By David Tell, May 6, 2002
IN 1948, when the armies of five surrounding Arab dictatorships invaded tiny,
newborn Israel – in what the secretary general of the Arab League announced
was a “war of extermination” against “the Jews” – the United Nations sat on its
ass. And did not send a fact-finding mission.
But, oh, how the U.N. has been making up for that oversight ever since. For
more than 50 years now, the Jews have been its favorite subject.
Among the nearly 200 nations represented at the U.N., only Israel has ever
been assigned special – reduced – membership privileges, its ambassadors
formally barred, for 53 straight years ending only recently, from election to the
Meanwhile, and right up to the present day, that same Security Council
has devoted fully a third of its energy and criticism to the policies of a single
The U.N. Commission on Human Rights, which regularly – and
unreprovingly – accepts delegations from any number of homicidal tyrannies
across the globe, has issued fully a quarter of its official condemnations to a
single (democratic) country: Israel.
There has been a genocide in Rwanda, an ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia,
periodic and horrifying communal “strife” in Indonesia’s East Timor, the
“disappearance” of a few hundred thousand refugees in the Congo, a
decades-long and culturally devastating occupation of Tibet by the People’s
Republic of China . . . but none of those U.N. member states has ever been
subjected to the rebuke of a General Assembly “emergency special session.”
Israel has, though, repeatedly, simply for refusing to surrender in the
face of terrorist attacks that have killed hundreds and injured thousands of its
citizens – murders that no U.N. resolution has ever so much as mentioned.
No fewer than four separate administrative units within the U.N. – two of them
directly supervised by Kofi Annan’s governing secretariat – do nothing but
spend millions of dollars annually on the production and worldwide distribution
of propaganda questioning Israel’s right to exist.
The “Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human
Rights of the Palestinian People and other Arabs of the Occupied Territories,”
for example, “investigates” Israel’s continued “practice” of “occupying” not just
the territory taken in the 1967 war, but also the land within its internationally
recognized, pre-1967 borders.
And then there is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, an operation
originally established in December 1949 to assist those Palestinian refugees
created by the Arab world’s botched attempt at a second Final Solution.
UNRWA, as it happens, is centrally relevant to its parent organization’s
latest outburst of naked Israelophobia. Because UNRWA wholly funds and
largely administers the West Bank refugee camp in Jenin where the Israeli army
is purported – by various Palestinian militants and local U.N. officials – to have
just perpetrated a “massacre” of “unarmed civilians.”
It is to the site of this alleged “atrocity” that Kofi Annan now intends to
dispatch a commission of inquiry chaired by Yasser Arafat’s favorite European
diplomat, former president Martti Ahtisaari of Finland, and seconded by Cornelio
Sommaruga, retired chief of the International Red Cross, a man who once
likened the Star of David to a swastika.
All by themselves, Annan’s personnel choices here are a genuine scandal, and
as this issue of The Weekly Standard goes to press, Israel’s understandable
objections, to Sommaruga in particular, have left it a still open question when
and whether the secretary general’s designees will ever be allowed to reach
And if, at the end of the day, they aren’t? That will be perfect justice, we think.
The “world community” will howl, of course, and Israel’s many enemies will
believe the worst. But they believe the worst already. And they will continue to
believe the worst no matter what.
And, quite apart from the controversy over what its staff should look
like, the whole idea of a U.N. fact-finding mission to Jenin is scandalous to
begin with, it seems to us – an assault on Israel’s honor, even its basic
legitimacy as an independent nation, that no similarly situated democracy would
ever be expected to endure.
Assuming Annan’s investigators do eventually make their way to Jenin, is it
possible they might actually find the “facts” they are looking for?
No, almost certainly not. Media accounts of Israel’s incursion into a
football-field-sized sector of the camp have bubbled over with lurid details
worthy of a medieval peasant’s worst anti-Semitic fantasies.
And the peasant-in-chief has been a U.N. official, UNRWA commissioner
general Peter Hansen, who has given dozens of lip-smacking interviews
recounting “wholesale obliteration,” “a human catastrophe that has few
parallels in recent history,” “helicopters . . . strafing civilian residential areas,”
and “bodies . . . piling up” in “mass graves.” Some of this carnage Hansen
even claims to have seen “with my own eyes.”
But he is a bald-faced liar. The Israelis have been out of Jenin – and foreign
journalists and other international observers have been back in – for more than a
week. And no evidence, literally nothing that would indicate the presence of a
civilian “massacre,” has yet emerged.
Quite the contrary, rescue workers in Jenin have so far recovered the bodies of
six – not the rumored six hundred, but six – women, children, and elderly
Palestinians. This, in a now ruined central area of the camp where countless
armed gunmen rained days of nonstop sniper fire on Israeli foot patrols from the
windows of still-occupied residences they had booby-trapped with high
explosives. This is a “massacre”?
And why, even if its death toll had proved a hundred times higher, would it
warrant a U.N. fact-finding mission?
In 1993, just after the events lately made famous by Hollywood’s “Black
Hawk Down,” a two-week U.S. bombing campaign against Mogadishu killed a
thousand Somali civilians. During the whole of the present intifada, now six
months old, far fewer Palestinians than that have died as Israel has attempted
to rescue itself from a national security threat far graver and more immediate
than any America faced in East Africa. But did it ever occur to the United
Nations to convene an inquest into the “human catastrophe” that was Somalia?
It did not.
Maybe the U.N. picks on Israel simply because it can. Or maybe, just maybe,
there is a darker impulse at play.
Which would explain why the U.N. has spent decades, in the guise of refugee
assistance, providing active, organized, and enthusiastic auxiliary services to
the most delusional and violent strains of Jew-hating Palestinian irredentism.
It bears mentioning, though one rarely hears it mentioned, that the
UNRWA camp at Jenin has been for years what the Palestinians call a’simat
al-istashidin, the “suiciders’ capital,” from which dozens of Hamas, Islamic
Jihad, Fatah, Al Aksa, and Tanzim terrorist attacks have been launched, killing
hundreds of Israelis.
UNRWA funds and staffs the schools of Jenin, where, from fall through spring
each year, children are taught that all of “Palestine,” from the Jordan River to
the Mediterranean Sea, belongs to them. During summer vacation, those very
same schools host training camps in which those very same students are
instructed in the arts of kidnapping and rock-throwing and bomb-manufacturing
UNRWA rents the buses that regularly take residents of Jenin on tours of
the Israeli countryside – where “their” property, “stolen” by the Jews, is
carefully pointed out.
UNRWA allows its food warehouses in Jenin to do double duty as
munitions dumps. UNRWA pretends not to know that explosives and counterfeit
currency factories are housed in the public shelters it has constructed in Jenin.
UNRWA cannot understand how it might be that its own administrative
offices in Jenin are festooned with graffiti celebrating some of the world’s most
notorious terrorist organizations. Or how some of the world’s most notorious
terrorists might have found their way onto the agency’s payroll – to the point
where the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, extreme even in the
context of Palestinian extremism, now openly controls the UNRWA workers’
This same United Nations, the blood of Israeli civilians still wet on its hands,
now dares to question the morality of a modest, defensive, and long-overdue
In curricular materials published by the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of
Education, “Objective Five” for high school history teachers reads as follows:
“The student will understand why the people of the world hate the Jews.”
It is a question for the ages. Zionism may no longer be racism at the United
Nations. But anti-Semitism is forever.