The Magazine

The U.N.'s Israel Obsession

May 6, 2002, Vol. 7, No. 33 • By DAVID TELL, FOR THE EDITORS
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IN 1948, when the armies of five surrounding Arab dictatorships invaded tiny, newborn Israel--in what the secretary general of the Arab League announced was a "war of extermination" against "the Jews"--the United Nations sat on its ass. And did not send a fact-finding mission.

But, oh, how the U.N. has been making up for that oversight ever since. For more than 50 years now, the Jews have been its favorite subject.

Among the nearly 200 nations represented at the U.N., only Israel has ever been assigned special--reduced--membership privileges, its ambassadors formally barred, for 53 straight years ending only recently, from election to the Security Council. Meanwhile, and right up to the present day, that same Security Council has devoted fully a third of its energy and criticism to the policies of a single country: Israel. The U.N. Commission on Human Rights, which regularly--and unreprovingly--accepts delegations from any number of homicidal tyrannies across the globe, has issued fully a quarter of its official condemnations to a single (democratic) country: Israel.

There has been a genocide in Rwanda, an ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, periodic and horrifying communal "strife" in Indonesia's East Timor, the "disappearance" of a few hundred thousand refugees in the Congo, a decades-long and culturally devastating occupation of Tibet by the People's Republic of China . . . but none of those U.N. member states has ever been subjected to the rebuke of a General Assembly "emergency special session." Israel has, though, repeatedly, simply for refusing to surrender in the face of terrorist attacks that have killed hundreds and injured thousands of its citizens--murders that no U.N. resolution has ever so much as mentioned.

No fewer than four separate administrative units within the U.N.--two of them directly supervised by Kofi Annan's governing secretariat--do nothing but spend millions of dollars annually on the production and worldwide distribution of propaganda questioning Israel's right to exist. The "Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and other Arabs of the Occupied Territories," for example, "investigates" Israel's continued "practice" of "occupying" not just the territory taken in the 1967 war, but also the land within its internationally recognized, pre-1967 borders.

And then there is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, an operation originally established in December 1949 to assist those Palestinian refugees created by the Arab world's botched attempt at a second Final Solution. UNRWA, as it happens, is centrally relevant to its parent organization's latest outburst of naked Israelophobia. Because UNRWA wholly funds and largely administers the West Bank refugee camp in Jenin where the Israeli army is purported--by various Palestinian militants and local U.N. officials--to have just perpetrated a "massacre" of "unarmed civilians." It is to the site of this alleged "atrocity" that Kofi Annan now intends to dispatch a commission of inquiry chaired by Yasser Arafat's favorite European diplomat, former president Martti Ahtisaari of Finland, and seconded by Cornelio Sommaruga, retired chief of the International Red Cross, a man who once likened the Star of David to a swastika.

All by themselves, Annan's personnel choices here are a genuine scandal, and as this issue of The Weekly Standard goes to press, Israel's understandable objections, to Sommaruga in particular, have left it a still open question when and whether the secretary general's designees will ever be allowed to reach their destination. And if, at the end of the day, they aren't? That will be perfect justice, we think. The "world community" will howl, of course, and Israel's many enemies will believe the worst. But they believe the worst already. And they will continue to believe the worst no matter what. And, quite apart from the controversy over what its staff should look like, the whole idea of a U.N. fact-finding mission to Jenin is scandalous to begin with, it seems to us--an assault on Israel's honor, even its basic legitimacy as an independent nation, that no similarly situated democracy would ever be expected to endure.