The U.N.’s Israel Problem

As pressure mounts on Israel to accept international observers in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, some question why Israel is so opposed to the idea. News reports frequently note that Israel rejects international observers, but rarely do they explain why. Common sense dictates that Israel would favor having United Nations monitors, because the monitors’ job would be to ensure the safety of all parties in the area. Unfortunately, history has shown that international forces turn a blind eye to enemy attacks against Israel, while they scrutinize the Jewish state’s actions–even defensive ones–under a microscope.

The U.N.’s cavalier treatment of attacks against Israel was on display last October when Hizballah members kidnapped three IDF soldiers from Israeli-controlled Shabaa Farms, territory that Hizballah claims as Lebanese, despite the fact that the U.N. certified on June 16, 2000 that Israel fully complied with U.N. Resolution 425 by completely withdrawing from Lebanon. (The U.N. agrees with Israel that Shabaa Farms was captured from Syria in 1967, and is not Lebanese territory.) For months after the kidnapping, the U.N. denied Israeli claims that it had a video tape containing information about the incident. Finally, in early July, the U.N. admitted to having a video recording filmed less than a day after the kidnapping. The tape showed two vehicles, with blood on the seats, blue U.N. berets, U.N. plates and stickers, and explosives. The tape also captured the images of Hizballah fighters who prevented Indian U.N. soldiers from removing the vehicles.

UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon), is the U.N. force whose units patrol Israel’s border with Lebanon, including the site of the kidnapping. Established as part of the UN Security Council Resolution No.425, UNIFIL’s tasks are “to ensure that its area of operation would not be utilized for hostile activities of any kind. . . supervise the cessation of hostilities, ensure the peaceful character of the area of operation, control movement and take all measures deemed necessary to assure the effective restoration of Lebanese sovereignty” (The Blue Helmets; A Review of United Nations Peace-Keeping). The contingent of UNIFIL soldiers at the outpost just 500 yards away from Shabaa Farms likely violated their own mandate during the kidnapping. The troops are widely reported to have witnessed the kidnapping and done nothing to stop it.

The U.N. compounded its mishandling of the event by refusing to show Israel an uncensored version of the video which reveals the faces of the Hizballah militants who retrieved the vehicles. U.N. Under-Secretary for Peacekeeping Jean Marie Guehenno defended the decision, saying at a July 6 press conference:

Showing their faces would be considered by one party as providing intelligence to another party and would certainly endanger the security of our people in Lebanon.

Lebanon has urged the U.N. not to allow Israel to view the unedited tape because the international body must maintain its “neutrality.” Yet, allotting “equal treatment” for two unequal parties–the hostages versus the kidnappers–is absurd and unconscionable. It was Lebanese terrorists who crossed over into Israeli territory and abducted Israeli soldiers.

The video situation is just one of many cases in which foreign observers have wronged Israel. A recent Wall Street Journal column recounts several examples over many decades of foreign observers acting with anti-Israel bias. On April 3, 1948, British observers in Jerusalem were supposed to secure the route on Mount Scopus to Hadassah Hospital. But as a convoy of ambulances and armored busses headed for the hospital, Palestinian Arabs attacked the convoy, butchering 77 innocent Jews, including nurses, doctors and other medical workers. Although several British military vehicles passed by during the hours-long massacre, none took any action to halt the slaughter.

In the diplomatic realm, the U.N. has systematically discriminated against Israel since the 1960s. Due to opposition from the former Eastern bloc and the majority of the Arab and Islamic countries, Israel was the only state left out of the regional group framework organized by U.N. members. The result was that Israel was not allowed to be nominated to any U.N. body, committee or council, or to partipate in any U.N. decision-making bodies. Despite the fact that the Jewish state has been a member of the U.N. since 1949, Israel has been excluded from the day-to-day work of the organization, such as consultations and information-sharing. Just over a year ago, Israel finally was offered a temporary membership in the Western European and Others Group (WEOG). Although this admittance may seem to be a victory for Israel, the step is very conditional. Israel is still not permitted to hold the most influential positions, including a seat on the Security Council. In addition, the ability to join WEOG does not entail the right to take part in the European caucuses in the U.N. headquarters of Geneva, Vienna, or Nairobi. Geneva is especially important because it is the home of the U.N. Human Rights Commission (UNHRC). The Human Rights Commission is a constant one-sided critic of Israel, and being excluded in Geneva means that Israel cannot even defend itself directly on these important issues.

The U.N.’s anti-Israel animus is perhaps the most vicious with respect to human rights. For example, the 53-member U.N. Commission on Human Rights decided last spring at its annual session in Geneva—from which Israel was barred—that China, which has been torturing and killing members of the Falun Gong, as well as imprisoning foreign nationals, would not be censured in any way. In the midst of the unprecedented Palestinian violence as well as Hamas and Hizballah terrorism, the Commission ruled that the Palestinians and Lebanese would not be censured either. The U.N. did, however, decide to call upon Israel to stop all forms of human rights violations. Singling Israel out even further for unwarranted attention, the UNHRC dedicated the entirety of the agenda’s eighth item to Israel. All the rest of the world—188 countries—was covered in item nine.

It is small wonder, then, that Israel objects to yet another round of so-called “impartial” international monitors.


Guest contributor Stephanie Lasker, a senior at Union College, interned at CAMERA in the summer of 2001.

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