It is already a tired truism to say that the United Nations has a distinctly anti-Israel bias. The US became exasperated with this laser-like focus and, in unequivocal condemnation of the agency, withdrew from the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in 2018 and, for the same reason, from UNESCO the following year.
Predictably, a UN Committee on the Status of Women resolution singled out Israel as the only state in the world to be condemned for violations of women's rights, as well.
How can such an overwhelming amount of time, paperwork and energy of the UN's extensive agencies, professedly representing global interests, be so single-mindedly devoted to the censure of a single democratic state?
Second only to the UN, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is the world's largest intergovernmental organization.
Although the two organizations have worked in cooperation from almost the outset of the OIC's inception, their apparent meshing of operations over the years has become reason for significant concern to the world overall and to Israel in particular.
The OIC presumptuously calls itself "The Collective Voice of The Muslim World," and simple observation of its activities would seem to place it as Islam's political Caliphate. One would wonder, then, how such a single-interest organization could lay claim to such a disproportionate amount of the UN's attention, which presumably should represent the interests of the global citizenry.
Yet, by its own admission:
"The UN has taken a number of steps to institutionalize its relationship with the OIC by helping strengthen its capacity through mediation and electoral assistance, and by holding desk-to-desk talks with the OIC on areas of mutual concern, such as peace and security."
"The UN and the OIC share common objectives in promoting and facilitating the Middle East peace process and the question of Palestine," according to Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Miroslav Jenca.
The UN Security Council (UNSC) has adopted resolutions that are theoretically detrimental to Israel, but they are fairly stunted in the scope of the damage they can inflict, as the US (and the other four permanent member countries: Russia, France, China and the UK, for that matter) retains the right to veto any of those resolutions.
The UN agencies in general, amid a flurry of resolutions, special commissions, rapporteurs and the like, are where more damage can be done, albeit primarily in the court of world opinion than in any significantly binding way.
Unlike in the UNSC, the UN General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council have no permanently enshrined members with the power of veto. UNGA and UNHRC resolutions are passed via consensus or majority vote.
A Venn diagram of members of the UN and members of the OIC would demonstrate that the 56 member-states of the OIC voting bloc constitute about 30% of the UN's ballot power -- nearly a third of the vote, but still not a majority. How can one explain, then, the persistent anti-Israel resolutions that require passage by a majority vote?
Expanding on the Venn diagram, by adding members of OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries,), one gets a better understanding of why non-Muslim countries such as Venezuela and Russia can be counted on by the OIC voting bloc: There are former members of OPEC (Ecuador, for example), who have no desire to alienate their OIC/OPEC friends in the event they wish to rejoin when they can meet OPEC's quotas or afford the membership fees once again.
According to World Population Review:
"One of OPEC's most controversial actions took place in 2022 during the Russo-Ukrainian war. Many countries around the world had boycotted Russian oil in protest over the country's invasion of Ukraine, causing analysts to predict a global shortage of non-Russian oil. Despite these projections, OPEC chose to reduce production instead of increasing it. This move was seen by some... as a clear attempt to force countries to remove their embargoes and purchase Russian oil, thereby assisting Russia's effort to fund the war. OPEC has adamantly maintained that politics do not factor into its decision-making.
"In recent years, OPEC has begun making agreements with not just its own member states, but with a group of 10-11 non-OPEC oil-producing countries including Russia, which wields strong political power within the group. This unofficial coalition is typically referred to as OPEC+..."
It may not be so far-fetched to extend the concept of "OPEC+" to "OIC+." OPEC and the OIC are infused with nearly incalculable wealth and most member states of the OIC have found themselves upbraided for questionable ethics.
One critic suggested:
"If the OIC Summiteers are serious about the burning issues of justice, freedom and good governance, then they should schedule a special debate on the Transparency International's (TI) 2003 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) which ranked 38 of the 57 OIC member nations in its latest chart of the corruption levels of 133 countries... [it] is dismal reading for OIC as it is an overall indictment of the failures of the OIC countries to grapple with the problem of corruption..."
The UN itself is certainly not above reproach in the corruption department, as evidenced, among other cases, by the "Oil-for-Food Program;" the extensive history of "food for sex" with children (here, here and here) by "peacekeepers" who enjoy immunity from prosecution; or the trial of Chinese executive Julia Wang, who attempted to purchase an influential UN post.
It is becoming a little easier to see how the UN/OIC/OPEC trinity holds sway in the world theater and particularly how it wields its power against Israel.
In the UN's most recent demonstration of anti-Israel bias, the resolution to subject Israel to the judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) -- yet another branch of the UN -- one sees exactly how the votes actually work.
"[I]t wasn't a majority that voted in favor of the resolution," UN Watch legal advisor Dina Rovner explains.
"There were 87 countries that voted in favor of this resolution out of 193 UN member states; that's a minority of UN member states. 26 countries opposed the resolution and 53 countries abstained. So, unfortunately, the way things work at the UN is there is an automatic anti-Israel majority and... the result is kind of preordained."
Although this UN motion was drafted by "The State of Palestine," the Palestinians were not legally permitted to submit it, as "Palestine" is not a full member of the UN.
One may wonder why Nicaragua, not an Islamic country, and with significant problems on its own home front, would trouble itself with submitting the motion. A cursory investigation reveals some significant motivation:
"With the majority vote of the Sandinista Caucus, the National Assembly today approved the Loan Agreement signed between the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) and the Republic of Nicaragua... The project, which has an estimated investment of 23 million dollars, of which the OPEC Fund will finance 20.5 million..."
