UN Watch

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<youtube size="tiny" align="right" caption="UN Watch advert against Jean Ziegler">3p4lWkkjiuw</youtube> UN Watch is a Geneva-based front for the American Jewish Committee [1]to pressure United Nations against taking a critical stance on Israel. UN Watch claims to have 'complete independence' from the AJC.[2], but it is perfectly clear from a press release on the AJC website that this is false. The press release notes that UN Watch is to become 'fully integrated' into the AJC. The release concludes:

Eighteen months ago, the American Jewish Committee and the World Jewish Congress reached an agreement, approved by the international board of UN Watch, to transfer full control of the organization to AJC, an agreement that went into effect on January 1, 2001.[3]

The main activities of UN Watch

  • Principal activity: monitor UN activities, resolutions, or official statements that are construed to be critical of Israel.[4]
  • Challenge UN bodies for their critical stance towards Israel.
  • Lobby for the removal of UN personnel who are considered critical of Israel.
  • Forming coalitions to leverage influence at the UN. This also entails assisting the interests of other groups to later count on their support. See this coalition UN Watch organized for a censure motion[5].
  • Lobby for the inclusion of AJC approved personnel; this is a standard operating procedure by the American Jewish Committee (e.g., see AJC News Update Number 212).
  • Issue occasional press releases on topics not related to its key interest to convey the impression that it is a lobby group involved in criticism of the UN overall. It tries to hide the fact that it is a single issue lobbying group by issuing smokescreen press releases.

Much of UN Watch's efforts are devoted to derailing the follow-up to the UN Conference on Racism (the Durban Conference) which will be held in Geneva in 2009 (aka Durban II). The Durban was a major challenge to the AJC and affiliated zionist groups because the Conference accepted the definition that zionism is racism. Afterwards the US sought and obtained the removal of this motion. Beginning 2007 the AJC and affiliated groups started a major campaign to:

  1. undermine Durban II in general;
  2. attempt to get countries to boycott the upcoming conference;
  3. attempt to change the agenda of the conference, i.e., although the AJC doesn't want others to attend or even do away with the conference altogether, it seeks to waterdown the proposed agenda.
  4. AJC and its affiliated groups also constantly lobby for the removal of UN personnel viewed as sympthetic to the Durban II conference.

Defending Israel

UN Watch claims in its Mission statement to simply "monitor the performance of the United Nations by the yardstick of its own Charter."[6]It claims that its main focus is not Israel:

We primarily speak against gross human rights violations all around the world, including Darfur, Zimbabwe, Russia etc. You can get any idea by browsing our website. In parallel, part of our work is to combat anti-Israel bias within the UN system, which we believe hampers its ability to effectively respond to urgent human rights situations around the world.[7]

However its true agenda is betrayed by the following section in its Mission Statement.

UN Watch notes that the disproportionate attention and unfair treatment applied by the UN toward Israel over the years offers an object lesson (though not the only one) in how due process, equal treatment, and other fundamental principles of the UN Charter are often ignored or selectively upheld. (emphasis added)[8]

No other country or struggle or issue is specifically identified. From this, the known politics of its parent organization, the American Jewish Committee, and its earlier dissembling with regards to its affiliations one can safely conclude its role as lobby group for pro-Israel interest in Geneva.[9].


UN Watch was established in 1993 by Morris Abram, former permanent U.S. Representative to the UN in Geneva and honorary president of the American Jewish Committee "with the generous assistance of Edgar Bronfman, President of the World Jewish Congress". On January 1, 2001 the American Jewish Committee assumed full control of the organization through an agreement with with the World Jewish Congress.[10]

Some web Directories have UN Watch wrongly listed under United Nations Organizations. A contributing factor for this could be that UN Watch and its members continously portray their organization as if it were part of the United Nations itself. Thus, it's former Executive Director Andrew Srulevitch on the 10th of November 2003 wrote in the Jerusalem Post:

As the only nongovernmental organization exclusively mandated to monitor the integrity of the United Nations, UN Watch will gladly pick up that gauntlet. The UN Charter requires UN officials to have "the highest standards of efficiency, competence, and integrity." [UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter] Hansen fails this test, having demonstrated his pro-Palestinian bias on several occasions. [11]

From its recruitment information one reads:

UN Watch is an accredited non-governmental organization that monitors the performance of the United Nations according to the yardstick of its own Charter. Areas of concern include strengthening the role of democracies within the UN and ensuring the equal treatment by the UN of its member states. At the United Nations, UN Watch has been at the forefront in the fight against anti-Semitism and against the UN’s discriminatory treatment of Israel.[12]


