The United Nations General Assembly: Key Issues for 2012

  • September 20, 2012


On September 25, world leaders will meet at the United Nations for the General Debate of the 67th General Assembly. The headlines of the week will likely involve the turmoil in the Middle East, Iran’s march to nuclear weapons capability and the violence in Syria. As usual, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be speaking from the General Assembly podium (on September 26) and his address will likely again include incendiary anti-Semitic, anti-West, anti-Israel declarations.

ADL will be meeting with numerous international dignitaries over the course of the week to raise issues of concern about these and other matters vitally important to our work.


  • Iran’s words and actions, as well as IAEA reports, have made it clear that Iran’s progress towards nuclear weapons capability is continuing unabated. During a series of diplomatic encounters between Iran and the P5+1, Iranian posturing and stalling revealed its intention to continue on the same course. While punishing sanctions implemented by the US and the EU have impacted Iran’s economy, they have not persuaded Iran to negotiate an end to its nuclear weapons program in good faith. The pace of Iran’s project and its actions to move its facilities into underground bunkers are progressively insulating its nuclear development against militarily action.
  • The international community must commit to increasing economic and political pressure on Iran as much as necessary to compel Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program. As initial measures, the EU should ban all transactions with Iran, and major importers of Iranian oil should make additional substantial reductions. The P5+1 governments responsible for negotiating with Iran should clearly define benchmarks for diplomatic progress and specify the consequences to Iran for failing to meet those benchmarks.
  • Iran remains a state sponsor of terrorism – funding and training terrorist organizations and cultivating extremist forces. It is the key supporter of Syrian despot Bashar Assad, who is conducting a brutal military campaign. Iran's leadership regularly engages in incendiary anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric. Its key leadership regularly make genocidal threats calling for Israel’s annihilation.
  • Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has used the platform of the UN to make anti-Semitic and extreme anti-Israel proclamations. Responsible member states of the United Nations must make clear that these statements are not acceptable. We encourage member states to exit the General Assembly before the Iranian President speaks, and to investigate what possible action the UN might take if Mr. Ahmadinejad again uses the podium to spout hate and threats.


  • The international community must reject Palestinian plans to upgrade its UN status to “non-member state” in the General Assembly. Such Palestinian efforts do nothing to promote reconciliation and instead signal to Israelis that Palestinians are more interested in scoring political points rather than working towards peace.
  • Israel is deeply committed to the negotiation process with the Palestinian Authority that will lead to a peace agreement resolving all issues and establishing a Palestinian state living alongside the Jewish State of Israel with peace and security.
  • The international community must continue its policy of isolating Hamas, and insist that the Palestinian Authority distance itself from Hamas. Hamas has not met the international community’s basic conditions for acceptance: recognizing Israel’s right to exist; condemning the use of terrorism; recognizing past agreements between the Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel. Hamas refuses to denounce the anti-Semitism endemic in its Charter.
  • Arab states and the Palestinian Authority must make meaningful gestures of normalization to give Israelis the confidence that they have real partners for peace, and that difficult concessions will be worthwhile and reciprocated.


  • An entrenched anti-Israel infrastructure endures at the UN through various anachronistic departments and committees which are funded from the budget of Secretariat. Anti-Israel resolutions in the General Assembly and Human Rights Council sail through. The Human Rights Council has a permanent item on its agenda which only deals with Israel. Israel is barred from fully participating in UN activities as it has been prevented from obtaining full membership in the WEOG regional group.
  • Members of the HRC must also move expeditiously to review the mandate of the Special Rapporteur “on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967,” which is inherently biased against Israel. In its current form, the Special Rapporteur’s mandate is focused solely on Israeli activities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This mandate must be revised to ensure a more balanced approach, and include the examination of Palestinian actions and policies in this region. Furthermore, efforts must be made to ensure the impartiality of the Special Rapporteur. The current office-holder, Richard Falk, is a notorious critic of Israel, who has compared Israeli treatment of Palestinians to the Nazis treatment of Jews during the Holocaust. Professor Falk has been a quick, strident and extreme critic of Israel in a manner that is inappropriate for an ostensibly objective UN official.


  • European governments must make clear that freedom of religion is a cornerstone of democracy and that efforts to restrict or ban ritual circumcision and slaughter violate this fundamental right and cannot be permitted.


  • Anti-Semitic hate violence in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere and the presence of blatant anti-Semitism in anti-Israel discourse and demonstrations is again on the rise. Attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions must be condemned and perpetrators prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Combating anti-Semitism should be a national priority. Governments must send a strong signal that there is no acceptable justification for anti-Semitic speech or action even if it is cloaked in criticism of Israel.
  • ADL continues to closely monitor manifestations of anti-Semitism in the Arab and Muslim world.Decades of heinous anti-Semitic caricatures that are mainstays in government and opposition newspapers across the region have taught generations to fear and hate Jews and Israelis. The Arab Spring has done little to ameliorate this situation, and anti-Jewish stereo-types and conspiracy theories are still regularly featured in the media. Anti-Semitic notions are deeply rooted in the manifestos of al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and other extremist groups. These anti-Semitic images and assertions are exported from countries with small or no Jewish populations around the world when there is tension in the Middle East, increasing rates of anti-Semitic violence where Jews do live and shaping attitudes across national boundaries. This incitement and hatred must be addressed by the political leadership in every country.
  • The international community must support proactive, meaningful Holocaust remembrance and education that will address modern day anti-Semitism.