Commentary Magazine


Topic: United Nations

How Irrelevant Are the Palestinians? Very.

The key phrase in Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly today didn’t mention Israel. He had promised Jewish leaders he would recognize Jewish rights to the land that is disputed by Israelis and Palestinians. He moved a little closer to such recognition with his mention of the ties of the three monotheistic religions to the country and did say he didn’t want to delegitimize Israel–though much of his speech was clearly aiming at just such a goal. But the most important sentence was the one where he complained about the Palestinians being moved “to the bottom of the global agenda.” He then went on to claim that the PA alone was the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians and that there could not be two such bodies.

It was those sentences, in which he vainly banged his head against the wall of world indifference to his cause, that were telling. The fact is the Palestinians are at the bottom of the world agenda. That’s because, contrary to his boast, the PA is a corrupt, ineffective state which doesn’t control all of the territory it claims since Gaza is ruled by Hamas. Thus, while much of the world applauds Abbas’s imprecation of Israel as a racist, colonialist state and his outright lies about the fomenting of hatred that his government promotes, they have no interest in supporting him. It was for that reason that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu gave Abbas’s speech barely a mention as he went on to concentrate on his country’s real problem: a nuclear Iran.

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The key phrase in Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly today didn’t mention Israel. He had promised Jewish leaders he would recognize Jewish rights to the land that is disputed by Israelis and Palestinians. He moved a little closer to such recognition with his mention of the ties of the three monotheistic religions to the country and did say he didn’t want to delegitimize Israel–though much of his speech was clearly aiming at just such a goal. But the most important sentence was the one where he complained about the Palestinians being moved “to the bottom of the global agenda.” He then went on to claim that the PA alone was the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians and that there could not be two such bodies.

It was those sentences, in which he vainly banged his head against the wall of world indifference to his cause, that were telling. The fact is the Palestinians are at the bottom of the world agenda. That’s because, contrary to his boast, the PA is a corrupt, ineffective state which doesn’t control all of the territory it claims since Gaza is ruled by Hamas. Thus, while much of the world applauds Abbas’s imprecation of Israel as a racist, colonialist state and his outright lies about the fomenting of hatred that his government promotes, they have no interest in supporting him. It was for that reason that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu gave Abbas’s speech barely a mention as he went on to concentrate on his country’s real problem: a nuclear Iran.

Abbas’s unhappy acknowledgement of the world’s opinion of the PA summed up exactly why the “diplomatic tsunami” that was supposed to engulf Israel last fall never happened. The global community may not like Israel and is not enraged by the anti-Semitic incitement that the Palestinians routinely produce. But they know that Abbas can’t make peace with Israel and won’t negotiate with it to create a state that will, as Netanyahu said, recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state. They also know the PA is incapable of governing such a state and that Abbas, in the eighth year of his current four-year term as president, fears that Hamas will supplant him if given the chance.

The Palestinian issue is one that the world cares about. But it doesn’t care about the PA. That is why they are on the bottom of the global agenda and will stay there so long as they produce leaders such as Abbas.

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Ban Didn’t Redeem Himself in Tehran

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has rightly been subjected to some tough criticism for going to Tehran this week to attend the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement. Much like the meeting of the 120-member nation group itself, Ban’s presence in Iran shows how ineffective American efforts to isolate the Islamist regime have been. His presence there is an implicit stamp of approval for Tehran’s defiance of efforts to halt their drive for nuclear weapons as well as for the recent spate of anti-Semitic statements made by Iran’s leaders. But Ban’s defenders have claimed he would make up for it by making strong statements in Iran.

Ban has apparently made good on that promise by using a meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to stop making offensive and inflammatory comments about Israel being eliminated. He also used a separate meeting with Ayatollah Ali Khaminei to tell him that Iran needs to take “concrete steps” to prove to the world that its nuclear program is not a threat to world peace. Those are good statements, but the idea that this redeems Ban’s decision to travel to the rogue regime is dead wrong. The Iranians have already been told these things numerous times by people more important than Ban. With the clock ticking down to the day when the ayatollahs can announce they have a nuclear weapon, the Iranians need to understand that they will be subjected to complete isolation if they don’t reverse course. More scolding won’t do the trick.

