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The United Nations and Israel

Immoral Clarity at the UN

December 22, 2002

Israelis received a lethal reminder over the weekend that despite the IDF's ongoing efforts to combat Palestinian terror, the battle is far from won.

Early Friday, 40-year-old Rabbi Yitzhak Arama, spiritual leader of the Jewish community of Netzer Hazani in the Gaza Strip, was shot and killed by Islamic Jihad terrorists in a roadside ambush near the Kissufim Junction. He was driving in his car along with his wife and six children when the terrorists opened fire, murdering him in front of his family. A direct descendant of the 15th-century Bible commentator known as the Akedat Yitzhak, Rabbi Arama was a scholar in his own right who had published a commentary on the book of Ecclesiastes. He is the third resident of Netzer Hazani murdered in the past two years.

Hours later, while Rabbi Arama was being laid to rest, representatives of the UN, the EU, Russia, and the US - known as the Quartet - were meeting in Washington to discuss the road map to Palestinian statehood. In its statement after the meeting, the Quartet reiterated the standard, boilerplate condemnation of "the brutal terror attacks carried out by Palestinian extremist organizations," while suggesting that their goal is "to diminish the prospects for peace." Yet if the events of the past two years have demonstrated anything, it is that such a formulation is both unsophisticated and inaccurate.

To suggest that Palestinian terrorists are motivated solely by a political grievance, rather than outright bloodlust, is akin to stating that al-Qaida is just another band of angry political discontents. Obviously, while political agendas play a role in inspiring their actions, so do other factors, such as fanaticism, intolerance, and hatred. How else does one explain the cruelty of incidents such as Friday's shooting attack, the Ramallah lynching, or the murder of infant Shalhevet Pass in Hebron?

Indeed, it is hard to escape the feeling that a certain level of insensitivity is at work in terms of how the international community chooses to relate to terror attacks against Israeli civilians. Take, for example, the United Nations Security Council, which was the scene on Saturday of yet another attempt to single out Israel for unjust censure and scorn.

Syria, a member of the council, submitted a draft resolution condemning Israel for the accidental killing of three UN employees, demanding that the Jewish state "refrain from the excessive and disproportionate use of force in the Occupied Palestinian territories." As US Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte rightly pointed out, "The proponents of this resolution appear more intent on condemning Israeli occupation than on ensuring the safety of United Nations personnel." Nevertheless, 12 members of the Council, including Great Britain, voted in favor of the resolution, compelling the US to use its veto power to shoot it down.

What is truly disturbing, however, is that the overwhelming majority of the council's members see nothing wrong in criticizing Israel for defending itself, even though they have yet to produce a single resolution condemning Palestinian suicide bombing attacks or the ongoing Palestinian terror campaign, which is about to enter its 28th month. The fact that 690 Israelis have been murdered and 4,891 others wounded in 15,682 Palestinian terrorist attacks since September 2000 would, one assumes, warrant some expression of international displeasure by the world's top body.

To be fair, on December 13 the Security Council did vote in favor of a resolution condemning the November 28 bombing of the Paradise hotel in Mombasa, Kenya which killed three Israelis and 10 Kenyans, as well as the attempt to shoot down an Arkia airliner en route to Tel Aviv. But that resolution is the exception which proves the rule. The attacks in question, after all, did not take place on Israeli soil, and they were perpetrated by al-Qaida rather than Palestinian terrorists. Far more horrific atrocities have been carried out against Israelis closer to home, including by Yasser Arafat's own Fatah movement, yet none have merited UN reproof.

Interestingly, the one country to vote against the Mombasa resolution was Syria, whose UN representative said his country could not support it "because it cannot accept the mention of Israel several times." Yet when Syria went ahead and introduced the resolution condemning Israel which was vetoed yesterday, the bulk of the Council was only too happy to follow suit and support it.

To paraphrase US President George W. Bush, it is time for the world community to start applying some moral clarity to how it views the Middle East. Berating Israel, while sidestepping the issue of Palestinian terror, is not only disingenuous, it is also hypocritical. So long as the UN cannot find the modicum of courage necessary to issue a straightforward condemnation of Palestinian violence, its reputation for anti-Israel bias will remain intact. And the price of this double standard is far graver than just the impact on the Security Council's reputation. As we saw on Friday in the Gaza Strip, it can be measured in Jewish blood, too.


©2002 - Jerusalem Post

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