UN's Attitude Towards Israel Is Hypocrisy Run Wild
By Moshe Arens
Among world leaders, rubbing shoulders with the worst of dictators while castigating democratic Israel has become the fashion.
"This mad dog of the Middle East," as U.S. President Ronald Reagan called Muammar Gadhafi in 1986, after Libyan terrorists had bombed a Berlin discotheque frequented by American servicemen, is now shooting at his own people. This has finally aroused the concern of the UN Security Council.
That discotheque bombing was followed by the blowing up by Libyan terrorists of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988, and thereafter by the blowing up of a French airliner, UTA Flight 772, over the Sahara desert in 1989. Nevertheless, in 2008 Libya was almost unanimously elected to the UN Security Council, its representative assuming the rotating presidency. In 2010 Libya was elected a member of the UN Human Rights Council, receiving 155 votes out of a total of 192.
Throughout these years Gadhafi has regularly launched outrageous attacks against Israel, accusing it among other things of having plotted the assassination of John F. Kennedy and of being responsible for violence in Sudan. U.S. President Barack Obama's support for Israel, he insisted, stemmed from an inferiority complex over Obama's African origins.
For years, Gadhafi's Libya has been accepted as a respected member of the community of nations. He was visited in Tripoli by world leaders and feted in world capitals. The Libyan intelligence agent responsible for the Lockerbie bombing, who was convicted of murder in Britain in 2001 and sentenced to a 27-year prison sentence, was released eight years later on "compassionate grounds" and allowed to return to a royal reception in Libya.
The hypocrisy displayed by democratic countries, large and small, toward Gadhafi's Libya, now revealed in all its crudeness, is probably unequalled in the annals of modern history. It has made a laughing stock of the United Nations and the Security Council. By damaging the credibility of the United Nations and its institutions, it has seriously damaged the ability of the world's powers to utilize the UN in the management of international affairs.
The attitude toward Israel by the United Nations and many of the world's governments, the constant criticism of Israel's policies, and the threats of condemnation and sanctions represent another example of hypocrisy running wild. Rubbing shoulders with the worst of dictators while castigating democratic Israel has become the fashion. The latest motion in the Security Council to condemn Israeli settlement activity in Judea and Samaria, a motion that was vetoed by the United States, was supported by none other than the Lebanese representative, a council member in good standing, even though that country is today run by Hezbollah, a terrorist organization responsible for the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who threatens Israel with tens of thousands of rockets that he amassed with Iranian and Syrian help, deserves a place of honor next to Gadhafi. It is, in effect, his representative who now occupies a seat in the UN Security Council. It is high time to end the hypocrisy that pervades the corridors of the UN building in New York. That is the responsibility of the democratic members of the United Nations.
The hypocritically benevolent attitude taken by the world's leaders toward Gadhafi and other Arab dictators over the years has evidently not convinced the people of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain to continue to suffer under their dictatorial rule. They have had enough of these leaders, enough of oppression, corruption, poverty and squalor. That realization did not penetrate the minds of Israel's Arab Knesset members, who recently traveled to Libya to pay homage to the crazed Libyan leader. It is not possible that that visit represents the feeling of the majority of Israel's Arab citizens.
The good news is that in the demonstrations in Arab capitals there is only the occasional anti-Israel placard. The rage of the demonstrators in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya seems to be directed against their oppressors and the injustices they have suffered at their hands, and this time not against Israel. We in Israel can only hope that this Arab revolution won't be hijacked by Islamic fanatics, and that in time Israel will find itself living in a democratic neighborhood.
The Franco-Moroccan actress Rachida Khalil recently declared on a radio program in Morocco that she "dreams of seeing a democratic secular Arab country." If that is also the dream of the majority of the demonstrators, this is not only good news for the Arab world, but also for Israel.
Israel Focus A Distortion of Real Concerns
By Colin Rubenstein
2 March, 2011
It might surprise some to realise that even Gazans - frequently typecast as the greatest victims of Israeli 'oppression' - have a lower infant mortality rate than Libyans, a higher life expectancy and standard of living than Egyptians, and higher literacy levels than Bahrain.
The authoritarian governments in these three - and other - Arab countries ensure their tightly-controlled media not only blame Israel for all their problems, but also fabricate lies about the Palestinian situation. Surprisingly, some Western academics and commentators - who should know better - routinely recycle these arguments, rather than looking at the empirical evidence.
