My Word: Probing questions for the UN

I don’t think the UN has ever forgiven itself for allowing Israel to become a sovereign state more than 70 years ago.

 THE UNITED NATIONS Security Council holds a regular meeting on the situation in the Middle East, focusing on Israel in relation to the Palestinians.  (photo credit: BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)
THE UNITED NATIONS Security Council holds a regular meeting on the situation in the Middle East, focusing on Israel in relation to the Palestinians.
(photo credit: BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)

Every so often, I have the urge to write about the United Nations – at least once every three months, to be precise. That’s as often as the UN Security Council holds its mandated session on Israel. 

But the world body doesn’t restrict itself to bashing the Jewish state four times a year. In case the topic were in danger of dropping off the world radar, late last year it launched an unprecedented open-ended war-crimes probe against Israel, tasked with submitting a report twice a year, with no end in sight. Since the UN has uniquely granted the Palestinians perpetual refugee status, a status they can pass down from generation to generation, it needs in parallel to maintain Israel’s status as subject of perpetual blame. 

That the five permanent members of the Security Council include Russia and China might explain why the organization prefers to focus on Israel rather than anything closer to their own homes.

Under the circumstances, I could legitimately write about the UN’s bias and hypocrisy every week, but I prefer to save my written scorn for special occasions. This week, such an occasion presented itself. It was hard for me to remain silent after UN official Miloon Kothari said so much.

The Pillay Commission

The “UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel” was initially approved in May 2021 by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, another UN body that obsessively singles out Israel. It followed in the wake of the 11-day Operation Guardian of the Walls that started when Hamas in Gaza launched rockets, first on Jerusalem and then on much of the rest of the country. The Commission of Inquiry (or COI) is a three-member panel, none of whom could be described as being sympathetic to Israel. 

 U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay addresses the OSCE permament council in Vienna July 3, 2014. (credit: REUTERS/HEINZ-PETER BADER) U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay addresses the OSCE permament council in Vienna July 3, 2014. (credit: REUTERS/HEINZ-PETER BADER)

It is headed by South African Navi Pillay, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who in the past has supported calls to boycott and sanction Israel. Another member is Australian legal expert Chris Sidoti, who last month claimed that some Jews were throwing around accusations of antisemitism “like rice at a wedding.” 

But it was the third panel member who grabbed headlines and my attention this week. In an interview with the Mondoweiss website that was published on Monday, Indian lawyer Kothari not only queried Israel’s membership in the 193-member world body – “I would go as far as to raise the question of why Israel is even a member of the United Nations” – he went as far as suggesting that Jews control social media.

Upset at criticism of the COI probe, including by some governments, Kothari said: “We are very disheartened by the social media that is controlled largely by – whether it is the Jewish lobby or specific NGOs – a lot of money is being thrown into trying to discredit us.” 

“We are very disheartened by the social media that is controlled largely by – whether it is the Jewish lobby or specific NGOs – a lot of money is being thrown into trying to discredit us.”

Miloon Kothari

It costs me nothing to discredit the panel – they do such a good job of it themselves. Although you would have thought that by now, Kothari could have come up with something more original than the combined antisemitic tropes of Jewish control of the media backed by Jewish money.

The Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations in Geneva issued a response calling Kothari’s comments “extremely disturbing” and noting that Israel had questioned his suitably when he was appointed, in view of his previous remarks and behavior.

“Since the Commission was formed in May 2021, as rockets rained down on Israeli civilians, it has been clear that its sole purpose was to find that the very creation of Israel is the root cause of the conflict and nothing else,” the Israeli mission wrote in a press statement. “It is now even more evident that this is the view of the Commissioners themselves, as well as many of the member states of the OIC who created it. Individuals holding such biased views should have never been appointed to positions requiring the highest standards of impartiality, objectivity and independence. With every report, the Commission will build towards this conclusion, and with every report, it will try to undermine the very foundations of the Jewish State.” 

The Israeli envoys are obviously more diplomatic in their language and behavior than those appointed to perpetually probe the country Israeli diplomats proudly represent.

There’s no end to the attempts to delegitimize the country. As chance had it, news of Kothari’s comments reached me at the same time as the text of the latest “Security Council Briefing on the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question” delivered on behalf of UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland and covering the period of June 27 – July 21. This is just one of the standard ongoing reports focusing on Israel. It is extremely detailed and I wonder how any country would fare under such a magnifying glass, especially one held under a burning sun. 

I don’t think the UN has ever forgiven itself for allowing Israel to become a sovereign state more than 70 years ago. Incidentally, the UN already recognizes a State of Palestine at the same time as it describes the Palestinians as refugees. It’s a neat trick.

But something in the report did not add up.

I completely condemn so-called settler violence and “price tag” attacks. They are morally abhorrent and the country as a whole rejects them. Fortunately, they are not as common as part of the world media would have us believe – the part that Jews don’t control, presumably. According to the report: “Israeli settlers or other civilians perpetrated 27 attacks against Palestinians resulting in 12 injuries and/or damage to Palestinian property, including 1,000 olive trees.

“In all, eighteen Israeli civilians, including two women, and seven Israeli security personnel were injured by Palestinians in shooting and stabbing attacks, clashes, and the throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails, and other incidents. In total, Palestinians perpetrated 50 attacks against Israeli civilians, 39 of which were stone-throwing incidents, resulting in injuries and/or damage to Israeli property.” 

In other words, there were more attacks on Israeli civilians by Palestinians than vice versa. It’s all a matter of presentation. What does the UN choose to focus on? And who provides it with the data, motivated by what agenda?

The UN reports lack context. There is mention that three Palestinians were killed during search and arrest operations but all Palestinians are presumed innocent, unlike the Israeli soldiers risking their lives to thwart terror attacks.

Further on, the latest briefing states: “On 16 July, following a period of relative calm, militants in Gaza launched four rockets towards Israel.” One UN official’s militant is another man’s terrorist and calm is relative: The previous rocket attack was in June, two months after the attacks before that. What other country is meant to accept as normal a lull of one month between rocket attacks on its sovereign territory? Or to accept an ongoing commission blaming it for being attacked? 

Inquiring minds would prefer to see a serious investigation by the UN into the Hamas terror tunnels and rocket arsenals found close to and under UNRWA facilities in Gaza, endangering schools and hospitals. This is especially pertinent since US President Joe Biden on his recent trip to the region promised $201 million in funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. 

And let’s not forget the threats of another Iranian proxy: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon continued this week to threaten to attack the Israeli Karish gas field “and beyond.”

Israel’s partners in the Abraham Accords, along with Egypt, Jordan and many other Arab countries, understand the threats from Iran and its proxies better than many UN human rights experts.

I don’t know when terrorists from Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, ISIS, Hezbollah or other organizations will hit Israel, but one thing I’m sure of: When they do attack, the UN will be ready – with a hard-hitting report criticizing Israel’s response.

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