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United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has rightly been subjected to some tough criticism for going to Tehran this week to attend the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement. Much like the meeting of the 120-member nation group itself, Ban’s presence in Iran shows how ineffective American efforts to isolate the Islamist regime have been. His presence there is an implicit stamp of approval for Tehran’s defiance of efforts to halt their drive for nuclear weapons as well as for the recent spate of anti-Semitic statements made by Iran’s leaders. But Ban’s defenders have claimed he would make up for it by making strong statements in Iran.

Ban has apparently made good on that promise by using a meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to stop making offensive and inflammatory comments about Israel being eliminated. He also used a separate meeting with Ayatollah Ali Khaminei to tell him that Iran needs to take “concrete steps” to prove to the world that its nuclear program is not a threat to world peace. Those are good statements, but the idea that this redeems Ban’s decision to travel to the rogue regime is dead wrong. The Iranians have already been told these things numerous times by people more important than Ban. With the clock ticking down to the day when the ayatollahs can announce they have a nuclear weapon, the Iranians need to understand that they will be subjected to complete isolation if they don’t reverse course. More scolding won’t do the trick.

When compared to the feckless behavior of the members of the Non-Aligned Movement such as Egypt, whose new President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood also journeyed to Tehran, Ban’s behavior looks good. Those other countries were happy to accept the hospitality of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad and to say nothing about their vicious anti-Semitism and threats to wipe out a fellow member state of the United Nations, let alone condemn Iran’s nuclear program. That this conclave would occur at a time when Iran is actively supplying its ally Syrian dictator Bashar Assad with weapons to kill his own people is equally outrageous. Ban at least put himself on record as opposing these things.

But the Iranians were happy to accept Ban’s remonstrations in exchange for being able to play host to the NAM as well as the head of the UN. Just by being there, Ban made it clear that the West’s sanctions were not a serious impediment to normal intercourse between Iran and the rest of the world. At this point, it matters less what people say to the Iranians than what they do with them. Going to Tehran was a gift that exposed the unimportance of the international coalition that Secretary of State Clinton has bragged about organizing. Ban’s statements, however praiseworthy, don’t change the fact that this has been a very good week for the Iranian regime and a bad one for those who still insist against all the evidence that diplomacy and sanctions are enough to stop them.

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Ex-U.S. Diplomat Meets Iran’s Leader

Jeffrey Feltman did a stellar job as U.S. ambassador to Lebanon from 2004 to 2008. While many career ambassadors embrace moral neutrality against the backdrop of political crisis, Feltman stepped up to the plate during the Cedar Revolution and helped give the Lebanese a real shot at affirming their freedom and independence from Syrian domination. Alas, the March 14 movement was hopelessly divided and ineffective. After Feltman left, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice blessed the Doha Agreement which enabled Hezbollah to reassert its control, and effectively end the Cedar Revolution.

President Obama’s election was a mixed blessing for Feltman. On one hand, he received a nice promotion and became the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs but, on the other hand, Obama used him as his point man for his silly and misguided strategy to flip Syria and normalize ties with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad who both Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton considered a reformer.

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Jeffrey Feltman did a stellar job as U.S. ambassador to Lebanon from 2004 to 2008. While many career ambassadors embrace moral neutrality against the backdrop of political crisis, Feltman stepped up to the plate during the Cedar Revolution and helped give the Lebanese a real shot at affirming their freedom and independence from Syrian domination. Alas, the March 14 movement was hopelessly divided and ineffective. After Feltman left, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice blessed the Doha Agreement which enabled Hezbollah to reassert its control, and effectively end the Cedar Revolution.

President Obama’s election was a mixed blessing for Feltman. On one hand, he received a nice promotion and became the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs but, on the other hand, Obama used him as his point man for his silly and misguided strategy to flip Syria and normalize ties with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad who both Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton considered a reformer.

