In October of last year, the American lawyer and diplomat Richard Schifter died at the age of ninety-seven. Schifter, in his two decades of public service, devoted himself to using U.S. influence to stand up for human rights everywhere from Africa to China to Eastern Europe, and played a role in helping to get refuseniks out of the Soviet Union. But above all he was devoted to changing the UN’s perverse attitudes toward the Jewish state, as Robert Doar writes:
The United Nations General Assembly is still passing annual resolutions to renew the mandates of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Division for Palestinian Rights. Among other biased and anti-Israel agenda items, these entities endorse the so-called “right of return” which has long hampered negotiation and ossified opposition on both sides of the conflict.
As chairman of the American Jewish International Relations Institute, Schifter dedicated the last years of his life to fighting these resolutions. And he was making headway. Within the last decade, support for the UN’s Division for Palestinian Rights has diminished considerably. In 2011, the resolution was approved by a 114-9 vote. Last year, it was carried by a tally of just 82-25 with 53 abstentions and 32 absences (deliberate ones mostly). Though these measures still pass, they do so with mere pluralities instead of overwhelming majorities. This is considerable progress.
Schifter believed that these symbolic resolutions are impediments to peace. And if the last few months have taught us anything about the Middle East, it’s that progress is possible.
This moment calls for the Biden administration to take an important next step. . . . It’s time for the State Department to make it a priority for the UN to reject these resolutions and encourage our allies to help us make that happen.