International Holocaust Memorial Day takes place this week. In 2006, the United Nations recognized January 27 – the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz – as the day for the international community to mark the Holocaust and remember its victims, primarily the 6 million Jews killed during the worst anti-Semitic massacre in history.
This past weekend, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon spoke at a synagogue in New York city, in the presence of various Ambassadors from around the world, during Shabbat services. He used the occasion to state that “We can never tolerate anybody who denies the Holocaust,” calling it “the darkest chapter in history.”
It is commendable that an organization like the United Nations has finally recognized the Holocaust for what it was, and set aside a day for international remembrance of the world’s worst international crime. The fact that a representative of Germany was present in the synagogue for the observance speaks volumes to how far the world has come since the unspeakable horrors foisted on the world by a single-minded dictator who was driven solely by his all-consuming hatred of the Jews.
But as I read Ban’s comments following the event, I couldn’t help but think that his words are more posturing than substance.
The United Nations was founded out of the ashes of the Second World War as a forum for mutual diplomacy and cooperation, in the hope that it would prevent any future outbreak of such large-scale violence or hatred. The idea that all countries of the world could now come together on an equal footing, in an effort to both solve their disputes diplomatically and foster programs and efforts to prevent further deterioration among the world’s populations, was admirable both for its vision and for the herculean effort it took to put it into action.
But while vision is a wonderful thing, fulfilling that vision is quite another. At almost no time since the UN was created has there been a day without a single war being fought somewhere in the world. And while these wars have largely been contained, the role of the UN has become increasingly selective in managing and mediating conflicts. Often, the UN’s involvement serves only to further exacerbate tensions and points of conflict. Take the Middle East for example.
Since 1973, the United Nations has passed more resolutions condemning Israel for every imaginable and conceived infraction, while virtually ignoring real problems such as the Rwandan Genocide, the conflict in Darfur, the anarchy in Sudan, renewed seaborne piracy, and large scale terrorism. The in-built Muslim and Arab bloc in the United Nations virtually ensures that Israel comes in for censure and condemnation that is unprecedented in its level of disproportionality and that relies more on empty rhetoric than on plain facts.
The situation that the United Nations has had a large role in causing in the Middle East is one that virtually precludes peace from ever becoming a viable reality in the region. Those perpetuating the conflict – Palestinian terrorists and intransigent Arab nations – have never been censured by the United Nations, while Israel comes under unceasing and merciless attack in the halls that are meant to ensure a balanced approach to international diplomacy. In fact, had it not been for the countless vetoes cast by the United States in the UN Security Council, I believe that Israel would have been voted out of existence decades ago.
But perhaps the most egregious indication that Ban was engaging in double-speak last weekend is the annual farce that takes place at the UN General Assembly every September when Iranian tyrant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is given the podium from which to spew his anti-Semitic venom. In speeches that call to mind the “best” oratory of Adolf Hitler, Ahmadinejad has used the UN podium to deny that the Holocaust ever happened, to threaten to “wipe Israel off the map”, and to thumb his nose not only at western powers, but at the UN itself as he leads his country ever closer to obtaining the nuclear weapons he will need to do just that.
For Ban to now come and say that “we can never tolerate anybody who denies the Holocaust,” does not pass the “straight face test”. After looking at the speeches he has allowed from the UN podium, one cannot but grimace in pain at such world-class duplicity.