As war between Israel and Hamas moves forward, diplomats at the United Nations are calling for peace in the region, release of hostages and restraint on both sides.
"I will never forget the images of the supercharged cycle of violence and horror," said Antonio Gutteres, the secretary general for the United Nations.
"This is not a time to let Israel double-down on its terrible choices. This is a time to tell Israel it needs to change course," said Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian representative to the United Nations.
The UN has a long and complicated history with Israel. It played a monumental role in its establishment — passing a resolution calling for the creation of a Jewish state and accepting Israel as an official member in 1949.
Over decades of conflict including the 1967 Six Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War, UN resolutions called for peace talks and for Israel to withdraw from "territories it occupied in the conflict." In 2019, the U.S. formally recognized the Golan Heights as part of Israel.
Still, Israel's critics point to those UN resolutions today.
Those resolutions and a 1975 resolution calling Zionism a form of racism and racial discrimination have set the stage for continued isolation of Israel on the UN stage.
"We got that repealed during the George H.W. Bush administration in 1991. But the antisemitism, anti-Israel feeling really persisted in many parts of the UN," said John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
John Bolton was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 2005-2006 during some of the most tumultuous times in the region, plagued by suicide bombings in Israel and war with Hezbollah. Bolton told Scripps News there was enormous pressure back then on Israel to suspend its military operations in Lebanon.
"While the Europeans professed sympathy for Israel's position, they really wouldn't do very much, especially on the Security Council. So it fell to the United States really, to try and explain that Israel was entitled under the UN Charter, to a right of individual and collective self defense, and that defending yourself doesn't mean simply responding proportionately to this attack or that attack," said Bolton.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the General Assembly has adopted 140 resolutions against Israel since 2015, compared to 68 against all other nations.
Just last year Israel was condemned 15 times compared to 13 times against the rest of the world's nations.
2022 was also the year Iran had its uprisings over the death of Masha Amini, Russia invaded Ukraine and China held Uyghurs in concentration camps.
"If you compare what's happened in Israel to what's happened in Iraq or Syria in terms of casualties, displaced people, you name it, the Israeli issue will be dwarfed by these other problems. but for some reason, the attention has always been focused on Israel," said Hussain Abdul-Hussain, a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Many of these resolutions criticize Israel's treatment of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, including continued building of Israeli settlements and displacing Palestinians from their homes.
Most recently, a Commission of Inquiry was opened into alleged war crimes committed by Israel. That UN commission said Tuesday it "is gravely concerned" with Israel's latest attack on Gaza and Israel's withholding of water, food, electricity and fuel which, it said, will cost civilian lives.
Sunday, the U.S. pushed members of the UN Security Council to condemn the Hamas attacks. Former Ambassador Bolton says they had no luck despite the leaders of some member states publicly condemning the violence.
"It wasn't a good first sign, at least from the reports we were getting out of the meeting. It's why the political institutions of the UN General Assembly at the Security Council, the Human Rights Council are fundamentally broken," said Bolton.
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