In a rare New York Times op-ed, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon scolded Israel on Monday for its criticism of his comments last week that Jerusalem interpreted as giving a tailwind to terrorism, chiding Israel for “lashing out” at “well-intentioned” critics.
In the op-ed headlined “Don’t Shoot the Messenger, Israel,” Ban defended what he said was the simple truth that he pointed out in the UN last week, that “history proves that people will always resist occupation.”
Last week, at the monthly Security Council debate on the Middle East, Ban condemned “stabbings, vehicle attacks, and shootings by Palestinians targeting Israeli civilians.”
Then he went on, 105 words later, and said: “As oppressed peoples have demonstrated throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism.”
That comment irked Jerusalem, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately shot back, saying: “The secretary-general’s remarks provide a tailwind for terrorism.
There is no justification for terrorism. Those Palestinians who murder do not want to build a state, they want to destroy a state and they say this openly.”
Netanyahu added, “The United Nations long ago lost its neutrality and its moral force, and the secretary-general’s remarks do not improve its standing.”
Without mentioning Netanyahu by name, it was clear whom Ban was referring to in his op-ed piece when he wrote, “Some sought to shoot the messenger – twisting my words into a misguided justification for violence.”
After stating that “nothing excuses terrorism,” and that he condemns it categorically, he wrote that ignoring “Palestinian frustration and grievances” born of “nearly a half-century of occupation” will not disappear just by ignoring it.
“No one can deny that the everyday reality of occupation provokes anger and despair, which are major drivers of violence and extremism and undermine any hope of a negotiated two-state solution,” he wrote.
He then slammed the government’s settlement policy, said thousands of Palestinian homes risk demolition, called on Israel to change its policy toward Area C, and to strengthen the Palestinian Authority.
“I will always stand up to those who challenge Israel’s right to exist, just as I will always defend the right of Palestinians to have a state of their own,” he wrote.
“That is why I am so concerned that we are reaching a point of no return for the two-state solution. And I am disturbed by statements from senior members of Israel’s government that the aim should be abandoned altogether.
“Criticism of the United Nations – or attacks against me – come with the territory.
But when heartfelt concerns about shortsighted or morally damaging policies emanate from so many sources, including Israel’s closest friends, it cannot be sustainable to keep lashing out at every well-intentioned critic.”
The finger-pointing at Netanyahu and his government and the specificity of the criticism in this piece are unprecedented.
Ban’s website lists 85 op-eds he has written since becoming secretary general in 2007 for various newspapers and websites around the world – five of which were in The New York Times – and not one of them has the finger-wagging tone toward a specific government that Ban used in his Monday piece.
Of those 85 pieces, there is not one devoted to the scourge of terrorism, or to Iran, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Venezuela or Armenia’s occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh.
In 2010 he wrote a piece for the United Arab Emirates Khaleej Times about Cyprus, but it was very diplomatic and did not apportion blame in that conflict or prescribe a solution.
Of the 85 pieces, 15 were written about climate control, 11 about global economic issues, and 10 generic pieces about the UN. He has now penned four on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – more than any other conflict on the planet.
He wrote one piece on Syria – in 2014 – for the Huffington Post, bewailing the horrible situation there and saying that UN has tried hard to address that conflict’s deep roots. He set forth six points for moving forward, but was careful not to blame any one side, though he did call for an end of support for Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra.
He didn’t mention Syrian President Bashar Assad in that piece. He did mention him, however, in his first op-ed as secretary-general, written for Newsweek in June 2007.
“I have visited the Middle East four times in as many months, including several meetings and telephone calls with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, most recently in Damascus. Here, too, my aim is to build a relationship – one that might help moderate events in Lebanon and, ultimately, return Syria more fully into the international community” While the Prime Minister’s Office was not interested in responding to Ban’s op-ed, Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon issued a statement saying that “the Palestinian incitement machine produces terror, and the Secretary- General’s statements legitimize terror.”
Referring to the murder last month in Otniel of Dafna Meir, Danon said there “is no excuse to murdering a woman in her home in front of her children,” and that Ban ignores the reality in Israel.
Instead of supporting Israel in its fight to combat terrorism, Danon said, Ban backs the Palestinian incitement to terror.
“The UN’s role is to fight against terror, and not to encourage it,” he said.