According to Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of UN Watch:

One of the greatest violators of the UN Charter's equality guarantee has been the UN Commission on Human Rights...
An alien observing the United Nations' debates, reading its resolutions, and walking its halls would conclude that a principal purpose of the world body is to censure a tiny country called Israel...The UN's advocacy for the Palestinians is more often than not a way of targeting Israel.[13]

Targets of UN Watch

UN Watch has activelly lobbied to have certain individuals removed from UN agencies and it has also lobbied against the appointment after a process had been initiated to hire an individual that UN Watch objected to.

Jean Ziegler

UN Watch has described Ziegler as "among the most vicious" of persecutors of Israel at the United Nations and a man who is obsessed with "bashing Israel." [14]In July 2006 UN Watch ran a campaign to 'Stop Jean Ziegler's nomination to the UN Human Rights Council' complete with proposed text of email to be sent to the Swiss Ambassador to the UN.[15]

According to the AJC :

AJC’s Geneva-based affiliate UN Watch has played a key role among non-governmental organizations in protesting the Swiss nomination of Jean Ziegler to a new UN post dealing with human rights. Ziegler, who had served for six years as the UN expert on hunger and was notoriously anti-Israel, was the subject of a thorough UN Watch report last year.[16]

The said UN Watch report included statements such as:

Ziegler is popular among Europe's trendy radicals for his anti-American writings and impassioned media appearances. He is also a hero for his frequent attacks on the Jewish state, all issued with his UN imprimatur...
In the summer of 2004, after it emerged that Ziegler was using UN staff and resources to run an anti-Israel boycott campaign, UN Watch petitioned for his removal with a legal brief to the UN Commission on Human Rights...It also documented a series of actions by Ziegler that showed a pattern of selective treatment of Israel, the only country he singled out for condemnation as a Nazi-like state that commits "state terror" and "war crimes."...The charges against Ziegler received wide media coverage, particularly in Switzerland but also in Europe, the United States, and Israel...UN Watch noted that under the European Union's definition of anti-Semitism, comparing Israeli policy to that of the Nazis is a classic manifestation of this form of hatred...Finally, UN Watch alerted the media to the need for the UN to condemn Ziegler's demonization of Israelis...The impact was immediate. On the same day, 7 July, the UN Watch press release was cited by a reporter at the daily press conference of Annan's spokesman in New York. Consequently, the spokesman soon issued a statement denouncing Ziegler for his remarks. The next day the spokesman for Arbour did the same, followed later by an even stronger statement by Arbour herself in a letter to UN Watch. Canada then sent Ziegler a formal complaint letter. Finally, some seventy members of the U.S. Congress wrote to Annan and the Commission Chair seeking Ziegler's resignation.
The story of this unprecedented condemnation was reported worldwide by Reuters, the Associated Press, the Washington Times, China's Xinhua, and the Jerusalem Post. Headlines reading "Ziegler Criticized by UN" appeared in a dozen different newspapers in Switzerland, including Le Temps, Basler Zeitung, and Tages-Anzeiger. For the first time, the UN community had condemned one of the Commission's human rights experts for anti-Semitism. Later stories about Ziegler, such as by the Associated Press, have cited this condemnation, for the first time providing readers with the necessary context. [17]

On October 27, 2005, UN Watch published a study which recommended that Kofi Annan and other UN high officials "condemn Jean Ziegler for bias" and that the Chairman of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, "should remove Jean Ziegler from the position of Special Rapporteur on the right to food" and "if the Chairman does not do so, the 53 State Members of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights should convene to adopt a resolution terminating Jean Ziegler’s term". Failing this, it recommended that "Ziegler should resign".[18]

In March 2008 UN Watch renewed its campaign encouraging its supporters to persuade Switzerland to withdraw its nomination of Ziegler -- a 'supporter of dictators' -- from the UN Human Rights Council. [19]

Peter Hansen

UN Watch also furnished the "damning evidence" of UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen's "unprofessionalism" and "pro-Palestinian bias". During Operation Defensive Shield, which left 500 Palestinians dead and 1500 wounded (The Guardian, August 2, 2002) , '[he] demanded...that Israel "end this pitiless assault on civilian refugee camps."' UN Watch then goes on to list another "infamous statement":

