When Hypocrisy Enters The Danger Zone

Editorial, The Australian July 28, 2004

IF you’re Jewish, the UN’s anti-Israel bias has always been a health hazard. Now it’s also proving to be rather life-threatening for the rest of us. The UN was set up, under Article 1 of its charter, to “take collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace”. Instead, it has a long history of legitimising terrorism. It’s a sobering thought as Australia grapples with how to defend itself against recent threats from al-Qa’ida terrorists promising columns of car bombs across the nation.

Indeed, for any country contemplating self-defence against terrorists, the news from UN headquarters is grim. The International Court of Justice, a central part of the UN system, recently opined that legitimate self-defence extends only to the actions of one state against another state. That means self-defence against a non-state, such as al-Qa’ida, is not allowed under Article 51 of the UN charter.

Now, a generous soul might say the UN system is just like an old general fighting the last war. The UN emerged from the ashes of World War II and previous wars when violence was largely the preserve of nation-states. These days aggressors are non-state groups of Islamist terrorists. A less generous soul would say, regardless of the rights and wrongs of Israel’s security wall, the ICJ’s dangerously narrow opinion of self-defence is just the latest manifestation of the UN’s anti-Israel campaign. That less generous soul might say that neither the UN nor its court really want to crack down on non-state terrorism.

The UN General Assembly, which sought the anti-Israel advisory opinion from the ICJ, is influenced by a large Arab-Muslim bloc and is cheering the result — not only a slap against Israel but a definition of self-defence that amounts to judicial protection for terrorists. Israel has been at the pointy end of this kind of UN madness for years. Who can forget the UN being awarded the 2001 Nobel peace prize for its work towards “a better organised and more peaceful world”, just a month after the UN world conference against racism in Durban descended into a hate festival against Jews. The UN system works to legitimate rather than obliterate terrorism. In 2002, the UN Commission on Human Rights voted 40 to five to support the use of “all available means, including armed struggle” to achieve a Palestinian state. The resolution condemned “mass killings” of Palestinian civilians by Israelis yet said nothing about Palestinian terrorism aimed at Israeli civilians.

But then, as Anne Bayefsky from Toronto’s York University points out, UN official pronouncements are all pretty much one-way traffic against Israel. “Over the past 40 years, almost 30 per cent of the resolutions passed by the UNCHR to condemn specific states have been directed at Israel.” The UNCHR has not passed a single resolution against China, Syria, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or Zimbabwe. Last year, says Bayefsky, the wider UN bureaucracy produced 22 reports and formal notes on “conditions of Palestinians and other Arab citizens living under Israeli occupation” and the General Assembly passed 18 resolutions criticising Israel. The rest of the world attracted only four country-specific resolutions raising human rights concerns.

WHATEVER your views on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, you’d think that even the UN could agree that the death of a child is a tragedy in any language. Palestinians have pushed through General Assembly resolutions that highlight the suffering of Palestinian children during the conflict. When Israel proposed a resolution last November with the same wording but highlighting the plight of Israeli children, it was knocked back. Last December, a draft resolution on anti-Semitism — which would have been the first since the UN’s creation — was pulled in the face of Arab and Muslim objections. Alas, the UN’s silence on anti-Semitism has a long history, going back to the 1975 UN General Assembly resolution that declared Zionism is racism. No wonder delegates in Durban thought they could revive the same line. While UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is pushing for a new resolution on anti-Semitism, don’t hold your breath.

The UN’s anti-Israel cast might not matter except that it poses a serious problem in the global fight against terrorism. While the ICJ says non-state terrorists are immune from the self-defence doctrine, the new International Criminal Court doesn’t even have jurisdiction over the crime of terrorism because in the consensus-driven UN world, there is no consensus, even among Western nations, on what constitutes terrorism. After all, it was Reuters, not Al-Jazeera, that taught us that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. And let’s not forget that anti-Israel sentiment finds such a comfy home at the UN because it feels right at home even in countries such as Australia. Last week, The Sydney Morning Herald’s Margo Kingston was decrying the “fundamentalist Zionist lobby [that] controls politics and the media in the US and Australia”. While Kingston has since apologised, it was an echo of John Pilger’s post-September 11 condemnation of the “collaborative silence of the Jewish establishment”.

The Nobel peace prize committee got one thing right. Tragically, the UN is “an organisation that can hardly become more than its members permit”. On the terrorism front so far, that has meant UN-fomented terrorism and a UN-inspired definition of self-defence that prevents a country from defending itself against terrorists. At that rate, let’s hope the UN digs its own grave before it digs one for the rest of us.

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