How tragic the United Nations, which created Israel, is now the world’s premier forum for attacking it
As the UN again fails to condemn the barbarity of Hamas, a leading commentator gives his withering verdict on the organisation...
By DOUGLAS MURRAY AUTHOR AND COMMENTATOR
THERE’S an old joke about the United Nations having a football team. ‘Who would they play?’ it goes. ‘Israel, of course.’ There may not be much humour in it, but there’s plenty of truth. Despite Israel being set up by UN vote, it has been the world’s premier forum for Israel-bashing, particularly since the country won wars of self-defence in 1967 and 1973.
Perhaps the most notorious moment was the ‘Zionism is racism’ resolution in 1975, when the foundations of the Jewish state were suddenly under assault. On that occasion the late, great Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan gave one of the best counter-blast speeches ever given on the floor of the UN. As did Chaim Herzog, the father of Israel’s current president. But at that point, as at so many other times, Israel’s enemies were greater in number than its friends.
That victorious majority was led by that great campaigner for social justice, Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. A party for the anti-Israel delegates to celebrate the resolution being passed was thrown by Kurt Waldheim of Austria, who turned out to have spent his war years serving in a Nazi unit.
In any case, ever since then Israel has been the main source of international ire at the UN, from non-aligned countries as well as from much of the Muslim world.
Following the massacres of October 7 there was an effort to pass a motion condemning the murder of 1,400 Israelis in cold blood and the taking of hundreds of hostages into Gaza. But the motion condemning the Hamas massacre was voted down. When the news broke that Hamas would therefore not be condemned, the chamber of the UN broke out in applause.
Then, on Friday, the UN’s 15member Security Council voted on a proposal demanding an immediate and unconditional ceasefire put forward by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
This resolution would have passed had the United States (one of the five members with a power of veto) not blocked it. US representative Robert Wood called the proposal ‘divorced from reality’ and stated, entirely reasonably, that if Israel laid down its arms, Hamas would keep holding the Israeli hostages and continue their terror campaign against Palestinians and Israelis.
Britain, the only other member not to back the resolution, abstained, with its ambassador Dame Barbara Woodward arguing: ‘We cannot vote in favour of a resolution which does not condemn the atrocities Hamas committed against innocent Israeli civilians.’
Except that, in UN-land, you can. The farcical UN Human Rights Council in Geneva does little else but knock Israel around. I’ve known some people who spent their lives in that Alice In Wonderland world and noticed it isn’t good for their health. How can you sit there day after day and listen to, for instance, the representative from North Korea claiming human rights abuses in Western democracies?
Only last month Iran was given the chairmanship of a UN human rights forum. And although it is true that the regime managed to refrain from bludgeoning any women to death for not wearing a headscarf during the meeting itself, there was again that sense that something might not be right.
‘Well,’ some people might say, ‘it’s only the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council that is rotten. Everything else is OK, isn’t it?’ Not really. Take a body like the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Members of its staff actually praised the October massacres. And in recent days a released Israeli hostage has said that they were themselves held for almost 50 days by a UNRWA teacher. Even for those of us who are a little jaded by the corruption and malevolence of certain UN agencies, the idea that a UNRWA employee in Gaza might have been holding an Israeli hostage in his own attic is a new low.
But it’s the same wherever you look. Unicef is meant to have one job: to safeguard the wellbeing of children. Yet it was silent for weeks after the abduction of 40 Israeli children. Why?
Same with the agencies set up to safeguard the rights of women. While they haven’t had any success in Afghanistan or Iran, it’s noticeable that in the case of Israel they haven’t even pretended. It took people till very recently to realise that despite condemning the use of rape and sexual violence in war, the UN and its various women’s rights bodies had been silent about Hamas’s rape-fest on October 7.
Last week UN Women finally released a statement saying that it condemned the Hamas attack, adding: ‘This is why we have called for all accounts of gender-based violence to be duly investigated and prosecuted.’ Which is tantamount to nothing. Because while it’s nice that UN Women are on the side of women who’ve actually been raped, the moment you get into ‘all accounts’ you’re getting non-specific. And as for investigating and prosecuting Hamas’s October 7 rapists – good luck with that.
My point is not just that there is a pattern that can be identified in UN bodies. It is that this failure speaks to the futility of the UN in the immediate future of the Gaza conflict.
In New York the same UN that has been so ineffective at getting ceasefires in Syria and Yemen has been eager to pass resolutions
The idea of a UN employee with a hostage in his attic was a new low
The thing with peacekeepers is that they have to be willing to shoot
demanding a ceasefire in Gaza – just as it repeatedly calls for the implementation of a Palestinian state. Something the UN offered the Palestinians in 1947, but which the Palestinian leadership refused in favour of statelessness and war.
But let us imagine for a moment that the international community were to do something meaningful to end the war in Gaza, what would it be? At this point people start talking about the necessity of a UN peacekeeping mission and the like.
And this is where the effects of the UN’s self-delegitimisation really kick in. Because we know from Srebrenica that UN peacekeepers can be useless at preventing violence. They can indeed (as the Dutch troops did then) stand by as crimes are taking place.
Because the thing with peacekeepers is that they have to be willing to shoot. And which country’s soldiers are going to be prepared to fire in order to impose ‘peace’ on Gaza? Will Canadian troops be willing to threaten violence against Palestinians? Will German troops be ready to fire on Jews? Or should the various armies of Africa be given the task?
Another problem thrown up by an entity that has spent so many years trying to delegitimise Israel that it doesn’t seem to have noticed that it has done a better job of delegitimising itself.
A version of this article first appeared in The Spectator.
Israel At War
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