Commentary Magazine


Topic: Ban Ki-moon

“The World”

In a radio interview, President Bush said “the world ought to be angry and condemn” the Burmese junta for their response to the cyclone that devastated their country eleven days ago. Waiting for “the world” to condemn something other than America or Israel will bring us into the next Presidential administration and beyond. And by then a million-plus Burmese will have died waiting.

Consider this tough talk from UN chief Ban Ki-moon: “I want to register my deep concern and immense frustration on the unacceptably slow response to this grave humanitarian crisis.” The problem is, something is only unacceptable if it’s not accepted. So, eleven days into the unacceptable, we’re still pretending that the UN is going to get around to caring about corpses that can’t be linked to the American military or the Israeli Defense Force.

On the heels of Ban Ki-moon’s statement, Richard Horsey, a spokesman for the UN’s humanitarian arm, said “This is a huge disaster. It would overwhelm the capacity of any country.” In other words: accept it. So speaketh “the world.”

In a radio interview, President Bush said “the world ought to be angry and condemn” the Burmese junta for their response to the cyclone that devastated their country eleven days ago. Waiting for “the world” to condemn something other than America or Israel will bring us into the next Presidential administration and beyond. And by then a million-plus Burmese will have died waiting.

Consider this tough talk from UN chief Ban Ki-moon: “I want to register my deep concern and immense frustration on the unacceptably slow response to this grave humanitarian crisis.” The problem is, something is only unacceptable if it’s not accepted. So, eleven days into the unacceptable, we’re still pretending that the UN is going to get around to caring about corpses that can’t be linked to the American military or the Israeli Defense Force.

On the heels of Ban Ki-moon’s statement, Richard Horsey, a spokesman for the UN’s humanitarian arm, said “This is a huge disaster. It would overwhelm the capacity of any country.” In other words: accept it. So speaketh “the world.”

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Another “Global Crisis”

Today, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the recent increase in food prices has become a “real global crisis.” His comments come after weeks of food riots in Haiti, Egypt, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Ethiopia. The Thai and Pakistani governments have had to call out troops to protect crops. Cambodia and Kazakhstan are banning grain exports. Stores in the United States are limiting purchases of rice. North Korea faces famine. Is this a job for the UN?

Perhaps not. On Sunday, Jean Ziegler, the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food, accused the West of causing starvation in poor countries through, among other things, the promotion of biofuels and the maintenance of farm subsidies. “This is silent mass murder,” he said. Multinationals, for their part, are responsible for “structural violence.”

Ziegler also attacked commodity markets. “And we have a herd of market traders, speculators and financial bandits who have turned wild and constructed a world of inequality and horror,” he noted. “We have to put a stop to this.”

What we have to put a stop to is the UN promotion of world government and socialism. The solution to rising global food prices–they have increased 83 percent in the last three years according to the World Bank–is not more UN food aid, which has undermined agriculture in fragile states. The answer is allowing markets to work. Increasing food costs, after all, will encourage further farm production.

And let me add this: there is no right to food. There is, however, a right to live in a free society where people have the ability to provide for themselves. Unfortunately, the UN has yet to appoint a special rapporteur for common sense.

Today, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the recent increase in food prices has become a “real global crisis.” His comments come after weeks of food riots in Haiti, Egypt, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Ethiopia. The Thai and Pakistani governments have had to call out troops to protect crops. Cambodia and Kazakhstan are banning grain exports. Stores in the United States are limiting purchases of rice. North Korea faces famine. Is this a job for the UN?

Perhaps not. On Sunday, Jean Ziegler, the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food, accused the West of causing starvation in poor countries through, among other things, the promotion of biofuels and the maintenance of farm subsidies. “This is silent mass murder,” he said. Multinationals, for their part, are responsible for “structural violence.”

Ziegler also attacked commodity markets. “And we have a herd of market traders, speculators and financial bandits who have turned wild and constructed a world of inequality and horror,” he noted. “We have to put a stop to this.”

