The big speech last week was, of course, the one given before Congress by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was a forceful performance. Nancy Pelosi said that she was so dismayed by both the style and the substance of the prime minister’s speech that she was nearly reduced to tears.
Ms. Pelosi had managed to hold it together in the presence of Syrian dictator and killer Bashar al-Assad back when she was speaker of the House and led a delegation on a trip to Damascus where she shook hands with Assad and, as the Wall Street Journal reported, pronounced herself “very pleased with the assurances we received from [Mr. Assad] that he was ready to resume the peace process.”
After his speech, Netanyahu would return to Israel to face the judgment of his countrymen in an election. Mr. Assad, meanwhile, would continue killing his citizens, sometimes with poisonous gas in spite of warnings about how the civilized nations of the world would not tolerate this.
Which stimulates thoughts about another speech, given in Washington last week. U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, addressed the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Ms. Power was a controversial choice. She had said some pretty disparaging things about Israel in the past and, at one point, virtually advocated sending in American troops to enforce some sort of solution to the Palestinian issue. One that Israel would accept only at the point of American guns.
It was also a show of disrespect to AIPAC and Israel that someone more senior and with more political horsepower was not the speaker representing the administration. A cabinet member at least, if not the president or vice president. “Ambassador to the United Nations” is a title that doesn’t really stir the blood the way it once did when, say, Eleanor Roosevelt held down the job. Or Adlai Stevenson. Or Patrick Moynihan, during whose time on the job, the United Nations passed the infamous resolution declaring an equivalence between Zionism and racism. Or, following Moynihan, Jeane Kirkpatrick.
And it is now impossible to take the UN seriously.
But, then, it was always hard to take seriously such things as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. A lot of hard thought and careful composition went into the drafting of this document. But one wonders if even the people who wrote it – including Ms. Roosevelt – really believed such stuff as Article 24 which states that:
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
The people ruled by Nancy Pelosi’s pal Assad would doubtless pass up the paid holidays in return for not being gassed by their government or blown to bits by the barrel bombs its air force drops on them from helicopters.
The United Nations was created in the aftermath of World War Two, which its predecessor organization, the League of Nations, had been powerless to prevent. The League was so feeble that it was unable to stop Mussolini’s Italy from gassing Ethiopians, even after Emperor Haile Selassie spoke movingly about the plight of his people before the League, in Geneva, and begged for it to do something. The speech may have made some people cry but it did not stop Mussolini, and the ineffectual League folded like wet cardboard.
Sixty million dead later, came the United Nations and it would be different. For one thing, the United States would be a member, as it had not been with the League. And the UN would not be pushed around, the way the League had been.
It was sentimental nonsense to believe that the UN would be able to prevent the big boys from fighting if that is what they were determined to do. It had no army or navy. But it had a certain moral force and it could provide a vehicle for collective action when smaller nations needed to be smacked down or restrained. If, for instance, the Italians were to start killing Ethiopians with gas, again. The principle was that an attack on any one member nation would be treated as an attack on all.
But … the UN became what it has become. A place where third-rate tyrannies are represented on its Commission on Human Rights whose first chairperson was once … Eleanor Roosevelt. Today, the Commission – with members like Cuba, Libya, and Sudan in the saddle –drafts and passes resolutions condemning Israel more or less routinely and then goes out for a nice lunch.