Inside the glass house: by Thalif Deen

26th August 2001

UN a monument to world-class hypocrisy

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NEW YORK— Ed Koch, a former Mayor of New York city known for his caustic remarks and his virulently pro-Israeli views, admits that the United Nations has had a number of successes in its 56-year history.

Unfortunately, he says, the UN is also a monument to world-class hypocrisy. Perhaps he is right.

Although he uses that argument to criticise the UN for being too harsh on the Israelis, the truth is really the other way around.

Historically, the UN has been too lenient on the Israelis while paying lip service to the Palestinian cause.

The UN Security Council, the only world body mandated to make war and peace, has remained paralyzed on the Middle East crisis primarily for one reason: the United States veto.

In a study of the unglamourous history of UN voting, the Orlando Sentinel newspaper said that Israel has been in defiance of some 69 Security Council resolutions and protected from 29 more by US vetoes.

Last week, the Council lost its credibility once again when it sidestepped the crisis in the Middle East, declining to take any action to halt the escalating violence in the West Bank and Gaza.

At the end of a two day meeting, Ambassador Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, declared: "It will send a very negative message to the outside world."

The meeting, in which some 45 of the 189 UN member states participated, was described as an exercise in futility.

The Security Council, following in the footsteps of a notorious Roman emperor of a bygone era (AD 37-68), has continued to strum while the West Bank and Gaza are in flames.

The 57-member Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) sponsored a draft resolution but did not present it formally to the Security Council, primarily to avoid a US veto.

Even the OIC, which is said to represent the interests of the Palestinians, was clearly intimidated by the threat of a veto.

The European Union claimed it was sympathetic to the Palestinians but apparently did not want to challenge a possible American veto.

And so the Palestinian cause once again died on the floor of the Security Council— and was unceremoniously laid to rest.

Al-Kidwa said that many speakers expressed frustration over the lack of action by the Council. But he pledged to proceed with the draft resolution for a final decision in the coming weeks.

The resolution calls for Israelis and Palestinians to start implementing the recommendations made by an international fact- finding committee headed by former US Senator George Mitchell.

The Mitchell report, which was accepted by both sides, seeks not only an end to Palestinian violence but also the termination of new Israeli settlements in occupied territories.

The draft resolution also calls for the establishment of a monitoring mechanism, including unarmed UN observers, to help implement the report and keep the peace.

Additionally, it requests Israel to withdraw from all Palestinian institutions, including the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) headquarters, Orient House, which it recently occupied.

After nearly five months of self-imposed silence, the Security Council last week re-visited the crisis in the West Bank and Gaza as growing violence continued unabated.

Al-Kidwa said he regretted that the Council had remained totally oblivious to a conflict that has claimed the lives of over 570 Palestinians and about 130 Israelis since last September.

Paradoxically, Al-Kidwa said, the Council in recent months has been "enthusiastically engaged" in discussing topics such as "prevention of armed conflict" and "protection of civilians in armed conflict."

Yet, it continued to ignore the Middle East crisis, he added, pointing out the inherent hypocrisy of it all.

The primary reason for inaction was the strong opposition to any public meetings of the Security Council by the US. The US, which has also continued to argue that any attempt to condemn Israel would only aggravate the situation, has opposed sending U.N. monitors to the occupied territories.

In March, the US vetoed a draft resolution calling for UN monitors in the West Bank and Gaza.

Al-Kidwa said that he came back to the Council once again because it was the only institution that can help stop the violence.

"The situation has continued to deteriorate in a dangerous way up to the current situation which you are all aware of," Al-Kidwa told the Council.

Ambassador Hasmy Agam of Malaysia, a country that remains a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause, said the Council has not been able to carry out its responsibility in the past because either it was prevented from doing so or was unable to implement the resolutions it has adopted on Palestine.

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