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The United Nations and Israel

UNdiplomatic Behavior

July 31, 2002

For all the dramatic changes that have taken place in the world since September 11, there is one global institution that stubbornly persists in excusing and exonerating Palestinian terrorism. With its decades-old tradition of one-sided decisions lambasting Israel, the United Nations has rightly earned the scorn and derision with which it is viewed in many quarters. But now, thanks to a remarkable new policy shift by the United States, the age of lopsided anti-Israel UN Security Council resolutions may finally be coming to an end.

This past Friday, US Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte articulated the Bush administration's new approach when he told a closed-door session of the council that America would no longer tolerate resolutions that fail to condemn Palestinian terrorism and which do not call on both parties to resolve their differences via political means only. Henceforth, Negroponte said, resolutions on the Middle East must contain explicit condemnation of Palestinian terrorism as well as the groups which perpetrate it, such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Yasser Arafat's al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades. He also said that resolutions calling for IDF troop withdrawals to the September 2000 lines must address Israel's security needs, and that both parties must be called upon to return to the negotiating table.

Negroponte's statement followed a draft resolution submitted by Syria, which sought to condemn Israel for last week's killing of Hamas mastermind Salah Shehada in Gaza. Not surprisingly, the Syrian draft was a textbook example of distortion and deceit. It criticized Israeli military actions in the territories without taking into account the context in which such operations are conducted, and called on the IDF to withdraw to the positions it held before the start of the intifada in September 2000. Needless to say, the Syrian text omits any mention of Israeli victims of terrorism, nor does it even refer to the Palestinian attacks that have targeted Israel on a daily basis for nearly two years.

The shift in American policy is a welcome one, as it signifies that the US is no longer willing to turn a blind eye to the shenanigans of the Security Council. For far too long, this august body has served as little more than a platform for the Arab states to demonize and vilify the Jewish state. Indeed, the change in the American position is a sign of just how bad things have gotten at the UN. The fact that the United States would have to insist on such an elementary matter as balance in the formulation of the council's resolutions indicates just how far the UN has strayed from the lofty principles which it claims to uphold.

In recent months, the UN's partiality has been all the more glaring, particularly in light of the ongoing Palestinian terror campaign against Israel. Earlier this year, when IDF troops entered the Palestinian-controlled areas during Operation Defensive Shield, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan publicly berated the Jewish state for having the audacity to defend itself, saying, "The whole world is demanding that Israel withdraw... I don't think the whole world can be wrong." Annan's special Middle East envoy, Terje Larsen, went even further than his boss, arrogantly asserting that "Israel has lost all moral ground in this conflict" after IDF units entered Jenin.

Of course, for all their professed concern for human rights, the UN has yet to take a firm and unambiguous stand against Palestinian terrorism. Within days of the IDF's killing of Shehada in Gaza, the diplomats were hard at work, holding meetings, convening sessions, and drafting documents, all in an attempt to figure out the best way to condemn Israel. And yet, no such alacrity has been shown when Palestinians carry out attacks in the heart of Israel or massacre innocent civilians. In fact, the Security Council has yet to devote even a single session to a discussion of Palestinian suicide bombing attacks, despite their high death toll.

Moreover, the UN itself is actively involved in funding many of the hothouses of hatred and incitement run by the Palestinian Authority. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency is actively involved in assisting and supporting refugee camps throughout the territories, many of which have served as launching pads for terror attacks against Israel. As US Congressman Tom Lantos recently wrote Annan, "My concern is that, for too long, UNRWA has been part of the problem, rather than the solution, in the Middle East... UNRWA officials have not only failed to prevent their camps from becoming centers of terrorist activity, but have also failed to report these developments to you... It is difficult to escape the painful conclusion that UNRWA, directly or indirectly, is complicit in terrorism."

It would, of course, be naive to think that, following the US decision, the UN will shift gears and radically change its approach to Israel. No such turnabout would seem to be in the offing. But however one looks at it, the change in US policy is a welcome injection of realism and fair play into an institution obviously suffering from a shortage of both. One can only hope this trend will continue.

©2002 - Jerusalem Post

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