Ban Ki-Moon 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
On Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that he was "very concerned" about Israel's decision to designate Gaza as an enemy entity and, in consequence, to reserve the right to deny services, such as electricity, to Gaza. "There are 1.4 million people in Gaza, including the old, the young and the sick, who are already suffering from the impact of prolonged closure. They should not be punished for the unacceptable actions of militants and extremists. I call for Israel to reconsider this decision," Ban's statement continued.
As a sort of afterthought that was ignored by most of the media, the statement concluded, "The continued indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza into Israel is unacceptable and I deplore it. I call for it to stop immediately. I understand Israel's security concerns over this matter."
Well, actually, he does not. If the UN "understood" Israel's concerns, it would have condemned what Ban correctly calls "indiscriminate rocket fire" immediately, formally, and consistently - not just as an addendum to a condemnation of Israel.
On a number of levels, the UN has lost its standing to comment on the legality of Israeli actions. No nation or organization that ignores the deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians has the right to comment on Israeli responses. To condemn Israel's response while remaining essentially silent on the blatantly illegal, terrorist attacks that precipitated that response is a resounding miscarriage of justice, legality and common sense. That such a pattern has long ago become standard makes it no less obscene.
International law becomes worse than meaningless if it is interpreted as a form of suicide pact. To question the legality of Israel considering steps that, along with punishing the Hamas regime, would harm innocent Palestinians is fair enough. But such critics must answer a simple question: How should Israel legally respond to the indiscriminate rocketing of her citizens?
When Israel contemplates sanctioning the electricity supply to Gaza, this is called "collective punishment." But when Israel employs targeted killings against terrorists individually, this too is often criticized.
We also doubt that those condemning Israel would advocate the retaking of parts of Gaza, from where most of the rockets are fired. They would also naturally be opposed to an extensive military operation that would inevitably result in the deaths, along with many terrorists, of civilians caught in the cross fire - not to mention Israeli soldiers.
Exasperated, these critics might respond, "Well, why don't you get out of Gaza?" But of course, we did that, precisely on the rationale that surely the Palestinians would not attack us from territory we had left, thereby jeopardizing, rather than encouraging future withdrawals. And surely, if despite expectations, the Palestinians were to attack us from Gaza, the world would stand squarely behind any response to such perfidy.
The failure to back Israel now, therefore, serves to dissuade Israelis from taking the very "risks for peace" that are constantly urged upon us. Why should Israel heed such voices when doing so both backfires directly and results in even less support from supposed friends?
The UN's lack of standing with respect to this conflict goes much deeper, however. At this moment, preparations for a "Durban II" conference, under official UN and European auspices, continue apace. Like its predecessor in 2001, organized with the tender support of such human rights experts as Libya and Iran, this would mark a reversion to the "old UN" of the repealed "Zionism is racism" resolution.
Overall, the new secretary-general seems to possess a much appreciated greater understanding of Israel's situation, but it is difficult to discern how this has been reflected in a change in the UN's actions. If Ban does not have the power or inclination to pull the plug on a conference that foments hatred and racism and harms the prospects for peace, then the unavoidable conclusion is that the UN, on this issue, is harmful and irredeemable.
The UN should cancel "Durban II." In addition, if the UN is serious about its humanitarian concern for the Palestinians, not to mention Israelis, it should dramatically ramp up its criticism of Palestinian terrorism against Israel. If the UN Security Council not only forcefully condemned such illegal attacks, but imposed concrete diplomatic sanctions against Hamas's rogue regime, this could help deter such attacks and reduce the need for Israeli responses, military or otherwise.
Absent such action, it is the UN, not Israel, which should be criticized for contributing to humanitarian suffering and harming the cause of peace.