What we have to put a stop to is the UN promotion of world government and socialism. The solution to rising global food prices–they have increased 83 percent in the last three years according to the World Bank–is not more UN food aid, which has undermined agriculture in fragile states. The answer is allowing markets to work. Increasing food costs, after all, will encourage further farm production.

And let me add this: there is no right to food. There is, however, a right to live in a free society where people have the ability to provide for themselves. Unfortunately, the UN has yet to appoint a special rapporteur for common sense.

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Iran Wants What?

In a 20-page letter dated Monday and released yesterday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki threatened legal action for losses his country sustained due to UN Security Council sanctions on its nuclear program. “The Islamic Republic of Iran and its citizens have the right to resort to legal actions to seek redress against the sponsors of these unlawful actions,” the letter, addressed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, states.

The sponsors of the sanctions, Mottaki maintains, “should, as a minimum step, admit their mistakes, apologize to the great nation of Iran, correct their behavior, and above all, compensate for all the damages they have inflicted on the Islamic Republic of Iran.” The demand for compensation is apparently directed to the United States, Britain, France, and Germany.

Secretary-General Ban did not comment on Mottaki’s letter. I suspect he did not want to dignify it with a response, but let me take this opportunity to address the fundamental point raised by the Iranian foreign minister. If the United Nations has no authority to impose sanctions or take action against Iran, as Tehran maintains, then it is up to every member of the international community to decide what to do. Iran’s proven violations of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and its failure to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency are justifications for the use military force. Why? Because nuclear weapons are inherently dangerous and, therefore, automatically raise the right of self-defense, which every member state of the UN retains.

So go right ahead, Mr. Mottaki: make our day by de-legitimizing the UN. I hope that the United States can peacefully convince your nation to give up its nuclear program. But, if we can’t, then we have no choice but to end it by any and all necessary means.

In a 20-page letter dated Monday and released yesterday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki threatened legal action for losses his country sustained due to UN Security Council sanctions on its nuclear program. “The Islamic Republic of Iran and its citizens have the right to resort to legal actions to seek redress against the sponsors of these unlawful actions,” the letter, addressed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, states.

The sponsors of the sanctions, Mottaki maintains, “should, as a minimum step, admit their mistakes, apologize to the great nation of Iran, correct their behavior, and above all, compensate for all the damages they have inflicted on the Islamic Republic of Iran.” The demand for compensation is apparently directed to the United States, Britain, France, and Germany.

Secretary-General Ban did not comment on Mottaki’s letter. I suspect he did not want to dignify it with a response, but let me take this opportunity to address the fundamental point raised by the Iranian foreign minister. If the United Nations has no authority to impose sanctions or take action against Iran, as Tehran maintains, then it is up to every member of the international community to decide what to do. Iran’s proven violations of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and its failure to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency are justifications for the use military force. Why? Because nuclear weapons are inherently dangerous and, therefore, automatically raise the right of self-defense, which every member state of the UN retains.

So go right ahead, Mr. Mottaki: make our day by de-legitimizing the UN. I hope that the United States can peacefully convince your nation to give up its nuclear program. But, if we can’t, then we have no choice but to end it by any and all necessary means.

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Your Tax Money at Work

In what’s unlikely to be a surprise even to casual observers of the United Nations, an internal audit conducted by the international organization has discovered corruption involving hundreds of millions of dollars regarding the disbursement of contracts for peacekeeping missions. The UN these days seems to be little more than an elaborate racketeering organization for wanna-be crooks and gangsters—too cowardly to participate in actual crime in their home countries, and thus taking advantage of the miserable and oppressed people entrusted into the organization’s care. This latest scandal is only rivaled by the Oil-for-Food heist of some years prior.

The results of this latest investigation are the latest fruit of the Volcker Commission, established in 2004 to investigate similar kickbacks and bribes disbursed under the ill-fated UN program in Iraq. The task force that uncovered the peacekeeping abuse had hired some of Volcker’s investigators, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, to his credit, has requested that the investigative body’s mandate be funded further. Unsurprisingly, developing nations are using parliamentary tactics to hold up the reauthorization process.

