Commentary Magazine


Time for the UN to Retract Terror Approval

Almost a decade ago, histrionics were running high at the United Nations. After enduring months of a Palestinian terrorist campaign, Israel launched Operation Defense Shield during which Israeli commandoes went door to booby-trapped door in Jenin to root out bomb makers and their factories. During the course of the Jenin operation, Israel lost 23 soldiers, men who would be alive had the Israelis simply bombed the city instead of attempting surgical excision of the terror cells. The world cried foul, and promoted the myth of the Jenin massacre. Here, for example, is the BBC report from the time.

It was against this backdrop that on April 15, 2002, the United Nations Human Rights Commission—which has since been reconstituted as the United Nations Council— and at the time under the leadership of former Irish President Mary Robinson, passed a resolution embracing an earlier General Assembly resolution which declared “the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle.” France, Belgium, Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Sweden all supported the resolution.

For those who argue that the United Nations Human Rights Commission and its successor Council define humanitarian law, the vote taken against the backdrop of anti-Israel animus created a precedent which blessed any and all terrorism: Hijackings, bus bombings, sniper attacks on civilians all became legal so long as the terrorists justified it in terms of liberation. The Palestinian Authority did just that—citing the resolution to justify a subsequent terrorist attack against Jews in Hebron, but the Basque separatist organization ETA and Tamil Tigers could just as easily justify their bloodshed in the resolution.

As the world marks a decade since the resolution, it remains a dark mark on the United Nations. Terrorists have killed thousands across the globe in the name of “liberation” ever since. Indeed, groups such as al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia and the Taliban both cynically exploit anti-colonialist rhetoric to justify their terrorism. That Robinson and the UN provided an intellectual and legal framework for them to do so is especially shameful.

President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and Ambassador Susan Rice make no secret of their desire to promote the United Nations as the moral authority for international relations. Unless they are willing to force the United Nations to correct its moral failings, however, then no Western democrat or liberal should ever take the United Nations for anything more than a regressive club for autocrats and moral failing.