By Anne Bayefsky
The 20th century job description of the United Nations was “to maintain international peace and security” based on “the sovereign equality of all its members,” and to do “nothing [to] impair the inherent right of self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a member of the UN.”
In accordance with this pathology, UN actors manufacture a cycle of violence that begins with Israeli aggression; assert a moral equivalence between Arab terrorists and their Israeli victims; and concoct a litany of Israeli human rights abuses. They conclude that Israeli actions in self-defense are crimes, and Israel’s enemies are understandably, if a tad too fervently, protecting human rights.
Ceasefires are just opportunities to shift gears from alleging crimes to demanding punishments.
The events of the past week have been a textbook demonstration of this toxic formula.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued a “situation report” on July 9, 2014. It provides a “background on the crisis” that states: “the latest escalation round started on 11 June when Israeli forces targeted and killed an alleged member of an armed group, along with a child accompanying him, and Palestinian factions responded by shooting rockets at southern Israel.”
OCHA could have started with something else that occurred on June 11, 2014 – a rocket sent from Gaza that narrowly missed a main artery in southern Israel. Or the UN body might have started with the rocket attacks perpetrated by the targeted Hamas operative himself, such as the rocket shot at Sderot on April 21, 2014. Or it could have chosen any of the other 200 rockets fired into Israel in the first six months of 2014.
Alternatively, a “background on the crisis” could have begun at the beginning, with uninterrupted violent Arab rejection of a Jewish state from the moment of Israel’s creation.
Instead, the UN body chose the routine of “it all started when he hit me back.”
Next on the bandwagon came Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Pillay is responsible for hatching the infamous Goldstone inquiry, together with the UN Human Rights Council, at a special Council session in January 2009. Goldstone’s report claimed Israel was deliberately targeting Palestinian civilians, as opposed to defending itself from 8,000 rocket and mortar attacks launched from Gaza over eight years. Though Goldstone himself later retracted the slanderous charge, Pillay remained an enthusiastic supporter.
Evidently, Pillay has been hoping to repeat history. On July 3, 2014, Pillay told journalists in Vienna “I utterly condemn these rocket attacks and more especially I condemn Israel’s excessive acts of retaliation.” Then, on July 11, 2014 Pillay expressed “serious doubt about whether the Israeli strikes have been in accordance with international law” and called for an “independent” investigation.
Right on cue, on July 11, 2014 the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) called for a special meeting of the UN Human Rights Council “to investigate Israel’s crimes.”
And then there’s UNRWA, the UN Palestinian refugee agency. Director of Gaza Operations, Robert Turner, said on July 10, 2014 that he both “condemned indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza…and the use of force by Israeli security forces on Gaza that cause civilian casualties in violation of international humanitarian law.” On July 14, 2014 UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl went even further, stating in a press briefing: “I urgently call on the Israeli Security Forces to put an end to attacks against, or endangering, civilians…”
The allegation that Israel is targeting or attacking civilians is a vile and incendiary falsehood.
In addition, the Geneva Conventions on the laws of war do not outlaw “an attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life.” The test is one of proportionality between the loss of civilian life or injury expected and “the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.” The application of this rule requires tangible facts of no interest to UN choreographers.
International law does, however, outlaw the use of human beings “in attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favor or impede military operations.” The cause of a human shield’s death is the person using the shield – just as the cause of the death of a hostage shot by police in the course of a kidnapping is the kidnapper – not the police.
Ironically, the July 9, 2014 OCHA report confirms that Palestinian civilians are serving as human shields, for it asserts both that civilians casualties have mainly occurred during the destruction of residential properties and that “prior to the attacks residents have been warned to leave.”
Also jumping onboard was UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, playing a similar blame game. In a statement released on July 8, 2014, he said he “is extremely concerned” about the “multiple Palestinian deaths and injuries as a result of Israeli operations in Gaza.”
In Israel’s case, the Secretary-General could find no moral daylight between a terrorist organization and a democratic society. At a briefing to the Security Council on July 10, 2014, he said there were “cycles of violence,” and “attacks on both sides.” In his view, “Palestinian civilians are caught between Hamas’s irresponsibility and Israel’s tough response.”
Terrorism is not “irresponsibility” – it’s evil. The Hamas Charter says: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it.” Palestinian civilians are hooked on a Palestinian government committed to genocide and acting to fulfill its stated mission. And yes, the intended victim is not prepared to go gently into the night.
At the top of the UN heap came the Security Council, which hurriedly convened on July 10 and 12, 2014 at the request of the Palestinians, the Arab League, the OIC, and the Non-Aligned Movement (now headed by Iran).
During the July 10, 2014 session Palestinian representative Riyad Mansour demonstrated the very intolerance at the root of the Arab-Israeli conflict. He told the Council Israel was “racist, aggressive, expansionist, lack[ing] respect for the sanctity of life,” a “so-called democracy,” “ruthless,” “insane,” and “inhumane.” For good measure, he added: “we reject the claims of self-defense by Israel.”
Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor asked the Council to condemn Hamas, terrorism and the rocket fire, to call on Abbas to dissolve the unity government, and support Israel’s right to defend itself. Mansour demanded that the Council call for “an immediate ceasefire” – that is, time for Palestinians to regroup and rearm for the next round of terrorist attacks.
In a mere two days, the Palestinians won on all counts.
On July 12, 2014 the Security Council issued a unanimous “press statement” calling for a ceasefire and making no mention of rockets, or terrorism, or Hamas, or Israel’s right of self-defense. The Security Council press statement equates Israel with a terrorist organization by pointing to an all-round failure to protect “civilians on both sides.”
Most disturbing was that the press statement would not have been issued without American approval. This means that President Obama decided rapidly to add his weight to the mountain of UN invective.
It also means Israel’s ceasefire calculus – while Hamas is still dangerously operational – had to include the possibility that President Obama would not veto a harmful Security Council resolution with more binding authority.
When the people of Israel exercise their inherent right of self-defense, they are forced to withstand an additional onslaught from today’s morally bankrupt United Nations.
That mob should not include the President of the United States.
The author is Director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust. Follow @AnneBayefsky