The details of this latest scandal surround Abdul Karim Masri—a procurement officer for the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo and a Syrian national (why a citizen of a terrorist sponsoring state is given such a prominent position at the United Nations has not yet entered into the conversation)—who has a long trail of corruption accusations behind him. The internal audit found an “extensive pattern of bribery” up to and including taking $10,000 from a boating company, diverting a contract to a friend, and getting contractors to paint his house and give him a discounted Mercedes. Your tax money at work!

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In what’s unlikely to be a surprise even to casual observers of the United Nations, an internal audit conducted by the international organization has discovered corruption involving hundreds of millions of dollars regarding the disbursement of contracts for peacekeeping missions. The UN these days seems to be little more than an elaborate racketeering organization for wanna-be crooks and gangsters—too cowardly to participate in actual crime in their home countries, and thus taking advantage of the miserable and oppressed people entrusted into the organization’s care. This latest scandal is only rivaled by the Oil-for-Food heist of some years prior.

The results of this latest investigation are the latest fruit of the Volcker Commission, established in 2004 to investigate similar kickbacks and bribes disbursed under the ill-fated UN program in Iraq. The task force that uncovered the peacekeeping abuse had hired some of Volcker’s investigators, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, to his credit, has requested that the investigative body’s mandate be funded further. Unsurprisingly, developing nations are using parliamentary tactics to hold up the reauthorization process.

The details of this latest scandal surround Abdul Karim Masri—a procurement officer for the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo and a Syrian national (why a citizen of a terrorist sponsoring state is given such a prominent position at the United Nations has not yet entered into the conversation)—who has a long trail of corruption accusations behind him. The internal audit found an “extensive pattern of bribery” up to and including taking $10,000 from a boating company, diverting a contract to a friend, and getting contractors to paint his house and give him a discounted Mercedes. Your tax money at work!

None of this is to say that the mission of UN peacekeeping isn’t worthy; it’s the very worthiness of international conflict resolution that makes this latest episode of corruption so devastating. Yet once again it has been shown that the United Nations cannot be trusted with anything beyond providing political theater. Those serious about the notion of international peacekeeping could do worse than seriously to consider Max Boot’s proposal of using mercenaries for such missions. Unlike UN peacekeeping forces—which consist almost entirely of poorly trained and ill-equipped soldiers from third world countries whose governments offer them up to the UN in order to make a quick buck—mercenaries are expertly skilled warriors. Moreover, they have no pretensions about who they are or what they are fighting for—money, which they will earn only if the mission is completed successfully.

No doubt this story will garner the usual outcry from the international bureaucrats who feed off the teat of Western nations. These sorts of people swarm Washington and New York City with little to do, it seems, other than to attend think-tank functions and cocktail parties, and to undermine the United States. With this latest bout of bad news for the United Nations, it’s become increasingly difficult for the organization’s lonely defenders to explain why the body deserves American time or attention.

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More UN Fumbling

UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari arrived in Burma yesterday. Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said his diplomat would try to further “democratic measures by the Myanmar government, including the release of all detained students and demonstrators.” This is Gambari’s second trip to the nation since countrywide protests in September, and it follows his Asia shuttle diplomacy that the Washington Post characterized yesterday as “time-wasting busywork.”

Specifically, Gambari will continue his efforts to initiate a dialogue between the junta that has misruled Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi, the detained leader of the opposition. After crushing the recent demonstrations, it’s hard to see why the generals, led by the notorious Than Shwe, would concede any ground. In fact, they just ordered the expulsion of the chief UN diplomat in the country, Charles Petrie, for his mild comments last month about the odious regime. In response to the government’s harsh response, the best that Ban could manage is to issue a statement saying that he is “disappointed.”

Well, the rest of us may be more than just a little peeved. We have moved beyond the point of wanting to talk to the junta and no longer wish to see Burma’s leaders trifle with the UN (even if Ban is perfectly content to let his organization be humiliated). In short, it’s time to call for a sanctions vote in the Security Council. Economic isolation is the one thing that can end this particular blot on humanity in fairly short order. After all, Petrie is being turfed out for linking the recent protests to deteriorating economic conditions. It was unhappiness over the doubling of gas prices that triggered the last round of Burmese protests.