Earlier this summer, Feltman had enough. He resigned from the State Department and immediately began to work for the United Nations, as that body’s under-secretary-general and head of its Department of Political Affairs. Alas, any hope that the good Feltman would rub off effectively on the United Nations appears to have been dashed. As my colleague Ahmad Majidyar pointed out, Iran’s Fars News Agency has just published a photo of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Feltman meeting with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khameini. Feltman looks distinctly uncomfortable and, indeed, he should squirm. He is being used as a showpiece in Iranian propaganda, as he and his misguided boss supplicate themselves to a man who openly calls for genocide.

Decisions matter, not only when in the State Department, but also when retired from it. Feltman’s predecessor as Assistant Secretary of State David Welch used his connections to solicit business for Bechtel in Libya, but actually worked to advise Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi on how to maintain power. If these are the best and the brightest at the State Department’s Near East bureau, let’s hope that a Romney administration would take a long hard look at how the career foreign service is staffed and trained, and why it is that so many representing the United States appear to have lost their grounding.

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Palestinians Face Own Diplomatic Tsunami

It seems like it’s been more than just 12 months since the pro-Israel community was in uproar about an imminent “diplomatic tsunami” that we were told would swamp the Jewish state. The “tsunami” was the Palestinian Authority’s plan to get the United Nations to grant it independence without first having to make peace with Israel. The assumption among foreign policy “realists” and the Jewish left was that the Palestinians would carry the international community with them and force Israel’s government to make even more concessions to avoid total isolation. But the “tsunami” that Ehud Barak feared never came to pass. If anything, what followed that fall was a diplomatic disaster for the Palestinians that illustrated that they were the ones who were isolated.

Though the PA vowed last year they would be back at the UN for another round of this fight, yesterday they signaled they would not bother. Though PA leader Mahmoud Abbas will address the UN again in September and mention the issue, the Palestinians won’t try to get it passed in either the Security Council or even the General Assembly, where everyone assumes they have an automatic majority. This concession shows just how thoroughly Israel’s supposedly incompetent government defeated them in 2011. But it may also signify a belief on their part that they would do better to keep quiet until President Obama is safely re-elected rather than cause trouble that would only worsen their situation during the fall campaign.

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It seems like it’s been more than just 12 months since the pro-Israel community was in uproar about an imminent “diplomatic tsunami” that we were told would swamp the Jewish state. The “tsunami” was the Palestinian Authority’s plan to get the United Nations to grant it independence without first having to make peace with Israel. The assumption among foreign policy “realists” and the Jewish left was that the Palestinians would carry the international community with them and force Israel’s government to make even more concessions to avoid total isolation. But the “tsunami” that Ehud Barak feared never came to pass. If anything, what followed that fall was a diplomatic disaster for the Palestinians that illustrated that they were the ones who were isolated.

Though the PA vowed last year they would be back at the UN for another round of this fight, yesterday they signaled they would not bother. Though PA leader Mahmoud Abbas will address the UN again in September and mention the issue, the Palestinians won’t try to get it passed in either the Security Council or even the General Assembly, where everyone assumes they have an automatic majority. This concession shows just how thoroughly Israel’s supposedly incompetent government defeated them in 2011. But it may also signify a belief on their part that they would do better to keep quiet until President Obama is safely re-elected rather than cause trouble that would only worsen their situation during the fall campaign.

The “tsunami” failed not just because President Obama kept his word about threatening to veto a Palestinian attempt to get the Security Council to give them full member status. The U.S. wound up not even having to exercise that veto because the Palestinians couldn’t even get other, erstwhile sympathetic nations, to vote for them. Even the automatic Palestinian majority in the General Assembly was wary of wasting time and effort on this lost cause. The world knew the PA was a corrupt and bankrupt organization incapable of exercising sovereignty even if it was handed to them on a silver platter. For all of the anti-Zionist propaganda that is routinely aired at the UN, most member states, even those most hostile to Israel, understand that the Palestinians are only interested in perpetuating the conflict, not genuinely seeking a two state solution. Nor were they interested in picking a fight with the U.S. Congress, which was sure to vote to cut off funds to the world body if the Palestinians got their way.

