Reprinted for educational purposes from New York Times of November 7, 1997
Immediately after Iraq demanded withdrawal of American members of the United Nations weapons investigation team and threatened to shoot down U.S surveillance planes, a world organization took important action. It decided to put Israel on trial.
Should Israel's membership credentials include responsibility for any control of Judea and Samaria, renamed by journalism and diplomacy as the West Bank? What about Jerusalem? Shouldn't the U.N. strip Israel of responsibility for governing its capital? And why should Israel be allowed to build houses for Jews in its capital or even start digging the sewers and roads.
And let's summon a worldwide meeting of the signatories of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the treatment of civilians in time of war to investigate complaints of Palestinian civilians against Israel. True, such a conference has never been called since the Convention was adopted in 1947, despite such events as the occupation of Afghanistan Czechoslovakia, Kuwait, Tibet and so on. Still, you have to start somewhere.
While we are at it let's consider upgrading the Palestinian Authority as observer; all that is left is giving it the vote and privilege to pay dues. These matters have been put forward by the Palestinians for the agenda of the U.N. General Assembly, which includes all 185 members. Some have already been accepted for discussion
I was thinking about these maneuvers, which have received far too little attention in the world press, on the plane from New York to Tel Aviv and laughed to myself. It reminded me of the old Three Stooges movies. Iraq defies the U.N., so they both turn and slap Israel. Not much in these proposals will be approved by the 15-member Security Council, where a veto by America or Britain could kill them, or be accepted by Israel. But I am not laughing anymore. After 30 seconds of thought they are not so funny. The proposals violate the Oslo agreement, which the West keeps telling Israel is vital to an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.
Oslo says that neither side should try to cook the final settlement, if there is one, by changing the present situation. It does strike one that trying to strip Israel of control of Jerusalem and any of the West Bank, and calling a meeting of the Geneva Convention. is untasty cookery. The maneuvers are part of a deepening danger at and for the United Nations -- the continuing denigration of Israel. Time was when the U.N. had a great advantage for both sides in the Palestinian dispute.
U.N. membership was vastly valuable for Israel after it declared its independence. And for decades U.N. officials and U.N. money have supported what used to be Palestinian refugee camps but are now second generation cities. But the U.N. -- which means the member nations -- has permitted Israel's enemies to convene "emergency" General Assembly sessions specifically directed against Israel. For the last 15 years special sessions have been called for no other topic. They are a part of a deliberate campaign to delegitimize the creation and existence of Israel.
All the while not one resolution has been adopted condemning the Soviet Union, even under Stalin, or China even under Mao. Special committees financed and staffed by the U.N. have turned out anti-israel pamphlets for schoolchildren around the world. The U.N. Commission on Human Rights, which has included such models as China, Iran, Libya, Iraq, the Sudan and Syria, has shown a taste not only for anti-Israeli ugliness but open anti-Jewishness. In 1991 Syria told the Commission that Jews killed Christian children to use their blood to make matzos. On March 11, 1997, the Palestinian observer said that the Israeli Government had injected 300 Palestinian children with AIDS. Israel and the U.S. protested, but this up-to-date version of the ancient blood libel against Jews stands on the U.N. record.
There is a lot of talk around the U.N. and Congress about reforming the organization. I can't think of a better place to start than fighting and exposing this nasty stuff. This column has been on my mind for some time and I should have written it long ago. A Jerusalem dateline strikes me as exactly the right one.