It’s time to see who has the gall to vote against condemning the junta with words and sanctions. And if tougher measures fail in the U.N. because Beijing, the regime’s main benefactor, exercises another veto, President Bush can try to rally the rest of the international community. If he’s looking for a legacy, then this is the moment to exercise the leadership of which he is still capable.

UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari arrived in Burma yesterday. Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said his diplomat would try to further “democratic measures by the Myanmar government, including the release of all detained students and demonstrators.” This is Gambari’s second trip to the nation since countrywide protests in September, and it follows his Asia shuttle diplomacy that the Washington Post characterized yesterday as “time-wasting busywork.”

Specifically, Gambari will continue his efforts to initiate a dialogue between the junta that has misruled Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi, the detained leader of the opposition. After crushing the recent demonstrations, it’s hard to see why the generals, led by the notorious Than Shwe, would concede any ground. In fact, they just ordered the expulsion of the chief UN diplomat in the country, Charles Petrie, for his mild comments last month about the odious regime. In response to the government’s harsh response, the best that Ban could manage is to issue a statement saying that he is “disappointed.”

Well, the rest of us may be more than just a little peeved. We have moved beyond the point of wanting to talk to the junta and no longer wish to see Burma’s leaders trifle with the UN (even if Ban is perfectly content to let his organization be humiliated). In short, it’s time to call for a sanctions vote in the Security Council. Economic isolation is the one thing that can end this particular blot on humanity in fairly short order. After all, Petrie is being turfed out for linking the recent protests to deteriorating economic conditions. It was unhappiness over the doubling of gas prices that triggered the last round of Burmese protests.

It’s time to see who has the gall to vote against condemning the junta with words and sanctions. And if tougher measures fail in the U.N. because Beijing, the regime’s main benefactor, exercises another veto, President Bush can try to rally the rest of the international community. If he’s looking for a legacy, then this is the moment to exercise the leadership of which he is still capable.

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The Do-Nothing UN

In a development certain to shock nobody, the UN has released a report on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701, the cease-fire agreement that paused the Israel-Hizballah war last summer. The new report confirms what most sentient people predicted: that Resolution 1701 would accomplish nothing. Ban Ki-moon’s report assents to what Israeli intelligence and military officials have been saying since the end of the war, namely that Iran and Syria have encountered few obstacles to rearming Hizballah with better weapons.

Detailed in Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post, the report says that, in addition to the establishment of surface-to-air missile capacity and the tripling of Hizballah’s arsenal of land-to-sea missiles,

Hizballah’s long-range missile teams are deployed north of the [Litani] river, and . . . most of the new missiles include [the Iranian-made] Zelzal and Fajr missiles that have a range of over 250 kilometers and are capable of hitting areas south of Tel Aviv.

Resolution 1701 and the “robust” UNIFIL that has been “patrolling” southern Lebanon for the past year have not been total non-entities in affecting the situation on the ground. Since the arrival of UNIFIL, Hizballah has focused its reconstruction and re-armament on the area of Lebanon north of the Litani, where UNIFIL does not enforce its paltry and symbolic suppression of Hizballah. Hizballah’s activity in this region, which also involves buying up land for Shia settlement, is actually quite strategically valuable—it allows the creation of physical contiguity between Hizballah’s two strongholds in Lebanon, the Bekaa valley/Syrian border area in the east and the Shia south. Creating this contiguity, and planting Shia civilians throughout this territory, are vital to Hizballah’s ability to deter encirclement by Israel in another round of war, and to wage war from among, and with the help of, Shia civilians.

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In a development certain to shock nobody, the UN has released a report on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701, the cease-fire agreement that paused the Israel-Hizballah war last summer. The new report confirms what most sentient people predicted: that Resolution 1701 would accomplish nothing. Ban Ki-moon’s report assents to what Israeli intelligence and military officials have been saying since the end of the war, namely that Iran and Syria have encountered few obstacles to rearming Hizballah with better weapons.

