Politics & Policy

Who’s Dissin’ Whom

There's a disproportionate response all right.

As Israel fights to defend itself against the Iranian-and-Syrian-backed terrorists of Hezbollah, are we really seeing a reckless, damaging and — yes — disproportionate response?

You bet. But not from Israel. It’s coming from the U.N.

#ad#Hezbollah deliberately provoked this war on July 12 by kidnapping Israeli soldiers inside Israel’s borders, and has been launching rockets into Israel from a massive arsenal that under U.N. writ Hezbollah is not even supposed to possess. That was not the deal under which Israel, in keeping with U.N. wishes, withdrew entirely from southern Lebanon in 2000. The U.N. promise was that Hezbollah would be defanged and that U.N. peacekeepers would help the Lebanese government reestablish control over Hezbollah-infested terrain inside Lebanon.

Over the past six years, Israel honored its commitment to peace. The U.N. — disproportionately — required in practice no such compliance on the Lebanese side of the border. The “peacekeepers” of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, called UNIFIL, sat passively looking on, costing about $100 million a year and doing nothing to stop Hezbollah from trucking in weapons, digging tunnels, and running the armed protection rackets with which it has kept a grip on swathes of Lebanon, including the southern border with Israel, parts of the Bekaa, and southern Beirut. Before the current fighting, UNIFIL had most recently distinguished itself for a run-of-the-U.N.-mill financial swindle involving a contingent of Ukrainian peacekeeping troops. On that subject, whatever laws might have been violated, the U.N. has — as usual with U.N. scams — refused to release details. Now, UNIFIL peacekeepers have been reduced to casualties of the crossfire, while Secretary-General Kofi Annan urges that we take what the U.N. has done wrong already, and do more of it.

With its false promises, and disproportionate deals for “peace,” the U.N. left Israel exposed to the attack that has now come, and a war that Israel did not seek. Like America when attacked by al Qaeda, Israel has been fighting back. In response, U.N. officials have come close to trampling each other in their stampede to the media microphones — not to admit the U.N.’s own failure to stop Hezbollah, not to apologize for administering a phony peace that incubated this miserable war, but to denounce Israel.

These latest exercises in disproportion begin, of course, with U.N. officials ritually condemning all parties. With that sleight of hand, they conjure the baseline U.N. fallacy known as moral equivalence. In that U.N. scheme of the universe, a democratic society that is attacked while honoring U.N. agreements is treated as no different from its death-cult rule-violating terrorist attackers. But — and here we get to the U.N.’s real dark arts — having set up that bizarre equation, U.N. officials then proceed with their “proportionate” calculus, lavishing their further innuendos, sly criticisms, or, in some cases, outright denunciations on Israel. These comments — biased or even inane though some of them are — echo especially loud in the so-called international community because they come from officials flashing a U.N. badge.

Thus did we get last week’s Pollyanna platitudes from U.N. Deputy-Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown, who on the subject of this Hezbollah-propelled war opined that “military solutions” — an apparent allusion to Israel — are not the answer. “The basic point,” said Malloch Brown, is that “saving or losing a life is a very simple business”

Perhaps that is how the world looks from the tree-shaded lawns of the George Soros estate, where Malloch Brown rents a $10,000 per month home. But the saving of lives is anything but simple in the face of a Lebanese landscape infested with Hezbollah terrorists using Lebanese civilians — innocent or otherwise — as shields to launch death-dealing attacks on Israel. It is even less simple when you consider that Hezbollah has for years been on the receiving end of a Syrian-Iranian Ho Chi Minh trail of money and munitions which the U.N. — despite its resolutions and resources devoted in theory to “peace” — has done nothing in practice to block. And it all gets most terrifyingly un-simple when you take into account that Hezbollah, which among its assorted brutalities has killed more Americans than any terrorist group except al Qaeda, is the Lebanon-based arm of a nuclear-bomb-seeking Iran, which the U.N. has also failed to stop, and whose president has vowed to annihilate Israel. At the very least, one has to wonder if Malloch Brown would take the same Bambi-eyed view were Hezbollah rocketing his local tennis courts.

Following the words of Malloch Brown, we have been treated over the past week to Secretary-General Kofi Annan condemning Israel for “excessive use of force,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour hinting darkly about “war crimes,” and the accusations this past weekend of U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Jan Egeland about “violation of humanitarian law.”

The issue here is not, in fact, what yardsticks these people are using — though that is quite problematic enough — but that they are abusing their U.N. positions by making these selective, ad hoc accusations against Israel in the first place. These folks are not presidents, or prime ministers. They are U.N. civil servants. Even Kofi Annan, who fancies himself, by his own description, to be “perhaps chief diplomat of the world,” is actually under the U.N. charter mandated to be nothing more than the organization’s “chief administrative officer.” (When trying to duck the blame for the U.N. Oil-for-Food scandal, Annan was quick enough to deny not only any policy role, but even his clear administrative responsibilities).

In the case of Arbour, and her threats aimed at Israelis, Ambassador John Bolton had a very good point when he offered a reminder last weekend to the U.N. High Commissioner, as “one lawyer to another,” that “In America, prosecutors are not supposed to threaten people in public based on press accounts.”

In the case of Jan Egeland, his job is to coordinate aid, not make selective pronouncements on the fly about humanitarian law. (This is the same Jan Egeland who immediately after the 2004 tsunami took it upon himself to publicly insult U.N. member states, including the U.S. — mainstay of the bloated U.N. budget — for being “stingy”). Among other things, it was apparently lost on Egeland, when he toured the bomb damage in south Beirut last weekend, that his convoy was waved past a road block by “a Hezbollah guard dressed in black and armed with an assault rifle,” according to a Reuters report. That scene right there was a violation of everything in the U.N. book, and not by Israel — but apparently it didn’t fit his script.

There are of course some subjects on which the same senior U.N. civil servants now so vocal have been most disproportionately circumspect. I can’t recall any of them protesting in public that totalitarian, terrorist-sponsoring Syria (surely something in there is a violation of international law?) was allowed not so long ago to chair the U.N. Security Council, while democratic Israel has been chronically shunned.

And when operations of the U.N. itself have come under the spotlight in recent years, in some cases for behavior as egregious as pedophiliac rape by peacekeepers, or complicity in the kickback rackets of Saddam Hussein, Kofi Annan, and his entourage have rushed to impose the omerta in-house, while urging the rest of us to wait upon due process, refrain from rash comments, consider the larger picture — and preferably just shut up and forget about it.

If Annan and his retinue feel a desperate need during this current crisis to express themselves, perhaps they should channel it into actually delivering some of that transparency they’ve been promising in their own operations. That would be good preparation in the event the U.N. Security Council decides, say, to impose sanctions on Iran, and needs the Secretariat staff to perform with at least slightly more integrity than was displayed under the Iraq Oil-for-Food program.

Right now it is the job of the world’s more responsible political leaders not simply to deplore the horrors of war, or construct another false U.N. peace leading to even worse nightmare ahead, but to seek real answers to the miseries and menaces of the Middle East. That is a task perilous, contentious, and rough enough, without a parade of unelected and largely unaccountable U.N. civil servants using public platforms to insinuate into the process their private prejudices.

–Claudia Rosett is a journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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