The ICJ resolution is only the most recent demonstration of a long history of anti-Israel legislation sponsored by OIC bloc states at the UN.
After Hezbollah initiated the Second Lebanon War by attacking Israel, the OIC made the "... demand that the UN Security Council fulfil (sic) its responsibility..." to intervene (on Lebanon's behalf, of course).
In fact, then-OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu declared that the "Islamic Ummah (community) is outraged," and followed with a thinly veiled threat:
"The failure of peace initiatives will endanger not only the peace efforts in the Middle East, but peace and stability in the whole world... another failure in this regard can instigate further violence and terror."
"Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Malaysia's prime minister and chair of the [OIC's] 57-nation body, said that Muslim countries had to commit troops for a proposed UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon. He said, 'We must play a more proactive role in the present conflict. We must show preparedness to contribute forces for peacekeeping operations under the UN banner.'"
"Peacekeeping" by specifically Islamic troops between Lebanon and Israel via UNIFIL as an impartial UN buffer zone? Draw your own conclusions.
Actually, no drawing is necessary: SADAT International Defense Consultancy, owned by a top military advisor to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has painted a clear picture of what that would look like in an article preceding the OIC's convention in Istanbul:
"The article called on the 57 member states of the OIC to form a joint 'Army of Islam' to besiege and attack the state of Israel. It notes that such a joint army will greatly exceed the Israeli army in manpower, equipment and budget, and presents statistics to prove this. It also advocates establishing joint bases for the army's ground, air and naval forces that will arrive from all over the Muslim world to besiege Israel, while noting that Pakistan, as the only nuclear country, has 'a special status' among the OIC countries. An interactive map provides information on military forces stationed in various locations and the role they can play in the potential joint Muslim attack on Israel.... A second article, titled 'How to Solve the Palestinian Question?' emphasizes the need to utilize the OIC as the basis for a permanent defense cooperation committee, and also describes his vision of establishing military bases for the purpose of liberating Palestine."
The OIC was founded on the premise of protecting Arab rights to Jerusalem and Haram al-Sharif (the Temple Mount), so it is not surprising that it celebrated the ICJ resolution mentioned above and praised "the positions of the countries that contributed to the sponsorship and support of these decisions..."
"... stressing that these decisions express the commitment and support of the international community to... the Palestinian people, and renewed its call on the international community to redouble its efforts In order to put in place the mechanisms that ensure the enforcement and implementation of United Nations resolutions, leading to ending the Israeli occupation... and enabling the Palestinian people to... their independent state on the borders of June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital."
A UN General Assembly resolution passed on December 30, 2022 itself demonstrates disturbingly parallel rhetoric:
"Deeply regretting that 55 years have passed since the onset of the Israeli occupation, and stressing the urgent need for efforts to... bring a complete end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and the resolution of all core final status issues, without exception, leading to a...solution of the question of Palestine." [Emphasis added.]
Then Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid commented on the resolution prior to the vote:
"This resolution is the outcome of a concerted effort to single out Israel, to discredit our legitimate security concerns, and to delegitimize our very existence."
Returning to the pre-1967 lines -- simply the armistice lines from 1949 where fighting had happened to stop -- is nothing short of suicide for Israel; it would be virtually indefensible, and the UN and all of its sponsors are well aware of that.
The OIC's influence at the UN is evident not only in its obsession with delegitimizing the State of Israel at every turn, but also in how it has harnessed the UN's agencies to further a general Islamic fundamentalist agenda.
International relations and human rights experts at the London School of Economics and Political Science noted:
"In 1999, the OIC introduced its first UN resolution on Defamation of Islam... The EU criticized the draft resolution for its one-sided focus on Islam, and after negotiations (and a passionate internal debate in the OIC), the resolution was adopted by consensus under the title Combating Defamation of Religions. Despite this change, OIC managed to maintain the core argument that defamation of religions is a human rights violation which fuels discrimination and intolerance and should therefore be criminalised. The resolution was adopted every year from 1999 to 2010 with a comfortable majority, with support coming from far beyond the Muslim world, including many Latin American, African and Asian states....in 2005, the OIC intensified its campaign to outlaw expressions deemed defamatory against religion while increasingly basing its arguments on existing legal provisions in international law."
They further observe:
"Rather than simply a violation of conservative Islamic censorship norms, defamation of holy symbols was increasingly framed in secular human rights terms as a manifestation of Islamophobia...On the basis of this argument, the OIC sought to install a new ban against religious defamation in the UN's International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination [ICERD]...." [Emphasis added.]
Ironically, ICERD has acted as the OIC's double edged sword: it has been manipulated to serve Islamic fundamentalist interests while its wording has simultaneously been conveniently adapted to attack the State of Israel. Claims that Israel's vital security measures constitute a form of "racial discrimination" are simply a perversion of logic which, under the banner of ICERD, has gone so far as incorrectly (here, here, and here) to accuse Israel of the crime of apartheid.
The OIC's "Collective Voice of The Muslim World" is whispering intently into the UN's ear, but -- with the corruption so clearly running rampant throughout the UN agencies and their various cohorts -- it might as well be a shout.
A quick look at the website of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federal agency, confirms that a large number of OIC/UN members are featured on their "Countries of Particular Concern" and "Special Watch" lists.
Among so many other points, it would seem to indicate even further that protecting freedom of religion, outside of Islamic fundamentalism, is not of any particular concern to the OIC or what now stands mostly as its legitimizing but rapidly crumbling front, the UN. The collaboration between the OIC and UN is simply a pretext to twist international law -- and public opinion -- to their own purposes, whether they are promoting themselves or delegitimizing the State of Israel.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.