Detailed in Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post, the report says that, in addition to the establishment of surface-to-air missile capacity and the tripling of Hizballah’s arsenal of land-to-sea missiles,

Hizballah’s long-range missile teams are deployed north of the [Litani] river, and . . . most of the new missiles include [the Iranian-made] Zelzal and Fajr missiles that have a range of over 250 kilometers and are capable of hitting areas south of Tel Aviv.

Resolution 1701 and the “robust” UNIFIL that has been “patrolling” southern Lebanon for the past year have not been total non-entities in affecting the situation on the ground. Since the arrival of UNIFIL, Hizballah has focused its reconstruction and re-armament on the area of Lebanon north of the Litani, where UNIFIL does not enforce its paltry and symbolic suppression of Hizballah. Hizballah’s activity in this region, which also involves buying up land for Shia settlement, is actually quite strategically valuable—it allows the creation of physical contiguity between Hizballah’s two strongholds in Lebanon, the Bekaa valley/Syrian border area in the east and the Shia south. Creating this contiguity, and planting Shia civilians throughout this territory, are vital to Hizballah’s ability to deter encirclement by Israel in another round of war, and to wage war from among, and with the help of, Shia civilians.

Ban Ki-moon says that the situation revealed by the UN report is “grave.” That is correct, but he obscures the UN’s culpability for today’s situation. What is equally grave is the demented state of the United Nations, whose central ambition of preventing Israel from defeating its enemies has provided aid and comfort to terror groups like Hizballah and terror states like Syria. And when the next round of this war arrives, Ban Ki-moon will no doubt be found before the cameras, pleading for a UN-brokered cease-fire instead of apologizing for the role that his organization has played in endangering the lives of innocents on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border.

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Forked Tongues

What difference will it make now that Ali Larijani is no longer Iran’s nuclear negotiator? None, at least to Italian PM Romano Prodi. After welcoming Larijani and his successor, the ardent Mahdist Saeed Jalili, to the governmental offices in the heart of Rome, Prodi declared that,

With regard to Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq, Iran could contribute in easing tensions and finding fair and satisfactory compromises for all, confirming its ability to play a role in constructing regional stability.

Prodi has great timing! While he was complimenting Iran for its constructive role, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon was submitting his biannual report on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701, in which he reveals that Hizballah’s military capacity has climbed again to its prewar levels—an implicit admission that the UNIFIL mission has so far failed to fulfill its mandate under those resolutions. Ban Ki Moon said, in reference to the need for all Lebanese parties to disarm, that

I also expect the unequivocal cooperation of all relevant regional parties who have the ability to support such a process, most notably the Syrian Arab Republic and the Islamic Republic of Iran, which maintain close ties with the party, for the sake of both Lebanon’s and the wider region’s security, stability, and welfare.

It wouldn’t be wrong to read these two apparently very similar statements in vastly different ways. The UN is saying that Iran and Syria have rearmed Hizballah, and is warning (whatever a UN “warning” may be worth) the countries against continuing to do so. Prodi, whose adventurism made him send 3,000 Italian soldiers to Lebanon in August 2006 without the proper mandate to implement the Security Council resolutions his own government helped draft, is, yet again, ignoring the destabilizing role Iran is playing across the region.

What difference will it make now that Ali Larijani is no longer Iran’s nuclear negotiator? None, at least to Italian PM Romano Prodi. After welcoming Larijani and his successor, the ardent Mahdist Saeed Jalili, to the governmental offices in the heart of Rome, Prodi declared that,

With regard to Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq, Iran could contribute in easing tensions and finding fair and satisfactory compromises for all, confirming its ability to play a role in constructing regional stability.

Prodi has great timing! While he was complimenting Iran for its constructive role, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon was submitting his biannual report on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701, in which he reveals that Hizballah’s military capacity has climbed again to its prewar levels—an implicit admission that the UNIFIL mission has so far failed to fulfill its mandate under those resolutions. Ban Ki Moon said, in reference to the need for all Lebanese parties to disarm, that

I also expect the unequivocal cooperation of all relevant regional parties who have the ability to support such a process, most notably the Syrian Arab Republic and the Islamic Republic of Iran, which maintain close ties with the party, for the sake of both Lebanon’s and the wider region’s security, stability, and welfare.