It should also be noted that Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who is generally regarded in the United States as a bull in a china shop, actually maneuvered quite adeptly in the diplomatic battles that preceded the fizzling out of the “tsunami.” Countries that might have been expected to back the Palestinians flipped and Lieberman deserves some of the credit for this, along with the Americans.

Abbas knows that a repeat of the exercise this year would bring a similar result, hence their quiet waving of the white flag. But the Palestinians are still holding onto the hope that a re-elected Barack Obama will give them an advantage and the abandonment of the UN gambit is also a sign that they are not eager to do anything that might hinder his chances at the polls. If there is to be any trouble from them, it will almost certainly come after November when they may think the president’s attitude toward their requests will be more flexible than it was during his election year Jewish charm offensive.

Israelis are similarly uncertain about the consequences of Obama’s re-election, as they fear a second term will embolden him to return to efforts to force them to make concessions in a quixotic attempt to revive the peace process. But the problem for the Palestinians is that even a president as sympathetic to their cause as Obama isn’t likely to stick his neck out for them in the absence of a firm determination on their part to actually negotiate with Israel and to accept a reasonable peace offer. Even a re-elected Obama, who would also be tangling with Israel over the Iranian nuclear threat, may understand that hammering the Jewish state is a futile endeavor as long as the Palestinians are unwilling to make peace. The real diplomatic tsunami is the tide of indifference that Palestinian rejectionism has bred even among those most likely to back their cause.

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Even Hamas has More Moral Sense than the UN Secretary-General

If I were UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, or any of the 120 countries that sent delegates to the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Iran this week, I’d be more than a little embarrassed to discover that Hamas, a terrorist organization that thinks nothing of slaughtering innocent men, women and children in buses, restaurants and hotels, actually has a more developed sense of morality than I do.

While Hamas was invited to attend the NAM summit by Iran, it ultimately declined. This decision followed a public threat by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that if Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh went, he would stay home. But senior Hamas officials say the desire to prevent an open rift with Abbas was only a secondary consideration. Their number-one reason for staying home was that they didn’t want to be seen as supporting Iran at a time when Iran is openly supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s slaughter of his own people by supplying him with arms and even troops.

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If I were UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, or any of the 120 countries that sent delegates to the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Iran this week, I’d be more than a little embarrassed to discover that Hamas, a terrorist organization that thinks nothing of slaughtering innocent men, women and children in buses, restaurants and hotels, actually has a more developed sense of morality than I do.

While Hamas was invited to attend the NAM summit by Iran, it ultimately declined. This decision followed a public threat by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that if Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh went, he would stay home. But senior Hamas officials say the desire to prevent an open rift with Abbas was only a secondary consideration. Their number-one reason for staying home was that they didn’t want to be seen as supporting Iran at a time when Iran is openly supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s slaughter of his own people by supplying him with arms and even troops.

Clearly, no such qualms troubled Ban or any of the other high-profile delegates, most of whom are very senior officials of their own countries. By attending the summit, they sent the clearest possible message: Assad is free to continue slaughtering his people (the death toll has already topped 19,000, with no end in sight). And Iran is free to continue helping him do so without suffering any consequences whatsoever: It will still be treated as an honored and valued member of the international community.

So now we know that even Hamas has a red line: Murdering 19,000 fellow Sunni Muslims is beyond the pale. But for Ban and the other 120 delegates, there are no red lines: Mass murder is fine and dandy.

Actually, this shouldn’t come as a surprise; both the UN and the Non-Aligned Movement have shown many times before that they have no moral red lines. But here’s what is surprising: that so many Western countries–including all of Europe and, under Barack Obama, the U.S. as well–nevertheless continue to treat the UN as a source of moral authority, without whose imprimatur no international action is justified.