Despite the media distortions in the region, the "Arab Street" is often cited by Western pundits as an indicator of what the "Arab World" is thinking - namely, that Israel is the source of their woes, and that Middle East peace, freedom and prosperity is dependent on a satisfactory Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement.
This illogic has long been adopted by the UN, which routinely ignores Arab dictators killing their own or other subjects, and instead focuses "like a laser" on Israel. Resolution after resolution in all the UN bodies - the Security Council, the Human Rights Council, the General Assembly and others - condemn the slightest perceived Israeli transgression. Meanwhile, Arab dictatorships trampling on human, religious, sexual and women's rights is a non-issue.
Thus Libya, which has recently been cruelly mowing down its own people by the hundreds using military aircraft, has a seat on the Human Rights Council. So does Bahrain, which has also been shooting unarmed civilians.
Believe it or not, as Middle Eastern streets are running red with the blood of repressed subjects, the UN Security Council's focus was on a resolution condemning Israel and its settlements, which America (somewhat reluctantly) vetoed.
After more than six weeks of ignoring all the Mideast regional turmoil, the Security Council only deigned to begin debating the Libya situation last Wednesday.
After first releasing a toothless statement of "grave concern", the Council finally agreed on the weekend to adopt some belated and weak sanctions against arms sales to Libya, and called for a freeze on some regime funds and for an investigation of it for crimes against humanity.
But this is a regime which has been routinely rated for decades as among the worst in the world on human rights. Why did it take the massive bloodshed of recent weeks to embarrass the UN, belatedly, to even look at its behaviour or tell people to stop selling this regime arms to use repressing its own people?
Meanwhile, some commentators are outraged not at this UN history of indifference to the oppressed Libyan people, but that America should be opposing "Arab opinion" in voting against the anti-Israel resolution.
These commentators don't seem to realise that one-sided resolutions, pre-empting real negotiations, are dead-end strategies. As US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice explained, "every potential action, including action in the Security Council, has to be measured against one test, and that's whether it will move the parties closer to negotiations and agreement or take them further apart. And our judgement was that this resolution would not have advanced the goal... On the contrary, it would have hardened the positions of one or both sides."
Indeed. For as long as Palestinians receive one-sided international gestures - such as this Security Council resolution - without first needing to make moves toward peace, they will feel disinclined to return to the negotiating table, much less begin preparing their people for the concessions every sensible analyst and many Palestinian negotiators privately concede are needed for a lasting peace deal.
As for Israel, constant hostility at the UN and international rewards for bombastic Palestinian behaviour only undermines any hope in Jerusalem that, if it does take required security risks but Palestinian groups exploit this, the world will help provide necessary support for Israel.
It's worth remembering that the international community made this promise to Israel during the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian peace process. But Palestinian terrorism actually increased steadily after the signing of the agreement and on through the next decade. Still, Israel undertook withdrawals from the West Bank, and then Gaza, and PMs Barak and Olmert made serious offers of Palestinian statehood. Yet UN condemnations of Israel only increased!
It wasn't always like this. After the 1967 war, the UN did try to promote peace between Israel and its neighbours. But in 1973, the Arab states deployed the oil weapon, punishing states that voted with Israel with higher oil prices. Overnight, most countries started voting against Israel - the automatic anti-Israel majority at the UN has been cast in stone ever since. (Proudly, Australia remains in this principled minority.)
Today, for the first time in decades, the Arab Street is bravely speaking for itself. What the Street is bellowing with impressive clarity and courage is 'down with the dictator', not 'down with Israel'. Arabs and Iranians want democracy, their human rights and some economic and social equity. The UN should be supporting these demands, by unleashing a range of practical measures against these Middle East dictators. Instead it continues to cravenly focus almost all of its condemnation on the only Middle Eastern country that actually guarantees human rights for all its citizens. Sadly, the UN's appalling current performance once again displays its moral bankruptcy and political irrelevance in resolving historic conflicts and advancing human rights.
* * * * * * *
This article first appeared in the Canberra Times on March 1, 2011.
Dr. Colin Rubenstein is executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council and former lecturer in Middle East politics at Monash University.