It wouldn’t be wrong to read these two apparently very similar statements in vastly different ways. The UN is saying that Iran and Syria have rearmed Hizballah, and is warning (whatever a UN “warning” may be worth) the countries against continuing to do so. Prodi, whose adventurism made him send 3,000 Italian soldiers to Lebanon in August 2006 without the proper mandate to implement the Security Council resolutions his own government helped draft, is, yet again, ignoring the destabilizing role Iran is playing across the region.

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Israel and the U.N.

Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, plans to turn itself into the U.N. General Assembly for a few moments next November, when it will reenact the fateful November 29, 1947 U.N. General Assembly vote. Israeli officials hope to have the U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, preside over the ceremonial reenactment, alongside the representatives of the original 33 nations who supported the vote.

In two weeks, the European Parliament is also going to play host to U.N.-sponsored, Israel-related activities—this time of a different sort. Then, the EP’s gates will open to welcome, for two days, a “conference” organized by the so-called “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People,” or CEI. Lest there be any confusion, the CEI is a relic of the cold war; it was established by U.N. General Assembly Resolution 3376 in 1975, alongside the infamous Resolution 3379, which stipulated “Zionism is a form of racism.” 3379 was repealed, but CEI lives on, in its own parallel universe of hatred.

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Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, plans to turn itself into the U.N. General Assembly for a few moments next November, when it will reenact the fateful November 29, 1947 U.N. General Assembly vote. Israeli officials hope to have the U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, preside over the ceremonial reenactment, alongside the representatives of the original 33 nations who supported the vote.

In two weeks, the European Parliament is also going to play host to U.N.-sponsored, Israel-related activities—this time of a different sort. Then, the EP’s gates will open to welcome, for two days, a “conference” organized by the so-called “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People,” or CEI. Lest there be any confusion, the CEI is a relic of the cold war; it was established by U.N. General Assembly Resolution 3376 in 1975, alongside the infamous Resolution 3379, which stipulated “Zionism is a form of racism.” 3379 was repealed, but CEI lives on, in its own parallel universe of hatred.

The upcoming conference in Brussels reflects this highly partisan, biased, anti-Israel spirit, as well as the organizational hypocrisy of such international forums, where onesidedness is coated in neutral language. Thus, the conference title is “United Nations International Conference of Civil Society in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace” and the theme is “Civil society and parliamentarians working together for Middle East peace.” Rest assured, though—its participants will whistle a very different tune.

The speakers are vetted to prevent anyone from airing anything but the party line. Among the Israelis apparently invited to attend (the highly secretive program does not list names yet) are, for example, Nurit Peled-Elhanan, Michel Warschawski, and Amira Hass.

Nurit Peled-Elhanan is a peace activist and one of the founders of the Bereaved Families for Peace. After Elhanan’s thirteen-year-old daughter died in 1997, Elhanan became an outspoken critic of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza; she has said that in Israel, “People are either Jews or non-Jews, and it doesn’t matter what they are if they are non-us.” Michel Warschawski is a journalist who writes frequently for extreme left-wing European magazines. Amira Hass writes for the daily newspaper Ha’aretz, and is known for reporting from the Palestinian perspective.

These are interesting speakers, no doubt, but they do not accurately represent Israeli civil society or Israel’s parliament. They speak for themselves and the Palestinian viewpoint, which they have all preached heartily.

All of this and more will take place in less than two weeks, courtesy of the European Parliament and Europe’s taxpayers, who bear the burden of its running costs. So far, only Polish parliamentary members have spoken against the event, announcing they will boycott it for its slanted nature and the harm it will do to the cause of peace. Kudos to the Polish delegation, then, for standing up against the CEI’s abuse of the prestigious platform. It is unfortunate, though, that so far only one of 27 members has spoken against the event, and that an official representative of the Parliament is listed among the speakers for the opening session (alongside a representative from “Palestine,” but not one from Israel).

