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The United Nations and Israel

UN's Warped Ethical Standard

By Evelyn Gordon - July, 17 2001

- Hypocrisy at the United Nations is nothing new, and especially where Israel is concerned. But it reached new heights last week over a videotape taken by UNIFIL soldiers shortly after Hizbullah kidnapped three Israeli soldiers last October.

After months of denying that the video existed, the UN finally admitted 10 days ago that the tape was in its possession. Following heavy pressure from Israel and the US, the organization even agreed last week to let Israeli officials view it - but only after it had obscured the faces of the Hizbullah guerrillas that the tape is thought to show in the act of towing away the vehicles used in the kidnapping. To do otherwise, UN officials insisted, would be to "take sides" in the dispute between Israel and Hizbullah, and would thus damage the organization's neutrality.

This decision is astonishing on two levels. On the moral level, it is outrageous for an organization supposedly dedicated to international peace and justice, which proclaims itself the champion of human rights worldwide, to be unwilling to "take sides" between kidnappers and their victims. This decision is tantamount to a UN declaration that it sees no moral difference between a kidnapper and his victim - the one is entitled to as much consideration as the other. It is hard to believe that any civilized person or nation could accept such a moral equivalency. And if the UN persists in upholding such a warped ethical standard, it will thereby lose all claim to having its pronouncements on human rights taken seriously.

But the UN's decision is equally astounding on a political level - because it has effectively declared that it is unwilling to take sides between a nation that has obeyed a UN resolution to the last centimeter and an organization that is shamelessly flouting it.

Last May, Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon under the terms of UN Resolution 425. The UN itself certified that the withdrawal was complete, but Hizbullah refused to accept this decision. It announced that a small area of land under Israeli control - which had never belonged to Lebanon to begin with, according to both the UN and all existing international maps - was in fact occupied Lebanese territory, and therefore a just pretext for continued guerrilla warfare against Israel. It was in this area, known as the Shaba Farms, that the kidnapping took place.

To this day, the UN's official position remains that Israel has withdrawn fully from Lebanon, and that Hizbullah's territorial claim is baseless. Yet by saying that Hizbullah's dispute with Israel is one in which it cannot take sides, the organization sends the opposite message - it implies that both parties have equally valid claims. Otherwise, why would the UN not openly term Hizbullah the aggressor? The statement that it cannot "take sides" between Israel and Hizbullah is thus equivalent to a declaration that the UN is unwilling to uphold its own decision regarding where the international border lies.

The Barak government, which executed the Lebanon withdrawal, believed that, by complying with the UN's decision, it would garner international support for efforts to protect Israel's northern border thereafter. In fact, the withdrawal has proved unsuccessful in this regard. Over the last year, Israeli responses to Hizbullah attacks have elicited every bit as much criticism as they did before the pullback, even though Israel is now defending an internationally recognized border rather than its internationally unrecognized presence in south Lebanon.

But even the most gloomy opponents of the pullout - most of whom correctly predicted that international goodwill would prove short-lived - never dreamed that the UN would go so far as to aid and abet renewed Hizbullah attacks by protecting the identities of the perpetrators. If this is the reward for obeying a UN resolution, why would any country ever bother to do so?

But the UN's blatant partisanship on this issue might yet do some good. For the last nine months, the Palestinians have repeatedly requested the dispatch of UN observers to the territories, and Israel's adamant refusal has elicited considerable criticism. Though evidence of UN bias against Israel has hardly been lacking in the past, it seems that much of the world has never fully grasped the extent of this bias and was thus unable to understand Israel's insistence that UN observers could never be considered impartial.

The UN's behavior in the videotape affair, however, ought to make this bias clear even to the most skeptical observer. If it is unwilling to side with Israel even against kidnappers who violated an international border set by the UN itself, it is hard to imagine any circumstances under which this organization would take Israel's side. And it is certainly not possible to believe that such an organization could ever be an impartial monitor where Israel is concerned.

©2001 - Jerusalem Post

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