Documents unearthed from the voluminous archived files of the CIA provide evidence that in the 1960s, leading pro-Israeli members of the administrations of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon sought to limit the size of the UN General Assembly by redefining the definition of what countries could qualify for membership in the world body. In the 1960s and 70s, successive U.S. ambassadors to the UN, the first and foremost being the arch-Zionist former Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Arthur Goldberg, who represented the United States during the Israeli-Arab Six Day War, extensively lobbied the UN Secretariat to create a second-tier of «associate membership» for countries considered «too small» to have a full vote in the UN General Assembly.
The U.S. proposal, backed by the Israeli Lobby, was in direct contravention of the principal of universal membership pushed by countries like Australia during the tenth anniversary of the UN in 1955. However, the United States and Soviet Union never addressed the issue of universal membership of the UN or the issue of small states becoming members, preferring instead to admit new members based on a de facto understanding that a balance would be maintained among pro-Western, Soviet bloc, and neutral nations.
Between 1954 to 1956, new member nations were admitted to the UN that reflected a continuation of the status quo between pro-Western, Soviet bloc, and nonaligned nations. These nations were Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Ceylon, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Laos, Libya, Nepal, Portugal, Romania, and Spain.
It was not until the early 1960s, when France and Britain conferred independence upon a number of colonies in Africa that Israel and its Zionist supporters became worried. Many of these African nations severed diplomatic relations with Israel after the 1973 Israeli-Arab War and in 1975, Israel’s worst fears were realized when the General Assembly passed a resolution equating Zionism with racism.
Goldberg saw a more nonaligned-oriented UN General Assembly becoming a permanent adversary of Israel in mid-1960s. By trying to create a second-tier of UN membership, Goldberg’s gambit was to prevent a permanent working majority among largely African and Asian nations of the Third World that would consistently vote against the interests of Israel in the General Assembly and other specialized agencies. Those fears were realized in 1975 with the Zionism as racism resolution in the General Assembly. Israel and its supporters have always been assured of a U.S. veto in the UN Security Council against anti-Israeli resolutions but that guarantee never extended to the UN General Assembly and other bodies where the vote of the United States was equal to the vote of Malta.
The Zionists’ concern about mini-states being admitted to the UN also involved Israel’s concern that Jerusalem might be recognized as an international entity and be admitted to the UN as either a full member or state observer, the latter similar to the status of the Holy See in Rome. There was some basis for Israel’s concern since even its major supporter, the United States, had, during the Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy administrations, pushed for an international regime to govern Jerusalem. An example of such American support for an independent Jerusalem was an aide-memoire, dated July 9, 1952, that stated: «The Government of the UnitedStates has adhered and continues to adhere to the policy that there should be a special international regime for Jerusalem». The idea of an independent Jerusalem, composed of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim officials, having a seat at the UN, along with the real potential of an internationally-recognized Palestine sharing a UN seat, was too much for the Zionists. The UN, once supported by Zionists like Goldberg and Bernard Baruch, became overnight a perceived enemy of Israel and a target for the Israel Lobby.
Goldberg and his deputy representative, William Buffum, later to become the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs and UN Undersecretary General for Political Affairs, first sought to apply a system of «associate membership» for small states. On July 14, 1969, Buffum raised the issue of associate membership with the President of the Security Council Ibrahim Boye of Senegal. Nixon’s ambassador to the UN, Charles Yost, proffered the concept of associate membership for «micro-states» in an August 27, 1969 speech. The idea received the support of UN Secretary General U Thant after he received a letter from Goldberg in December 1967.
U Thant called for a «study of the criteria for membership with a view to laying down the necessary limitations on full membership for the emerging states which are exceptionally small in area, population, and human and economic resources, while also defining other forms of association which would benefit both the ‘micro-states’ and the United Nations».
Prior to Yost’s speech, the CIA planted a story in its favored propaganda conveyor, The Washington Post, by Robert Estabrook, a former Army intelligence agent in Brazil and former editor of the Post’s editorial page titled «Ministates Raise UN Question: What Qualifies as a Country?» Details of Goldberg’s and Yost’s UN Charter changes included membership qualification changes based in «population, area, and economic resources».
In 1969, the CIA, relying on two agents of influence, Premier Eric Gairy of the British West Indies semi-independent state of Grenada and Jack Holcomb, a CIA adviser to the unilaterally-declared independent Anguillan government of President Ronald Webster, inquired about associate membership status for their respective island nations in the UN.
The associate status was seen as critical as a way to handle potential UN membership for Pitcairn, with a population of 90, along with possible independent status for the islands of the U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, the inhabited atolls and islands of which could have resulted in as many as 20 new members from Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Marianas Islands, and Caroline Islands, alone.
When the associate membership idea was rejected, the United States offered up a system whereby members would be able to cast weighted votes based on their financial contributions to the UN and its specialized agencies. Goldberg and Yost had earlier argued that in the late 1960s, the smallest of the then-126 members of the UN could barely afford the $50,000 minimum annual membership dues. Why should they have the same vote as the United States or India, with its half-billion population?
The United States, the largest contributor to the UN, with 25 percent of the organization’s budget paid for by Washington, wanted its vote to carry an equivalent weight to its financial contributions. During the Reagan administration, the weighted vote idea was pushed by Washington and its man in the UN Secretariat, Buffum, one of the original supporters of a change in how the UN counts its votes. However, Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar was opposed to any changes even though his political deputy Buffum had long favored such a move. The Reagan administration responded by withdrawing from the nonaligned-oriented UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO, exempting the United States from compliance with political decisions of the World Court, and ordering the Soviet Union to scale down its diplomats in Washington by limiting the New York staffs of the missions of the Ukrainian and Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republics to the UN. Congress adopted the Kassebaum Amendment, named for its chief sponsor, Republican Senator Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas, which slashed the U.S. contribution to the UN to 20 percent of the body’s total dues.
Although the General Assembly last year voted to upgrade Palestine’s status to a state observer, the 193-member General Assembly has seen a working majority able to approve American-backed resolutions on Syria and Libya. In March, an Israeli-Iranian singer named Rita sang in Hebrew and Farsi in the UN General Assembly with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon wishing everyone shalom and General Assembly President VukJeremic vowing to be the first General Assembly president to visit Israel. Ha’aretzreported that Israeli delegates were dancing in the aisles of the assembly hall and 140 delegations clapped in unison to Persian-Israeli songs.
In the early 1990s, when the UN saw its largest increase of membership since the early 1960s, there was a change of heart by the Israel Lobby about UN membership. Rather than limit the size of the UN based on size and population, there was a realization that micro-states like Andorra, Liechtenstein, Kiribati, Nauru, San Marino, Monaco, Malta, Samoa, Tuvalu, Palau, and the Solomon Islands could be controlled as far as their UN votes are concerned. The Israel Lobby and the United States was able to cobble together a working bloc of votes in the General Assembly. The last two members admitted to the UN, Montenegro and South Sudan, received support only because they were assured to be pro-Israel votes in the world body. The U.S. and its allies have pushed for Kosovo to be the 194th member, which would also be a pro-Israel vote but has met resistance from Russia, Serbia, Spain, and China.
The litmus test for support for Israel has kept out of the UN Western Sahara, Somaliland, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia. Among the pro-Israeli bloc’s first actions was repealing the UN Zionism is racism resolution in 1991. Except for last year’s Palestine state observer resolution, this bloc has largely served the interests of Israel and the United States, culminating this past March with klezmer music blaring throughout the General Assembly hall.