It is perhaps too much to expect the European Parliament to withdraw its sponsorship of this partisan event, whose aim is everything but the goal its title describes. As for the U.N., let’s just hope there is no scheduling conflict, and that on November 29, U.N. Secretary General Ban, who was already at the opening annual session of CEI last February, will be in Jerusalem, and not at one of the many Israel-bashing events CEI no doubt plans to hold on that day in New York, Geneva, or Vienna.

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The Good News About Lebanon

First the good news. The United States, Britain, and France are asking the UN Security Council to instruct UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to find ways to stop weapons flowing into Lebanon. The text they are proposing also calls on Syria to do more to control its border with Lebanon and for Iran to abide by an arms embargo on shipments to Lebanon.

Here is the critical paragraph:

The Security Council, in this context, expresses grave concern at persistent reports of breaches of the arms embargo along the Lebanon-Syria border. It expresses deep concern about reports, which have not been refuted, that suspected armed Hizballah elements are alleged to be constructing new facilities in the Bekaa Valley. The Council takes note of the detailed information conveyed by the Government of Lebanon about the dangerous activities of armed elements and groups, in particular PFLP-GC and Fatah Intifada, and reiterates its call for the disbanding and disarmament of all militias and armed groups in particular in Lebanon. It underscores the obligation of all member states, particularly the Syrian Arab Republic and Iran, to take all necessary measures to implement paragraph 15 resolution 1701 to enforce the arms embargo.

Now for the bad news.

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First the good news. The United States, Britain, and France are asking the UN Security Council to instruct UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to find ways to stop weapons flowing into Lebanon. The text they are proposing also calls on Syria to do more to control its border with Lebanon and for Iran to abide by an arms embargo on shipments to Lebanon.

Here is the critical paragraph:

The Security Council, in this context, expresses grave concern at persistent reports of breaches of the arms embargo along the Lebanon-Syria border. It expresses deep concern about reports, which have not been refuted, that suspected armed Hizballah elements are alleged to be constructing new facilities in the Bekaa Valley. The Council takes note of the detailed information conveyed by the Government of Lebanon about the dangerous activities of armed elements and groups, in particular PFLP-GC and Fatah Intifada, and reiterates its call for the disbanding and disarmament of all militias and armed groups in particular in Lebanon. It underscores the obligation of all member states, particularly the Syrian Arab Republic and Iran, to take all necessary measures to implement paragraph 15 resolution 1701 to enforce the arms embargo.

Now for the bad news.

First, the proposed action is a mere Security Council “policy statement”; it does not even have the force of Security Council Resolutions, which also typically languish unenforced.

Second, the statement itself must be agreed to by all fifteen members of the Council, which means that already weak tea is likely to be further watered down.

Third, the statement itself is already nonsensical in a characteristically nonsensical UN way. Calling on Syria to do more to control its border with Lebanon, and Iran to abide by an arms embargo, is like asking wolves to become vegetarians.

Fourth, the evil the statement aims to prevent appears to have already occurred. Over the past year, despite UN-imposed restrictions, Syrian and Iranian smuggling of rockets and missiles never ceased. This past Monday, the leader of Hizballah, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, boasted that his group possesses an arsenal of projectile weapons that can reach all of Israel. Senior Israeli officials deny this, saying only that Hizballah’s missiles can reach northern Tel Aviv. Hizballah also boasts of possessing 33,000 shorter-range rockets of the kind that rained down on northern Israel last summer. Whether this number is an exaggeration or not is both unclear and irrelevant. Even if the tally is not 33,000, it is evident that Hizballah does have a huge number of rockets in its possession, many of them smuggled into Lebanon over the past year.

Fifth, the UN statement, for the sake of being balanced and evenhanded, will express concern over “the increase in Israeli violations of Lebanese air space.” But these alleged “violations” are one of the principal means by which Israel and the rest of the world have any measure of the scope of the smuggling that the UN will now ineffectually strive to halt.

In other words, the missile threat Israel is facing is likely to get worse, despite the best efforts of the UN, such as they are. MTHEL remains all the more urgent. Click here to find out about MTHEL.