After all, these are countries that do think murdering 19,000 of your own citizens is beyond the pale. So why do they accord moral authority to the UN when both its secretary-general and its automatic voting majority (NAM comprises a majority of UN members, and frequently votes as a bloc) have shown so blatantly that they don’t?

If you outsource moral authority to a tarnished agency, you can’t help being tarnished yourself. And that’s precisely where the West stands today: Having declared that no action on Syria is possible without UN approval, it is now viewed by many Syrians as no less indifferent to their plight than the UN itself.

But if even Hamas can renounce its former paymaster in Tehran on moral grounds, is it really too much to ask that the West muster the courage to do the same to the UN?

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UN Agency Embraces Terror Group

When I lived in Tajikistan back in 1997, a branch of the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee opened within eyesight of the U.S. embassy. Within days, the State Department evacuated non-essential personnel. The reason was simple: While the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee describes itself as a charity and, indeed, often distributes blankets and food to the poor, the Supreme Leader controls its assets, and the group has a very close relationship to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Two years ago, the U.S. Treasury Department designated the Lebanese branches of the Committee “for being owned or controlled by Hizbullah and for providing financial and material support to Hizbullah and its director.” The Committee has engaged in suspicious activities not only in Tajikistan and Lebanon, but also in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Somalia.

Enter the United Nations.

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When I lived in Tajikistan back in 1997, a branch of the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee opened within eyesight of the U.S. embassy. Within days, the State Department evacuated non-essential personnel. The reason was simple: While the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee describes itself as a charity and, indeed, often distributes blankets and food to the poor, the Supreme Leader controls its assets, and the group has a very close relationship to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Two years ago, the U.S. Treasury Department designated the Lebanese branches of the Committee “for being owned or controlled by Hizbullah and for providing financial and material support to Hizbullah and its director.” The Committee has engaged in suspicious activities not only in Tajikistan and Lebanon, but also in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Somalia.

Enter the United Nations.

The Islamic Republic’s official news agency has announced cooperation with the United Nations Population Fund:

United Nations Population Fund has voiced readiness to cooperate with the relief aid committee on health and rehabilitation of bread-earning women… Imam Khomeini relief aid committee has signed letter of understanding on broadening cooperation with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), The World Health Organization and OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), he said.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with supporting women’s health but there are many charities out there to choose from, most of which are not tainted by involvement in terrorism. Given that money is fungible, and the Iranians use the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee for surveillance and to provide cover to terror operatives, it is shameful that the United Nations would embrace the group. This raises the possibility that U.S. funding for these UN agencies may contribute to Iranian terror attacks which kill U.S. civilians. Secretary Clinton, Ambassador Rice: is anyone awake at the State Department, or are American national security and the well-being of American citizens now of secondary concern to the State Department?

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Palestinians Waiting for Obama to Win

Israel is being criticized today in the world press for playing hardball with five of the 12 non-aligned nations that had hoped to gather in Ramallah to formally back the Palestinian Authority’s latest attempt to get the United Nations to back their bid for statehood. The delegations from Algeria, Bangladesh, Cuba, Indonesia and Malaysia who sought to enter the territories while sticking to their non-recognition of the Jewish state were not allowed in, effectively spiking the entire event. The collapse of what the PA had hoped would be a “Ramallah Declaration” was just the latest indication that the Palestinians’ latest UN bid might end as badly as their first try. However, the Palestinians are smart enough to know that placing your chips on the ability of a disorganized and powerless faction like the Non-Aligned Movement isn’t a good bet.

Far more significant than the posturing in Ramallah were the comments by aides of PA President Mahmoud Abbas that their UN campaign would be largely put on hold until after the U.S. presidential election. As the Times of Israel reports, Abbas is planning to soft pedal his UN effort until November because he understands that any talk about the Palestinians could hinder Obama’s re-election hopes. Though the PA has been dismayed by the president’s election year Jewish charm offensive that has seen their concerns pigeonholed in Washington, Abbas is clearly hoping for a better result once Obama is safely returned to office.

