My word: Diplomatic offensives

There are territorial disputes in places ranging from Crimea to the Pacific islands; the Sahara to Transdniestria, so why is Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians singled out?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In different circumstances, I could have been a national heroine – in Greenland.
My family and I occasionally amuse ourselves listing various countries and peoples seeking independence or involved in a territorial dispute of some kind. The list seems to get longer each time.
A few months ago I wrote as an aside in a column titled “Larger than life”: “When was the last time you heard a public discussion on the right of Denmark to control Greenland, for instance?” I began to fantasize about the small – but in my case life-size – statue erected in my honor in the capital, Nuuk. Greenland’s liberator.
The dreams soured when I realized that although Greenland (or Kalaallit Nunaat as it is known to locals) is the largest island in the world that is not a continent, it is not somewhere I’d feel at home. Given that I shudder at the thought of a brief Jerusalem-style snowstorm, don’t speak Greenlandic (any of the three main dialects), and avoid fish and meat in my diet, I’m not the person to lead the 57,000-or-so population to full liberation, should they so choose.
My plans were modest in any case, no violence being the primary requisite. I thought I could start with renaming Denmark School, the high school near my home, sticking to sunny climes and times as far as possible.
As soon as he read my comment in September, the pleasant and polite Danish Ambassador Jesper Vahr wrote a letter clarifying that “Greenland’s status within the Kingdom of Denmark has evolved over time. For many years now Greenland has exercised wide-ranging legislative and executive powers on the basis of an Act on Greenland Self-Government....
However, there is no doubt about Greenland’s access to independence, were the people of Greenland to desire that at some point. Any decision regarding Greenland’s independence shall be taken by the people of Greenland.”
I understand why he was quick to respond.
Fifty years ago, nobody had heard of the Palestinians as a people and yet here we are: Israeli Jews perceived as colonial usurpers; mandated sessions at the UN on their situation throughout the year; and permanent refugee status. Today you can meet “refugees” whose families have lived in the same homes for decades, in many cases just a few miles from the houses they fled (often at their own leaders’ insistence) during the chaos of the wars the Arab countries launched on Israel in an attempt to destroy it.
One of Greenland’s sad claims to fame is its status as the teenage suicide capital of the world. Apparently it’s a function of the climate and has nothing to do with Danish oppression, real or imaginary. Neither do Greenland’s youth try to kill innocent people with the intention of being shot dead and dying a martyr’s death. That’s a peculiarly Palestinian/Islamist thing, it seems.
Not long ago, I accidentally upset the Spanish ambassador, who like his Danish peer was quick to correct any misunderstandings that might have arisen in a column I wrote on the European Union labeling policy (“Clued in,” November 6): “Nobody is forced to buy a product labeled ‘Made in Israel’ just as no one need buy produce marked ‘Made in Spain’ if they feel uncomfortable about Spanish disputed territories such as the Basque region, Barcelona, or even Gibraltar for that matter,” I wrote.
“I was surprised to read the Basque region and Barcelona described as ‘disputed territories,’” countered the envoy, Fernando Carderera.
Carderera clarified: “Both the Basque region, or Basque country, as it is known in Spanish, and Barcelona have been part of Spain since its origin... Both the Basque country and Catalonia enjoy, thanks to the Spanish Constitution of 1978, one of the highest levels of self-government in the world....
“Gibraltar is a colony and, indeed, disputed territory,” he noted and after further explanation added: “Spain has repeatedly asked the UK to engage in bilateral negotiations in compliance with the provisions of the UN in order to reach a definitive solution to the only remaining colony in Europe.”
I don’t want to add to the diplomatic headaches, but in one of the most curious territorial disputes, out of some 150, “The UK, Iceland and Denmark (Greenland) all assert ownership of Rockall Island, an 8,000 square foot rock in the middle of the North Atlantic, hundreds of miles from the nearest inhabited location,” according to, claiming to map every disputed territory in the world.
I have also called for Kurdish independence, based on the Kurds being a people with their own unique language, history and culture, apart from the fact that they have courageously borne the brunt of the fight on the ground against Islamic State forces.
