Recent public statements by the UN’s resident representative in Jerusalem, Norwegian diplomat Tor Wennesland, prior to and during the May 9-13 Shield and Arrow operation between Israel and the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, would appear to demonstrate an increasingly hostile, negative and biased attitude to Israel.
This attitude seems to be even more extreme than the standard and evidently acceptable level of bias to which Israel is routinely subjected by the United Nations and its senior officials.
Wennesland, a former scholar of divinity, philosophy and sociology, at the Oslo School of Theology, Religion and Society, has the lengthy and complex title UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority and Envoy of the Secretary-General to the Quartet.
In his statements to the UN, as well as his daily tweets, Wennesland has been particularly vocal in condemning Israel and adopting almost in totality a biased and one-sided Palestinian narrative. He does not conceal his bias, even while attempting to pay some vague and minimal lip service to the Palestinian violence and terror.
Thus, whether in regard to Israel’s quelling the Palestinian violent rioting in al-Aqsa Mosque during the feast of Ramadan at the beginning of April 2023, or to fire-prevention and safety limitations imposed by Israeli police and fire authorities on the number of worshipers at the Holy Light ceremony in Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulcher Church on 15th April 2023, Wennesland chose to condemn Israel in a distinctly one-sided and slanted manner.
With Israel’s launching of the Shield and Arrow operation on 9th May, Wennesland declared on the same day,
“I am deeply alarmed by developments in Gaza after Israel launched a military operation this morning targeting members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement (PIJ). The Israeli airstrikes inside Gaza resulted in the killing of 13 Palestinians, including three members of PIJ, a doctor, five women and four children, and more than 20 injured. I condemn the deaths of civilians in the Israeli airstrikes. This is unacceptable.”
The UN forgets, or ignores, that Palestinians fire rockets from Gaza into Israel
Wennesland seems to have either forgotten, or has deliberately chosen to ignore the fact that on May 2, just days prior to Israel’s launching its Shield and Arrow operation, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror organization fired 104 projectiles from the Gaza Strip into Israeli population centers within a span of 24 hours.
Similarly, he failed to mention or condemn the willful and indiscriminate firing of 70 rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel between January and April.
While nobody really expects anything positive, let alone balanced or neutral to emanate from any part of the UN, one might nevertheless expect that the one senior official whose function purports to include coordination of the Middle East peace process, would at least make some attempt to address the realities within which he is functioning in an honest and straightforward manner.
ONE MIGHT expect that such a senior UN official demonstrate some iota of reality and pragmatism in regard to what is happening in the area, and conduct himself with the impartiality and neutrality as is required by the UN Charter and associated rules regarding the comportment of senior staff members.
It is surely inconceivable that such a senior official could routinely and glibly condemn Israel for conducting military and police action in response to blatant terror attacks and violence, while demonstrably minimizing the immense level of hostile incitement to hatred and violence against Israel and against the Jews among all senior levels of the Palestinian leadership, as well as within Palestinian civil society.
It is no less inconceivable that Wennesland ignores or minimalizes the ongoing Palestinian preoccupation with planning, organizing, financing and indiscriminately executing rocket and missile attacks against Israel’s civil population centers, as well as their penchant for encouraging and executing individual acts of terror, whenever they feel aroused by the whim or the need to shake up the area.
In a particularly demeaning and insulting example of UN hypocrisy and double standards, Wennesland, in presenting his report to the UN Security Council on April 23, had the gall to cynically minimalize the seriousness of the April 7th brutal attack and cruel murder by Palestinian terrorists of the family of Rabbi Leo Dee’s wife and two young daughters.
He grudgingly stated, “Tne two British-Israeli sisters, the youngest a 15-year-old girl, were killed in a shooting attack in the West Bank by perpetrators in a car with Palestinian plates. Their mother was critically wounded in the attack and died three days later.”
This is perhaps a classical example of the devious lengths to which such senior UN officials are prepared to go in order to avoid telling the truth and calling-out Palestinian terror for what it is.
The performance of UN staff members and officials is regulated by the UN Charter and Staff Rules and Regulations.
Articles 100 and 101 of the UN Charter require UN officials to exercise the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity” and to “refrain from actions that might reflect on their position as international officials.
Staff Regulations 1.1 and 1.2 require that the political and religious views and convictions of UN officials and staff do not adversely affect their official duties or the interests of the UN. They prohibit their engaging in activity that is incompatible with the proper discharge of their duties, including the requirement to “avoid actions and public pronouncements that may adversely reflect on their status, or on the integrity, independence and impartiality that are required by that status.”
In light of his clear predisposition against Israel in contravention of the UN’s own internal rules, it might be appropriate that the organization review the functioning of Tor Wennesland, recall him and send him back to Oslo to engage in divinity and philosophy.
The writer served as the legal adviser to Israel’s Foreign Ministry and as Israel’s Ambassador to Canada. He also served for four years as a legal officer in the UN Headquarters in New York. He presently directs the International Law Program at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.