The Iranian text, whose 11 co-sponsors included Syria and Cuba, was approved “by consensus” on Wednesday; no member-state called for a recorded vote.
Several delegates did raise allegations of Iran’s own record of promoting “violence and extremism,” however, and the session in New York witnessed a heated exchange between the Iranian and Israeli ambassadors.
The WAVE resolution calls on all countries to unite against “violent extremism” in all its forms, including sectarian violence.
It also touches on a range of issues that most democratic governments would be keen to endorse, with references to eliminating violence against women; condemnation of attacks on religious sites; and the importance of tolerance, dialogue and the exercise of free expression.
The text condemns “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence,” and countries are reminded of their obligation to refrain from “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”
During the session U.S. representative Richard Erdman highlighted the importance of some of the issues covered in the resolution, but then drew attention to a resurgence in Iran’s state-sponsored terrorism in recent years.
He urged Iran to end its support for terror organizations that target innocent people, and said Iran should align its actual activities with its own stated ideals and the ideals of the international community.
Iran has been on the State Department’s list of terror-sponsoring nations since 1984, with annual reports generally naming it as the “most active” of the short list of designated countries (currently comprising Iran, Syria, Sudan and Cuba).
Canada’s delegate, Caterina Ventura, called for all countries – including the resolution’s sponsor – to translate the words into action.
Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor slammed Iran’s initiative, saying its resolution was “riddled with hypocrisy.”
While the resolution urged countries to fully respect their people’s human rights, he said, “Iran is one of the world’s worst human rights abusers.”
“Iran is the world’s primary sponsor of terror responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent civilians from Bangkok to Burgas and Buenos Aires,” Prosor continued, referring to attacks in Thailand and Bulgaria last year, and in the Argentine capital in the 1990s.
“It is also the principal supplier of weapons in the Middle East, igniting conflicts and inflaming sectarian divides,” he added.
Prosor said Israel had nonetheless decided to join consensus, “to demonstrate its support for the ideals in this resolution and for the Iranian people.”
“This resolution sets the bar high – now it is up to the international community to ensure that Iran measures up.”
Iranian ambassador Mohammad Khazaee called Prosor’s statement hateful, and accused Israel of imposing brutal conditions on people living in territories it occupies, and flouting norms and international law.
He rejected all accusations of extremism made against Iran, saying his country had in fact suffered at the hands of extremism. Moreover, Iran supports moderation in the Middle East, he said.
President Hasan Rouhani first introduced the WAVE in his address to the General Assembly last September, a speech in which he portrayed Iran as a victim of aggression, a country that “poses absolutely no threat to the world or the region.”
After asserting that Iran seeks constructive engagement with other countries including the U.S., Rouhani proposed, “as a starting step, the consideration by the United Nations of the project ‘the World Against Violence and Extremism.’ Let us all join this ‘WAVE.’ I invite all states, international organizations and civil institutions to undertake a new effort to guide the world in this direction.”
“We should accept and be able to open a new horizon in which peace will prevail over war, tolerance over violence, progress over bloodletting, justice over discrimination, prosperity over poverty, and freedom over despotism,” Rouhani concluded.
In his own speech at the U.N. a week later, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu challenged the Iranian president’s claims about the nuclear program, terrorism, regional policies and democracy at home.
“I wish I could be moved by Rouhani’s invitation to join his ‘WAVE’ – a world against violence and extremism,” Netanyahu said. “Yet the only waves Iran has generated in the last 30 years are waves of violence and terrorism that it has unleashed on the region and across the world.
“I wish I could believe Rouhani, but I don’t because facts are stubborn things,” he said. “And the facts are that Iran’s savage record flatly contradicts Rouhani’s soothing rhetoric.”