Nowhere in the charter of the United Nations is there any mandate for the U.N. to stack the deck in favor of terrorists. Yet that is exactly the effect of the current U.N. furor over conflict between Israel and the terrorists who control Gaza.
When terrorists in Hamas-run Gaza busied themselves in recent years launching well over 2,000 rocket and mortar attacks on Israel, including hundreds of attacks in recent months, the U.N. shrugged it off as business as usual. That’s not to say that the U.N. ignored the attacks entirely. As the bombardments went on, and on, a few U.N. officials did occasionally call for them to stop. But these statements were invariably coupled with calls for Israel to practice “restraint,” or, as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon put it last week, “maximum restraint.” Under the circumstances, this amounts to a demand that Israel refrain from defending itself.
That might make sense were the U.N. itself devoted to protecting Israel by genuinely rolling up terrorists in Gaza. But the U.N. offers no such service. On the contrary, lacking even an official definition of terrorism, the U.N. works alongside the Palestinian terrorist groups that infest Gaza, especially Hamas, which controls the enclave and is dedicated in its charter to Israel’s destruction. The U.N. has made an entire sub-industry out of subsidizing Gaza, serving as a conduit for Western tax dollars to bankroll a wide array of social services. That helps free up Gaza’s terrorist overlords, backed by Iran, to focus their energies on acquiring and using munitions to attack Israel. In recent days, these attacks have included the launching of Iranian Fajr-5 rockets, with a range that extends as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
The pattern has been that Hamas and its brethren terrorist groups in Gaza pay no heed to the U.N.’s feeble calls to desist. The job of preventing the attacks on Israel falls squarely on the Israelis. In the U.N.’s morally inverted cosmos, this sets the stage for savaging Israel, as soon as Israel acts to defend itself. Courtesy of the U.N., chalk up a gain for the terrorists.
So, when Israel finally struck back on November 14 by killing Hamas military commander Ahmed al-Jabari and targeting terrorist nests and rocket-launching sites in Gaza, the U.N. swung immediately into overdrive. In short order, Secretary-General Ban phoned Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express “concern” about “the deteriorating situation.” The U.N. Security Council held a crash meeting that same evening, in closed session, to discuss “the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.”
The U.N.’s Palestinian-refugee agency, UNRWA (the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East), headquartered in Gaza, promptly began issuing situation reports, noting in passing that the rocket attacks out of Gaza should stop, while deploring in detail Israel’s actions to stop them. From Geneva, the U.N.’s high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, pronounced herself “appalled,” and her spokesperson declared she was “following the unfolding situation in Gaza and southern Israel with considerable alarm.”
With terrorists in Gaza continuing the rocket attacks, and Israel continuing to strike back, Ban decided to ramp up U.N. efforts at intervention, releasing a statement that “I am heading to the region to appeal personally for ending the violence and contribute to ongoing efforts to that end.” By Monday, Ban had landed in Cairo, for the beginning of an emergency swing through the region.
For the sake of clarity, as U.N. declarations of dismay now flood the news, let’s replay this tape. Terrorist attacks on Israel are of no urgent concern to the U.N. But when Israel tries to defend itself by striking the terrorists, U.N. officials at the highest levels start scrambling to put a stop to what they call a deteriorating situation.
Where were all these U.N. officials while Israel was living through the bombardments that finally provoked its current response, Operation Pillar of Defense?
For months, Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., Ron Prosor, pleaded for the Security Council to at least condemn the continuing attacks out of Gaza. Prosor raised the issue in February, in March, in May, in June, in August, and in October. On November 12, two days before Israel finally killed Hamas commander Jabari, Prosor made yet another plea, writing in a letter to the president of the Security Council that “rockets are flying into Israeli communities without pause.” Noting that just the previous week, terrorists in Gaza had fired an anti-tank missile at Israeli forces, Prosor elaborated that in the previous two days, “Hamas and other terrorists in Gaza have fired more than 150 rockets into our homes, schools, and cities.” He asked the Council to condemn Hamas terrorism “now, before it is too late.” The Security Council did nothing.
As for the U.N.’s main human-rights shop, in Geneva, the terrorists of Gaza have every reason to expect its diplomatic complicity in their assault on Israel. The U.N. Human Rights Council is notorious for welcoming human-rights abusers (Pakistan and Venezuela recently won membership) and for obsessively condemning the democratic state of Israel while giving some of the world’s worst tyrannies a pass. More specifically, it was the Human Rights Council that oversaw an inquiry into Israel’s previous major operation, almost four years ago, to shut down the hail of rockets from Gaza. That U.N. inquiry produced the now infamous Goldstone Report, a tome so biased against Israel, so damaging, and so stuffed with groundless allegations that ultimately its lead author, Richard Goldstone, in large part recanted. The U.N. Human Rights Council did not.
Just last month, the Human Rights Council dispatched its special rapporteur for the Palestinian territories, Richard Falk, to present his latest report to the U.N. General Assembly in New York. Falk, a 9/11-conspiracy theorist, called for a boycott of companies doing business with Israel. His presentation was so outrageous that U.S. ambassador Susan Rice denounced it as “irresponsible and unacceptable,” adding that Falk’s continued service as a special rapporteur “is deeply regrettable and only damages the credibility of the U.N.”
Much the same could be said of the tenor of the General Assembly itself, where the Palestinian Authority — Ramallah’s rival to Gaza’s Hamas — has found a warm welcome for its efforts to bypass its promises to seek statehood through good-faith negotiations with Israel and now proposes to upgrade its status at the U.N. by way of a General Assembly vote later this month. In the same General Assembly, well over half of the member states belong to the Non-Aligned Movement, now chaired through 2015 by the U.N.-sanctioned terrorist-sponsoring regime of Iran.
As for UNRWA — a U.N. agency based in Gaza, overseen by the General Assembly, and dedicated exclusively to Palestinian refugees — it has long been part of the problem, not part of the solution. Set up as a “temporary” agency more than 60 years ago, UNRWA survives by adding new generations of Palestinians to its refugee lists and the U.N. dole. The record suggests this has done more to incubate terrorism than to create a healthy society for the Palestinians. But for UNRWA, it has translated into lucrative business. To fund its operations, UNRWA collected $948 million last year, $239 million of that coming from the U.S., its largest donor.
With almost 30,000 Palestinians on its staff, and more than two-thirds of Gaza’s 1.7 million people on its welfare rolls, UNRWA has been highly vocal in its calls for Israel to end its blockade of Gaza. Like the rest of the U.N., UNRWA does not concern itself with how Israel might then defend itself against the terrorists who run Gaza and who manage, despite the blockade, to stuff it with weapons. This September, UNRWA watched Hamas-linked candidates sweep its staff union elections, for at least the second year running — and told Fox News this was no violation of U.N. neutrality.
Into this imbroglio now comes Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Ban evidently saw no great emergency as long as Israel was complying with U.N. demands for “restraint” while enduring repeated attacks by Iranian-backed terrorists. During a visit to Gaza this past January, his third trip there in three years, Ban’s main message was his demand that Israel lift all restrictions on movements of people and goods in and out of Gaza, “completely and unconditionally.” Perhaps Ban thought he had ensured Israel’s security by adding that he “would urge particularly that people from Gaza must stop firing rockets into Israel.” Perhaps it’s time to consider whether peace between Gaza and Israel would have a better chance if the U.N. exercised some restraint of its own and simply bowed out.
— Claudia Rosett is a journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and heads its Investigative Reporting Project.