The irony made me laugh out loud. Even a bad joke can have that effect – and this was a particularly bad joke. Last week, the United Nations General Assembly called for an international conference in Moscow – to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Whether this means the UN thinks it is easier – or more urgent – to solve the Israel-Palestinian issue than to find a way to end the Russia-Ukraine war following Putin’s brutal invasion of his neighbor is anyone’s guess.
The decision to convene a peace parley in the Russian capital was not the only bad joke coming out of the UN last week. It provided enough material for an entire comedy series. The peace conference resolution was part of a batch of pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli texts which the General Assembly approves every year. The UN is reliable in that respect. As UN Watch, an NGO monitor, noted, the world body passed no fewer than 15 resolutions targeting the Jewish state in 2022 – compared to 13 on the rest of the world combined.
Among the resolutions, the UN General Assembly voted to fund the continued work of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. The committee name says it all. I have twice been to Moscow under the auspices of media seminars run by this committee. The last time was in September 2018. It was educational. From members of the Palestinian delegation, I heard unabashed antisemitic rhetoric that has no place at an international “peace” convention or anywhere else: Jews control the world’s banks and media and are western colonizers, not a people with any connection to the Middle East.
One of the perennial resolutions that would be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic, was the annual demand that Israel withdraw from the Golan Heights. Apparently, the “continued occupation of the Syrian Golan” constitutes “a stumbling block in the way of achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region.”
Note that the continued rule of Bashar Assad’s regime – which co-sponsored the motion – is not a problem. Whatever gas the Butcher of Damascus used during the Syrian civil war, it was not laughing gas. He literally got away with murdering his own people. Yet, in UN eyes, he is more likely to stabilize the region than Israel, which seeks to extend the Abraham Accords to bring peace and prosperity to all. Putin and Assad could share a laugh or two at Israel’s expense.
Not all the resolutions were recycled bad jokes.
There was some new material – so funny, it made me gag. The UN saw fit to institute an event next year to “commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Nakba.” The Nakba, “Catastrophe” in Arabic, refers to the events surrounding the establishment of the State of Israel – in purely Palestinian terms. “How would you react if the international community were to frame your independence day as a disaster?” Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan asked.
During the 1948 War of Independence, some 700,000 Arabs lost their homes, either expelled or deciding to leave on the understanding they would return after the Arab forces had got rid of the Jews. UNRWA, the agency dedicated to Palestinian refugees “and their descendants,” now claims they number some five million. All the rest of the world’s refugees are lumped together under the auspices of the UNHCR. The 800,000 Jews who were forced to leave Arab lands after Israel’s establishment don’t count, from the UN’s perspective.
Today, 75 years later, there are definitely refugees who are more deserving and in greater need than the Palestinians: Apart from the millions who lost their homes in the 10 years of the Arab Spring turmoil, the Islamist takeover in Afghanistan and parts of Africa, for example, there are also 7.8 million refugees who had to flee Ukraine this year. If you’re going to have a UN conference in Moscow, surely that should be on the agenda?
Altogether, the Palestinians have a very special status when it comes to the UN. Every November 29, the day in 1947 when the UN voted in favor of the Partition Plan allowing the formation of Israel and a Palestinian state (which the Arabs turned down), the UN holds an International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. They have their inalienable devoted committee and unique refugee status with UNRWA supplying their needs alone. And in the cynical humor department: From the UN’s point of view the Palestinians are on a par with the Vatican – both have non-member state status. That the Palestinians have non-member state status and perpetual refugee status in the same body is more bemusing than amusing.
That’s not to say the UN hasn’t noted something’s amiss. Last week, UNRWA released a statement saying that it had “recently identified a man-made cavity underneath the grounds of an UNRWA school in Gaza.” In non-UNRWA terms, it’s called a terror tunnel. The statement declared that it “is a serious violation of the agency’s neutrality and a breach of international law. Moreover, it exposes children and agency staff to significant security and safety risks.”
In other words, the UN agency complained to the Hamas terrorist organization that it was putting Palestinian children and staff at risk in the event of an explosion or an Israeli response to an attack. No word of the risk to Israeli children from rockets and terror tunnels. As for “neutrality,” don’t make me laugh.
It would be too much to ask that UNRWA call on the terrorist organizations to stop launching rockets on Israel, like the one aimed at western Negev on Saturday night – or the more than 1,100 which were launched on Israel in the three-day mini-war in August. And I find it hard to laugh off the way UNRWA, when it found rockets stockpiled under its schools during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, handed some over to “the local authorities,” i.e. Hamas.
Are Hamas leaders quaking following last week’s official complaint about the terror tunnel? No, they’re quivering with laughter.
And the UN jokes continue fast and furious. Take the terror attack last weekend in Huwara, just south of Nablus on Route 60, the main highway in Judea and Samaria. Palestinian Ammar Mefleh tried to break into a vehicle with an Israeli couple inside, first trying to force open the door and then using a rock to try to smash his way in, before being shot at by the driver, an off-duty IDF officer. Mefleh then set his sights on nearby Border Police, stabbing one officer in the face. Security camera video footage shows another Border Police officer trying to arrest Mefleh as two other Palestinians attempted to pull him away. When Mefleh attempted to grab the officer’s gun, the officer shot him dead.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland, ignoring the chain of events, tweeted: “horrified by today’s killing of a Palestinian man, Ammar Mefleh, during a scuffle with an Israeli soldier near Huwara in the o.[ccupied] West Bank.
“My heartfelt condolences to his bereaved family. Such incidents must be fully [and] promptly investigated, [and] those responsible held accountable.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon responded that Wennesland’s statement was a “total distortion of reality,” correctly noting: “This is NOT a ‘scuffle’ – this is a terror attack!”
Like infectious laughter, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell had a similar response, referring to the “tragic killing of a Palestinian man, Ammar Mefleh, by a member of the ISF (Israel Security Forces.)”
So Mefleh has now been promoted from a terrorist who attacked Israelis to someone whose death should be mourned as “tragic.”
Borrell, like Wennesland, demanded “full accountability” and pointed out that: “Under international law, lethal force is only justified in situations in which there exists a serious and imminent threat to life.”
A terrorist stabbing an officer in the face and trying to grab his gun is not, it seems, enough of a risk – even though there has been a spate of Palestinian combined stabbing, shooting and car-ramming terror attacks.
The Foreign Ministry on Tuesday summoned Wennesland to clarify his response.
Terrorism is no laughing matter. The UN is a joke. But the joke’s on all of us. That’s what’s so sad.