On April 18, he led a UN delegation there, after which he said: "I had hoped that the horror stories of Jenin were exaggerated and influenced by the emotions engaged, but I am afraid these were not exaggerated and that Jenin camp residents lived through a human catastrophe that has few parallels in recent history."
After characterizing the two sides to the conflict as "asymmetrical" militarily, he asserted that Israelis and Palestinians were also "asymmetrical in the legitimacy of their cause."[20]

UN Watch finally expressed satisfaction at Hansen's departure in a January 19, 2005 statement. It then added:

At a meeting in New York last month, reports The Guardian, Annan told Hansen: I dont have the political capital with the Americans to keep you. [21]

Mary Robinson

UN Watch also campaigned against Mary Robinson. Here in a report from AIJAC the Australian chapter of the American Jewish Committee, the familiar story is told and UN Watch - which is also part of AJC - is described as 'respected':

In meetings with officials of UN Watch, a respected body monitoring UN adherence to its own Charter, she is stand-offish, circumspect and correct.
Each and every complaint submitted to Robinson has been rejected. Quizzed, for example, on the reference to Palestine as a state amongst many she has visited, Robinson dismisses this as convenient short-hand. By this yardstick, Robinson’s next visit to Lhasa (assuming she is ever allowed in) will be described as a visit to the sovereign state of Tibet.
UN Watch’s Michael Colson opines, "She does not exercise the kind of restraint the Secretary-General exercises. Mary Robinson, as far as I am concerned, has come close to violating the Charter." Even the "surprisingly even-handed" speech she recently gave outlining the actual chronology of the Palestinian violence, which demonstrated that Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount did not originate it, seems to have been a one-off. Rumour has it that the speech was the brainchild of a previously undetected impartial staffer. [22]

UN Watch Campaigns

Membership of the Magen David Adom to the Red Cross

A major campaign was fought by AJC and UN Watch (operating in common) to pressure the International Red Cross to accept the membership of Magen David Adom, the Israeli emergency service.[23]

Terrorism is a violation of human rights

On 17 August 2006, UN Watch delivered a speech at the UN in Geneva in an attempt to define "terrorism as a violation of human rights", however the terrorism UN Watch speaks of is very narrowly defined. The AJC news release reads as follows:

UN Watch, AJC’s affiliate in Geneva, led a coalition of 13 non-governmental organizations calling on the UN Human Rights Council to recognize terrorism as a human rights violation. Iran sent one of its diplomats to respond after UN Watch named it as a sponsor of terror. Pablo Kapusta, Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fellow at UN Watch, delivered the speech on behalf of the coalition.[24]

From this action, UN Watch's modus operandi are clear: it forms coalitions with other groups (some of which it has helped form or are of similar ilk), and then attempts to pass resolutions that benefit Israel and smear its opponents. Thus the definition of "terrorism" is tagged to "Iranian sponsorship of terror". The purpose of the measure is clear: smear the Iranians (Syrians, or the demonized country du jour), to deflect attention away from Israeli terrorist actions, and to manipulate the UN for its own purposes.


Beginning during the Fall and Winter of 2006, The principal UN Watch message at the UN human rights commission hearings has been principally about the neglect of the humanitarian situation in Darfur. When the UN human rights council criticizes Israel about its abuses, UN Watch's predictable response is to issue statements "what about Darfur", and it suggests that the commission is "singling out" Israel while horrible things are happening in Darfur. The main purpose behind this effort has all to do with deflecting attention away from Israeli depredations and attempt to force the relevant UN human rights bodies to pursue a wider agenda.

The campaign to highlight the situation in Darfur and to call for a divestment from companies doing business in Sudan is organized by zionist groups in the United States. Most of the principals waging these campaigns are well-known zionists, and most calls for Darfur action are carried in zionist websites. The intensity of these campaign are directly related to the intensity of Israeli depredations in the occupied territories and Lebanon. The peak activity of calls for Darfur actions coincided with the end of the war against Lebanon in August 2006. (A research paper on this topic will soon be made available here). The principal UN Watch spokesperson on this issue is Leon Saltiel who is currently very predictable: a single message about Darfur.

UN Watch operates very much like the AJC, its parent organization, in that it creates coalitions with other groups and pursues campaigns with the participation of the co-opted groups. There is a trade-off between the organizations; while today another organization will sign-up to a UN Watch campaign, in the future UN Watch will assist the co-opted organization. The advantage to both parties is that a campaign gains prominence or weight because of the number of signatories and lobbyists signing on. UN Watch will also gain because it will allay the image that it is a "single-issue" operation; if it signs on to other campaign it can claim that it is monitoring the overall performance of the UN human rights commission. In Geneva, where most of these organizations have offices, there are facilitator groups whose principal aim is to coordinate contact between groups with a common interest or where a quid pro quo can be expected, e.g., CONGO.

