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The United Nations and Israel

Human Bombs, Human Shields

by Hillel Neuer - June 6, 2002

Momentum for sending international peacekeepers to the Mideast is rising. A U.S.-British team was established to guarantee the imprisonment of Palestinian militants; international diplomacy resolved the Bethlehem standoff; and now former President Bill Clinton is proposing the dispatch of a "global force." Many Israelis, and many supporters of Israel, want nothing to do with these proposals. But for its own sake, Israel should accept the imposition of peacekeepers, with one key caveat: Rather than stationing forces exclusively within the Palestinian areas, as is commonly proposed, the United Nations should also station peacekeepers within Israel itself.

In general, Israelis fear the use of peacekeepers for the very same reasons the Sa'eb Erakats, Syrians, and Saudis want it: The presence even of an unarmed team in the Palestinian territories would severely hinder Israel's capability to reach the terrorists who now roam free amid the thickets of Palestinian autonomy. As close neighbors, the Arabs know well that the Jewish state's soldiers observe an exacting code of military ethics--tohar haneshek, or purity of arms--designed to minimize civilian casualties. The presence of peacekeepers would simply give the terrorists more ways to cloak their activities and, ultimately, more sanctuaries to exploit.

Throughout their post-Camp David jihad, Arafat's gunmen have repeatedly hid behind civilians, stashed weapons in mosques, and smuggled explosives through Red Crescent ambulances. Why, they even boast of it--not to our Western ears, of course, but to AL-JAZEERA and the Arab press. (For English transcripts, see www.memri.org.) How long before homicide bombers, bound for Tel Aviv to explode student cafés or Passover seders, would don blue helmets and drive white jeeps marked with black lettering reading "U.N."?

And we've seen this sort of behavior before. A year-and-a-half ago in Lebanon, after Israel's withdrawal was certified by Kofi Annan as complete, Hezbollah gunmen abducted and murdered three Israeli soldiers by posing as a U.N. border patrol. Found inside the abandoned Hezbollah vehicles, next to weapons and explosives, were U.N. insignia, uniforms, and license plates.

But it's not only the peacekeepers' passive potential to harm Israel that makes them so attractive to Jerusalem's enemies. More pernicious is the United Nations' active mischief. History demonstrates that these missions--typically conceived by the same unholy Euro-Arab axis that decided it was a good idea to award certified terror-sponsor Syria with membership on (and now the presidency of) the U.N. Security Council--are invariably biased against the Jewish state.

Consider the actions of Terje Larsen, the United Nations' Mideast mandarin. When asked last June by Israel's defense minister about a U.N.-filmed video of the Hezbollah abduction, an indignant Larsen tore into his counterpart, emphatically denying existence of any cassette. A week later the United Nations in New York acknowledged that, um, yes, there was a video. And more recently, Larsen--who has never quite managed to raise his voice against Hezbollah's mockery of international humanitarian law, nor against the Palestinian murder and maiming of thousands of Israeli civilians--pronounced himself "horrified" by Israel's anti-terror operation in Jenin. All this from a U.N. man who says he is "profoundly a friend of Israel." Imagine the views of his many colleagues who are profoundly not.

So if these missions carry so much danger, why should Israel want one? Because this mission would be different. It has always been simply assumed that U.N. monitors would be stationed in Palestinian areas. Yet why shouldn't Israel ask the United Nations to come into Israel itself, and help the Israeli military protect its citizens from the Palestinians?

To be sure, the United Nations' record on protecting Israel is less than inspiring. In May 1967, Egypt's Nasser, preparing to march on Tel Aviv, informed U.N. peacekeepers in the Sinai that they were in the way. They fled. Asking Israelis to rely on the United Nations for protection is akin to asking Americans to rely on the INS for screening of foreign flight students. What's more, the very idea of depending upon peacekeepers would be difficult for many Israelis--one goal of founding a Jewish state was to create a place where Jews would never have to rely upon others for defense against those who would extinguish them.

But there's also a new reality to confront: As effective as Israel's security measures have been, they cannot fully defend the country. Yes, the Sharon-Peres government's Operation Defensive Shield eroded Arafat's infrastructure of terror. But Arab political and religious leaders are busy inciting new terrorists, and it seems to be working. Since Israel's conclusion of the operation in late April, Palestinian terrorists hit Israeli civilian areas with five major suicide bombings and several other shooting attacks, murdering 51, including a 14-month-old infant and her grandmother in Petach Tikva, and injuring 232.

So if the world wants to send monitors, by all means let them come. Let them come in droves. Let thousands come and circulate randomly among Israelis in all the country's blood-stained public places--Jerusalem's cafés, Netanya's hotels, Haifa's buses. In Jerusalem, let Larsen and friends eat pizza at Sbarro's, let Kofi and crew have coffee at Caffit. Have the monitors wear plainclothes and work shifts set by the Israelis. And then, throughout Israel, ask them to live as Israelis do.

Human bombs? Meet human shields. If Arafat and Hamas wanted to kill more Israelis, they'd have to risk killing representatives of their beloved international patron. Chances are they wouldn't do it. And if they did? Well, then the international community might finally come to understand just how dastardly the Palestinian terrorists really are--and allow Israel to exercise its legitimate right to self-defense.

©2002 The New Republic

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