Danny Danon, our new UN ambassador, will have a lot to do before he takes his seat at the General Assembly. He will have to be briefed by the Foreign Ministry about his responsibilities and authority, and the chain of command. He will have to learn UN protocol and procedures, meet the permanent staff in his delegation and choose new staff members.
He will have to move into the ambassador’s residence, learn how it runs, how receptions and events are planned. He will have to meet with the Israeli officials in New York and Washington and with UN officials from the secretary-general on down.
All this is not easy, and since Danny Danon is an ambitious man and would like to hit the ground running, I have drafted his first speech before the plenum. I cannot compel him to use it, of course, but it would be good if he did: MR. PRESIDENT, eminent colleagues. I address you for the first time with humility and with great respect for the knowledge, skill and experience present in this august body.
The United Nations was established to prevent the scourge of war, to promote human rights and the dignity of man, to insure justice according to international law and to promote social progress.
It was meant to be proactive – to prevent, to promote, to insure. But none of this has happened.
For many years now, we have seen how the UN reacts to wars and injustice after the fact, if at all. It does not prevent them. It talks about some of them – very selectively. Typically it does nothing, busying itself like a social fraternity on whatever catches its fancy, and expressing its opinions by a show of hands based on alliances of predetermined predilection and ephemeral, narrow interests.
The 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict – Operation Protective Edge – was a terribly costly conflict in which 2,365 individuals were killed. Each of those individuals is a universe and world unto himself/herself – this is what Judaism teaches.
Fifty percent of these casualties were innocent civilians, although Palestinian propaganda inflates this to 75%. Almost 11,000 human beings were wounded, most of whose lives will be painful and distorted forever, with dreams abandoned and simple pleasures unattainable.
In 2014, the year of the last Israel-Gaza conflict, there were more than 167,000 war casualties around the world – the vast majority of whom were innocent civilians. The countries whose people were killed, in order of the magnitude of the casualties, were: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Mexico, South Sudan, Pakistan, Sudan, Ukraine, Somali, Central African Republic and Libya. The Israel-Gaza losses rank 13th out of the 16 world conflicts. The tragic losses in the Israel- Gaza conflict were less than 1.4% of the losses throughout the world.
This body and its subsidiary agencies have devoted over 90% of their time to discussing and condemning 1% of the world’s war tragedies.
Why? But this is not the issue I wish to address today.
Many of you have urged and pressured Israel to allow products into Gaza to allow for reconstruction of damaged and destroyed buildings and infrastructure. Egypt, which also borders Gaza and which exercised sovereignty over Gaza before 1967 without UN condemnation, again seems to have escaped your notice.
Israel has acquiesced to your urgings. The materials now allowed in to Gaza include cement, gravel and steel.
Israel has consistently argued that the Hamas terrorist regime in Gaza would divert these materials from reconstruction of civilian housing to reconstruction of military installations and tunnels.
As we meet here today, this is precisely what is happening. Hamas is digging tunnels designed to cross into Israel and is rebuilding its missile emplacements in the midst of the civilian population centers.
The strategy is not new – it is tried and tested.
Fire rockets from civilian locations at Israeli civilians so that Israel’s inevitable defensive responses will cause the death of civilians. This will prompt the world and, most prominently, this body and its subsidiary agencies to condemn the death of innocent civilians at the hands of the Israeli military.
I ask that we pause a moment to consider this strategy and its effects. Israeli civilian deaths in the 2014 Gaza war were limited despite the unremitting barrage of missiles aimed at its population centers. This was because Israel, together with its US ally, invested many billions of dollars to develop defenses against rockets and missiles.
Israel also invested billions of dollars in bomb shelters at schools, public buildings and in private homes. Under Israeli law, no apartment can be built without a bomb shelter and no private home can be built without a safe room. This adds tremendous cost to the price of homes which already are so prohibitive.
But the fact that few Israelis died in the Gaza war does not mean that there were no casualties.
Hamas deliberately targeted civilians with its rockets. Sixty-four percent of the population was attacked by 4,500 rockets and other missiles which came at the frequency of six per hour.
All major cities in Israel were hit. Children at schools and at kindergartens had 15 to 90 seconds to reach a shelter. Often they did not make it in time and saw and heard rockets exploding around them. Many children and adults were treated for shock; others for severe anxiety and depression. Many of these children were so traumatized that they could not sleep for many months afterwards. During the conflict, many had to live in shelters day and night.
Now I ask each and every one of you, what would your country do if its citizens were targeted so wantonly, so recklessly and so deliberately? Israel did exactly what your country would do under these circumstances.
Except that Israel took unusual care to minimize the damage to the innocent civilians who were being used so recklessly and cynically as human shields for the rocket-launchers. The Hamas commanders specialized in using sick and injured civilians for their shields, for they commanded operations from the basement under Gaza’s largest hospital. Unlike NATO in Bosnia and in Afghanistan, in marked contrast to Syria, Hezbollah, the Iranians, Islamic State and many others in the Middle East, and in contrast to Boko Haram, the Sudanese, the Maban forces in South Sudan and so many others in Africa, Israel strives to spare innocent lives.
It notifies the civilians to leave dangerous areas.
Israel calls them on their telephones to warn them of bombings. Israel drops leaflets explaining exactly which areas should be avoided. Israel drops dud bombs on rooftops to bring home to residents that they should leave immediately. All this, of course, reduces the efficacy of its attack.
But Israel cares and seeks to minimize civilian death and injury. The rest of the world, despite its pontificating against us, does not.
Now, this is the challenge for us today and I put it to you directly: Hamas is preparing for the next round. It is using the cement and gravel and steel to build tunnels into Israel. It is using the building materials that you urged us to supply to build rocket- launchers deep within civilian communities, next to schools and mosques, hospitals and homes.
The UN can stop this now. It has human rights organizations which can divert their efforts from condemning Israel to saving innocent Palestinian lives.
For I can predict with absolute certainty that if Hamas shoots rockets at our country and its citizens, we will again take defensive action. We will once again warn civilians in advance. But in the end, we will do what we must to protect our citizens from unprovoked and wanton attacks. I say to each of you: Your country would not tolerate rocket attacks and neither will mine.
And when we do this, innocent civilians – victims of Hamas – will again suffer.
You can stop this sacrifice and destruction now – in advance – and not wait until it is too late, and then invoke cynical, false and perverted incantation against the victims for protecting themselves.
The challenge is clear and uncomplicated: Act now to prevent civilian casualties or continue to be part of the problem.
If we fail to act, the UN fails in its mission to prevent war, to advance human rights, to establish justice, to promote social progress. We miss a critical opportunity to make a crucial difference, to lessen human suffering, to help mankind.
If we do not act now, every delegation will become a material accessory to the death, injury and destruction – each and every one of you. Act now to save lives rather than speaking hypocritically later. Let’s do something concrete to fulfill the UN’s sacred mission. Otherwise, we serve no useful purpose. We remain a waste of money and a mockery of enlightened world order.
Thank you to all those who have stayed to listen.The author, the founding president of the Institute for Zionist Strategies and chairman of NGO Monitor, practices law in the US and Israel