The signatories to a Darfur statement can be classed as follows: (a) transparent zionist organizations, groups that readily sign-up; (b) some of them are zionist organizations posturing as bona fide groups working on wider issues or non-related "liberal issues", their principal purpose is to assist zionist groups while retaining an alternative "liberal" image (e.g., LICRA in the list below), and (c) co-opted groups which participate in UN Watch campaign on the expectation of quid pro quo. These are co-signatories to a UN Watch statement about Darfur [25]:

Promoting the Israeli regime

In July 2006 one of UN Watch's campaign was to 'Fight discrimination against Israel in the UN's regional group system'[26]





Similar Organizations

Contact, Resources and References



1 rue de Varembé,(PO Box 191)
1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland.
Email: unwatch@unwatch.org
Website: www.unwatch.org
Phone: +41 22 734 14 72
Fax: +41 22 734 16 13



  1. International Activities: Europe (Accessed: 4 October 2007) NB: UN Watch personnel has complained that they were portrayed as an arm of the AJC. However, the AJC's website makes it amply clear that this is the case. The AJC website states: "AJC maintains offices in Berlin, Brussels (Transatlantic Institute), Geneva (UN Watch),..."
  2. Leon Saltiel Inaccuracies email to Spinwatch, 3 July 2006.
  3. Media Release, "UN Watch, AJC Seal Partnership", American Jewish Committee, 4 January 2001.
  4. This can be confirmed through a perusal of their press releases.
  5. [1]
  6. Mission Statement, UN Watch
  7. Leon Saltiel Inaccuracies email to Spinwatch, 3 July 2006.
  8. Mission & History, UN Watch
  9. AJC Offices:International: Switzerland (Accessed: 21 October 2007)
  10. Media Release, "UN Watch, AJC Seal Partnership", American Jewish Committee, 4 January 2001
  11. Andrew Srulevitch, A Civil Servant's 'Neutrality', Jerusalem Post, Israel, 10 November 2003
  12. UN Watch Fellowship, Carleton College: Career Center Bulletin, 4 April 2005
  13. Hillel C. Neuer, The Struggle against Anti-Israel Bias at the UN Commission on Human Rights, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 11 January 2006.
  14. Lynne Cohen, Canada condemns anti-Israel remarks of UN official it helped to elect, Jewish Tribune, 4 August 2005.
  15. Stop Jean Ziegler's nomination to the UN Human Rights Council, UN Watch, 26 March 2008
  16. AJC Update 204 (email distribution) 26 April 2006
  17. Hillel C. Neuer, The Struggle against Anti-Israel Bias at the UN Commission on Human Rights, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 11 January 2006.
  18. Jean Ziegler's Campaign Against America A Study by UN Watch, 27 October 2005.
  19. Stop Jean Ziegler Before March 26, 2008, UN Watch, accessed 26 March 2008
  20. UNRWA Commissioner General Peter Hansen: A Profile of Unprofessionalism, UN Watch, November 14, 2003 ; Note: According to Human Rights Watch in Jenin "Israeli forces committed serious violations of humanitarian law, some amounting prima facie to war crimes." About 4,000 Palestinians were left homeless in "destruction [that] extended well beyond any conceivable purpose of gaining access to fighters, and was vastly disproportionate to the military objectives pursued."
  21. Wednesday Watch, UN Watch, 19 January 2005.
  22. Daniel Mandel, Something About Mary, The Review, January 2001
  23. Victory: Magen David Adom Joins International Red Cross, UN Watch email, 23 June 2006
  24. AJC Weekly News Update 220
  25. Darfur Statement at Human Rights Council in Geneva, B'nai B'rith, 13 December 2006
  26. Fight discrimination against Israel in the UN's regional group system, UN Watch, accessed on 26 March 2008
  27. Hillel Neuer and Elizabeth Cassidy Reports: Jean Ziegler's Campaign against America: A Study of the Anti-American Bias of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food UN Watch, October 2005
  28. CONGO Committee on Youth (Accessed: 10 June 2008)
  29. Leon Saltiel, NGOs Urge Action from UN Emergency Session on Darfur, NewsBlaze, 12 Dec 2006.
  30. Saltiel, ibid.