U.S. envoy: U.N. handling of Israel verges on racism

NEW YORK — America's ambassador to the United Nations says Israel's treatment at the world body amounts to racism.

"The only way to explain the consistent discrimination toward Israel," Richard Holbrooke said last week, is a "deep, subliminal, but undeniable hostility that verges on — and I apologize, but I cannot find a better word — racism."

Holbrooke condemned the U.N. General Assembly's resolution of Nov. 10, 1975, that equated Zionism with racism and the "perennial passage" of resolutions condemning Israel that do "nothing to enhance" the peace process.

Such treatment is the result, Holbrooke said, of the world body catering to "the prerogatives of a minority of states" and runs counter to the U.N. charter, which is based on the principle of the "sovereign equality of all its members."

It is time for the member-states of the United Nations to normalize relations with the Middle East's "only true democracy" and to facilitate Israel's entry into one of five influential regional groups, Holbrooke said at an American Israel Public Affairs Committee regional dinner last week in New York.

Israel is the only member-state excluded from such a group, which is a prerequisite for participation in important committees, including the Security Council.

The "anomaly" of Israel's exclusion could be resolved "in the not-too-distant future," said Holbrooke, who has joined Israel and American Jewish groups in making the issue a priority of their agendas regarding the United Nations.

"We ask, in fact we plead with our friends in WEOG," Holbrooke said, "to open its doors to Israel, at least on a temporary basis."

He was referring to the Western European and Others Group, to which Israel is now campaigning for entry.

Such a move would serve as an "encouragement to the Barak government and the peace process." Then Israel can take its "rightful place" in the Asia group, Holbrooke said.

Israel's potential membership in the Western European and Others Group is part of current discussions at a series of European Union meetings, but the outcome is far from clear.

Consensus among the members of the group — which includes Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand — is necessary for Israel to join it.

European countries raising objections to Israel's membership have cited a resistance to more competition among group members for influential posts, as well as fears of harming the peace process.

Israel's membership in the group "would give a signal" that Israel's integration in the Middle East is "not particularly healthy," said a U.N. spokesperson for one of the countries seen as most opposed to the move.

Israel's appeal raises several important questions, the source said. Among them is whether the Asia group — which includes Iran, a county that denies Israel's right to exist — would ever admit Israel, even in an environment of Middle East peace.