is in short supply. Ferraro will be missed.

Anne Bayefsky — Professor A.F. Bayefsky, B.A., M.A., LL.B., M.Litt. (Oxon.), is a Professor at York University, Toronto, Canada, and a Barrister and Solicitor, Ontario Bar. She is also an Adjunct Professor at ...

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