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Parisi’s Ignorance

Italy’s defense minister Arturo Parisi, interviewed last week on a morning show about Hizballah’s activity in southern Lebanon, dismissed any concern about its arms smuggling. “I am not aware [of any arms smuggling],” he said, “at least not to the extent that it requires a change of behavior by the UN.”

Parisi did recognize Lebanon’s difficult situation—given the ongoing battle between the Lebanese army and Fatah-al-Islam in the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared, near the Syrian border, it would be hard to deny it. But he stated that the real trouble in the region stems from “actors coming from abroad and present in the Palestinian camps, whose links lead both to Sunnis and Shi’as”—and not, apparently, to Hizballah.

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Italy’s defense minister Arturo Parisi, interviewed last week on a morning show about Hizballah’s activity in southern Lebanon, dismissed any concern about its arms smuggling. “I am not aware [of any arms smuggling],” he said, “at least not to the extent that it requires a change of behavior by the UN.”

Parisi did recognize Lebanon’s difficult situation—given the ongoing battle between the Lebanese army and Fatah-al-Islam in the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared, near the Syrian border, it would be hard to deny it. But he stated that the real trouble in the region stems from “actors coming from abroad and present in the Palestinian camps, whose links lead both to Sunnis and Shi’as”—and not, apparently, to Hizballah.

Parisi’s statement is baffling, in light of mounting evidence to the contrary. After all, he should know better. He is not merely the defense minister of Italy. Commanding the largest single contingent of troops in Lebanon and the UNIFIL forces in general, Parisi has access to privileged information about the situation on the ground. How, then, can one reconcile his recent statements with this one, from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:

I have received information from Israel on arms trafficking. This information has been detailed and substantial, as outlined in my recent report. In addition, I have also received reports from other Member States detailing that illegal transfers of arms do occur. According to such reports, some weapons produced outside the region arrive via third countries and are brought clandestinely into Lebanon through the Syrian- Lebanese border. Such transfers are alleged to be taking place on a regular basis.

Ban wrote this in an interim report to the Security Council on the implementation of UNSCR 1559, which demands the disarmament of all militias in Lebanon. A news report by IRIN, the news network affiliated with the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), went further still. IRIN’s report offered specific details, interviews with foreign fighters, and eyewitness accounts of arms smuggling in Lebanon:

The two most significant reported violations of Resolution 1559’s demand for disarming militias over the past six months were weapons seized from members of the Syrian Socialist National Party (SSNP) in north Lebanon and a truck full of rockets and mortars seized in the eastern Bekaa Valley, which Hezbollah said was bound for its fighters.

Arms smuggling has also been reported in the international press and media. In a recent article in the French daily Le Figaro, Georges Malbrunot quoted a UN official close to the Secretary General saying that “This time the satellite photos that the Israelis showed us seem conclusive.” Malbrunot’s piece continues:

During their six months patrolling southern Lebanon its bloodhounds have discovered over a hundred bunkers, some of them cunningly established alongside UNIFIL positions, and a great many arms caches concealed under mosques and soccer pitches. To coordinate their attacks on Tzahal, militiamen have even established a telephone network independent of the Lebanese postal service! “How could the Beirut government have been unaware of all that?” one senior UNIFIL official asked; he suspects Hizballah of concealing weapons in the cellars of homes in southern Lebanon, to which blue helmets do not have access. “We could be unaware of many things,” this UN official complained.

Judging by his statements, one can only conclude that Parisi is also unaware of these developments, despite the wealth of information available even in the public domain. Unlike the UN Secretary General, who, at least, is “deeply worried” about the Lebanese crisis and the role played by Iran and Syria in arms smuggling, Parisi has dismissed any concern. And perhaps he genuinely doesn’t know.

But Parisi may simply be loath to embarrass his colleague Massimo D’Alema, Italy’s foreign minister, who is expected to visit Damascus soon. The purpose of this trip, as D’Alema reportedly claimed in a recent phone conversation with his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni, is “to lecture” the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Given the evidence (and D’Alema’s foreign policy record), it’s tempting to assume he will pretend that all is business as usual—as Parisi did last week in front of the cameras.

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