There was no Turkish ambassador in Israel to respond, but it’s no secret how Turkey feels about the subject. Still, with my nonviolence requirement in mind and the fact that the Kurds are finding it hard to overcome their own considerable infighting, independence is not on the horizon.
I’d also like to see the Roma receive some kind of homeland and rights. While Europe agonizes over its policy toward refugees from the Middle East and Africa, the Roma live among them, and have done for centuries, in terrible conditions. According to the European Roma Rights Centre, five Romani children died in Slovakia in the first week of January as a result of either the cold or fires in their inadequate and unsafe housing. (And if any people can identify with the Jews on International Holocaust Remembrance Day it must surely be the “gypsies.” The Nazis tried systematically to not only eradicate them as a people but also destroy any memory of them.) High on my list for UN recognition is Taiwan, the Republic of China, a tiny but feisty democracy and economic powerhouse, considered by its giant neighbor to be a province of the People’s Republic.
China continues to hold Tibet, but the world continues to do business with it and hold major sporting events there. The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement that viciously inflates anything that could blacken Israel as an “apartheid state” ignores human-rights travesties elsewhere.
There are Muslim ethnic groups persecuted by Buddhists in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand among other places, but this is so far from what modern liberals want to see or believe that the harassment gets scant attention in the Western world.
If you can’t blame the Jews, it’s not news.
I’m not looking to add to the list of ambassadors I’ve upset, but, well, he started it. The speech by US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro at the Institute of National Security Studies in Tel Aviv last week came the day of the burial of Dafna Meir, a mother of six, who was murdered by a terrorist in her home in Otniel; the day pregnant Michal Froman was stabbed by a teenage Palestinian attacker in the community of Tekoa.
“Too much vigilantism goes unchecked, and at times there seem to be two standards of adherence to the rule of law – one for Israelis and another for Palestinians,” said Shapiro, or perhaps his boss US Secretary of State John Kerry; his master’s voice.
Israel is the only democratic country to face this constant level of terrorism; it is not the only country to shoot those who carry out the attacks. Think San Bernardino or Paris.
This week Shapiro took to the airwaves to clarify his comments with interviews on both Israel Radio and Army Radio, where he said, in answer to a question: “I understand the timing was not the best.”
Unfortunately, the radio interviews did not clear the air. It’s hard to retract something said, or rather read, in public. This was a prepared speech, not a comment taken out of context or a slip of the tongue. The rules of public-relations damage control require a retraction, apology, and promise that it won’t happen again. But it will.
It already has. This time it was UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon who gave voice to the double standards.
On January 26, the day Shlomit Krigman was buried in Jerusalem, the latest victim of Palestinian terrorism, Ban told yet another meeting on Israel and the Palestinians: “It is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism.”
Yes, he first went through the motions of condemning Palestinian violence, but what’s the point if his comments can be interpreted as justifying it? There are territorial disputes in places ranging from Crimea to the Pacific islands; the Sahara to Transdniestria (“an unrecognized breakaway state that lies along Moldova’s border with Ukraine,” according to National Geographic).
A Facebook friend in Pakistan this week shared the warning of possible Islamist suicide bombings on educational institutions in the Punjab region.
The UN has clearly failed in its principal aim to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” It was so focused on Israel and the Palestinians that either it missed what was going on elsewhere or it didn’t care.
The European Union is not immune: On the contrary, it is based in Brussels, torn between Flemish and French speakers.
Even the polite and peaceful Canadians, the type of neighbors Israelis not so secretly wish they had, are involved in a number of disputes, based on linguistic, ethnic and territorial lines.
As Israel’s Ambassador Danny Danon told the UN Security Council after Ban’s comments, “During the past four months, Israelis have been stabbed in their homes, shot at in the streets and run over by terrorists using cars as weapons.
“During this period of time, the council has adopted 12 resolutions against terrorism, and condemned terrorist attacks in France, Sinai, Lebanon, Mali, Tunisia, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Somalia and Sudan.
Not once were the lives of Israelis murdered by terrorists recognized by this council. No condemnation, no expression of solidarity – not even a statement of concern.”
The perpetrators of all these attacks had something in common, and it wasn’t a life under “Israeli occupation.”
You don’t have to praise us as we bury our dead, but don’t throw dirt in our faces and pretend you were aiming for the graves to pay your last respects.