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Israel is being criticized today in the world press for playing hardball with five of the 12 non-aligned nations that had hoped to gather in Ramallah to formally back the Palestinian Authority’s latest attempt to get the United Nations to back their bid for statehood. The delegations from Algeria, Bangladesh, Cuba, Indonesia and Malaysia who sought to enter the territories while sticking to their non-recognition of the Jewish state were not allowed in, effectively spiking the entire event. The collapse of what the PA had hoped would be a “Ramallah Declaration” was just the latest indication that the Palestinians’ latest UN bid might end as badly as their first try. However, the Palestinians are smart enough to know that placing your chips on the ability of a disorganized and powerless faction like the Non-Aligned Movement isn’t a good bet.

Far more significant than the posturing in Ramallah were the comments by aides of PA President Mahmoud Abbas that their UN campaign would be largely put on hold until after the U.S. presidential election. As the Times of Israel reports, Abbas is planning to soft pedal his UN effort until November because he understands that any talk about the Palestinians could hinder Obama’s re-election hopes. Though the PA has been dismayed by the president’s election year Jewish charm offensive that has seen their concerns pigeonholed in Washington, Abbas is clearly hoping for a better result once Obama is safely returned to office.

Abbas had hoped the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement’s Palestine Committee in Ramallah would give him a boost, but the collapse of the publicity stunt is yet another setback for his diplomatic offensive. Israel will be accused of playing the bully in this incident, and the Palestinians may think it will serve their cause, but the spectacle of nations that don’t recognize Israel’s existence seeking entry via Israeli crossings is not likely to harm the Jewish state.

If anything, the contretemps is a reminder that what the PA is trying to execute is an end run around the peace process. They want independence and Israel’s withdrawal from disputed territory but are not willing to negotiate about it and instead are simply demanding the UN hand it to them on a silver platter. Last summer, the world press was abuzz with predictions of a “diplomatic tsunami” which would swamp Israel as the Palestinians were acclaimed at the UN. But the tsunami was barely a light sprinkle as the world yawned and refused to back their play. Though it is still possible that with the help of the Non-Aligned nations they can upgrade their membership privileges via a UN General Assembly resolution, such a step would entail considerable risks for the PA, including the loss of U.S. funding as well as Israeli financial retaliation.

As for their cherished hopes that a second Obama administration would do their bidding, that is exactly the sort of rumbling that scares Democrats who fear Jewish voters will remember the three years of administration pressure on Israel rather than the last few months of friendship. But even though the Palestinians have good reason to think that a Romney administration would be far less willing to tilt the diplomatic playing field in their direction as Obama has done, they need to remember why they’ve accomplished nothing in the past four years.

Even though Obama has been the least friendly president to Israel in at least a generation, the Palestinians got nothing out of it. President Obama picked fights with Israel over settlements, the 1967 lines and the status of Jerusalem, but the Palestinians still struck out because they foolishly thought Obama would do all their dirty work for them and still refused to negotiate.

Israelis may worry about what Obama’s re-election will mean for them, as they know it is a certainty that the charm offensive will end the day after the election. But they can take comfort in the fact that it isn’t likely that Mahmoud Abbas will get any braver or smarter in the next four years. Even with a friend in the White House, the Palestinians will gain no territory or a state so long as they are unwilling to negotiate. Nor can they hope to achieve those goals unless they are prepared to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. Because that is still a virtual impossibility, their faith in Obama or the ability of any American politician to help them is clearly misplaced.

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Human Rights Groups Sacrifice Syrians for Misguided Principle

There is no doubt whatsoever that what is occurring in Syria is a humanitarian tragedy. The Assad regime has concluded that Western governments do not have the will to back up their rhetoric with action, and so have accelerated the atrocity and mass slaughter to new levels.  While reports once spoke of a dozen people being killed in a day, some recent reports from Syria suggest an order of greater magnitude is now the norm.

