Régis Debray, a French philosopher and political activist, has demanded that the United Nations General Assembly vote to move the organization’s headquarters to Jerusalem, “the cradle of the world’s civilizations,” calling New York a seat of Western economic and military hegemony.
The philosopher, who before advising socialist president François Mitterand on foreign affairs was a lecturer at the University of Havana and fought for Marxists in Bolivia and Chile, proposed his idea at a lecture in Tunisia, where he complained that by maintaining the UN headquarters in Manhattan, the West is enforcing a “disturbing confusion” between power and law.
Al-Jazeera and Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported that Debray said the U.N. grooms elites from all over the world, an advantage “not enjoyed by any other empire,” to carry out Western objectives, which include “making the world into a vast marketplace in which all its inhabitants become consumers, free from any memory or values.” He also inveighed against Western claims to speak on behalf of world opinion, pointing to 2011’s U.N. Security Council vote to conduct airstrikes on Libya, in which “the voting countries accounted for 10% of the world’s population.”
According to Gallup polls, nearly 60 percent of Americans believe the United Nations is doing a “poor job in trying to solve the problems it has had to face.” So if the U.N. is a tool of American policy, few Americans seem to approve its effectiveness in carrying out their wishes. (RELATED: Obama Emits Enough CO2 For 22 People On Way To UN Climate Summit)
Jerusalem, meanwhile, may not be Debray’s best alternative to a U.N. strangled by American interests. The site of the existing U.N. headquarters in New York was purchased by the Rockefeller family for $8.5 million, and the iconic building cost an additional $65 million. Adjusting for inflation from 1946 dollars, the price tag for the land and building would come to over $990 million today.
But Israeli and international outlets have reported for months on skyrocketing real estate prices in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, as Israel experiences some of the world’s highest demand for housing. According to Haaretz, Jerusalem’s most expensive housing deal last year involved a 4,000-square-foot apartment that sold for over $8 million. The U.N. complex in New York, by comparison, takes up 17 acres.
Jerusalem is also only 12 miles from Ramallah, the largest city in the West Bank. In recent weeks, tensions over access to the Islamic holy sites on the Temple Mount have led to riots and numerous casualties, which some experts have said may be the start of a “third intifada” in Jerusalem. Three American citizens and one British citizen were killed in Jerusalem Tuesday in a terrorist attack.
The U.S. pays for approximately 20 percent of the U.N.’s organizational budget, in addition to various contributions to peacekeeping efforts and stand-alone projects, such as President Obama’s recent pledge of $3 billion to combat climate change. Meanwhile, U.S. government aid to Israel averages over $3 billion a year, according to the Congressional Research Service. When adding the value of private American trade with the country — over $45 billion in 2012, according to the U.S. Trade Representative — Debray may have to go elsewhere to be free of Western imperial influence.
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