Human rights groups wring their hands that Russia and China are not on the same page at the UN Security Council, but representatives from several prominent groups hold out hope that there can be some sort of magic formula that will bring Moscow and Beijing onboard. Such hope is, of course, misplaced. Syria hosts Russia’s only military base outside the confines of the former Soviet Union, and Vladimir Putin will always prioritize strategic position above averting humanitarian tragedy.

The questions human rights groups need to face is whether it is moral to, in effect, sacrifice the lives of tens of thousands of Syrians upon the principle that no action is legitimate unless the United Nations says it is. They may not like the question framed in that way, but there is no avoiding it.

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There is no doubt whatsoever that what is occurring in Syria is a humanitarian tragedy. The Assad regime has concluded that Western governments do not have the will to back up their rhetoric with action, and so have accelerated the atrocity and mass slaughter to new levels.  While reports once spoke of a dozen people being killed in a day, some recent reports from Syria suggest an order of greater magnitude is now the norm.

Human rights groups wring their hands that Russia and China are not on the same page at the UN Security Council, but representatives from several prominent groups hold out hope that there can be some sort of magic formula that will bring Moscow and Beijing onboard. Such hope is, of course, misplaced. Syria hosts Russia’s only military base outside the confines of the former Soviet Union, and Vladimir Putin will always prioritize strategic position above averting humanitarian tragedy.

The questions human rights groups need to face is whether it is moral to, in effect, sacrifice the lives of tens of thousands of Syrians upon the principle that no action is legitimate unless the United Nations says it is. They may not like the question framed in that way, but there is no avoiding it.

There are many military strategies which might provide immediate protection to the Syrian people. Max Boot and Reuel Marc Gerecht have discussed some of them. Syrians point out to me that limited airpower would be effective in stopping the pulverization of neighborhoods and towns by Syrian artillery. Syrian forces are afraid to set up mortars and artillery too close to urban areas, because residents will attack and lynch them. So much of the artillery barrages are launched from open fields, meaning that Western air forces could target the perpetrators with little risk of collateral damage.

It is time human rights groups recognize that the embrace of human rights and support for predominance of the United Nations in the international system are often mutually exclusive values, and be open about whether human rights advocates now place a political agenda above protecting and preserving human rights.

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Iran’s UN Arms Control Post is No Joke

As the recent documentary film “UN Me” proved, the line between satire and reality at the United Nations is razor thin. There is no shortage of outrageous examples of how tyrannical regimes have twisted the founding ideals of the UN into the corrupt talking shop that currently befouls international discourse. But there are times when the world body does something so outrageous that it must give pause to even its most zealous defenders. That level was reached last week when, as UN Watch reports, Iran was voted to a top arms control post at the UN Arms Trade Treaty conference being held in Geneva this month. UN Watch rightly condemned the selection and noted that it happened not long after the UN Security Council condemned Iran for illegally transferring guns and bombs to Syria, which is currently using them to massacre its own citizens.

The choice may, as UN Watch said, defy “logic, morality and common sense,” to elect Iran to a position where it will help monitor compliance with treaty regulations about arms transfers, but since when did the UN have anything to do any of those qualities? But while this will provide Ami Horowitz with fodder for a “UN Me” sequel, the consequences of actions of this sort are actually quite serious. The UN’s legitimization of the Islamist regime undermines the already faltering efforts of the Obama administration to use diplomacy and sanctions to force Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions.

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As the recent documentary film “UN Me” proved, the line between satire and reality at the United Nations is razor thin. There is no shortage of outrageous examples of how tyrannical regimes have twisted the founding ideals of the UN into the corrupt talking shop that currently befouls international discourse. But there are times when the world body does something so outrageous that it must give pause to even its most zealous defenders. That level was reached last week when, as UN Watch reports, Iran was voted to a top arms control post at the UN Arms Trade Treaty conference being held in Geneva this month. UN Watch rightly condemned the selection and noted that it happened not long after the UN Security Council condemned Iran for illegally transferring guns and bombs to Syria, which is currently using them to massacre its own citizens.

The choice may, as UN Watch said, defy “logic, morality and common sense,” to elect Iran to a position where it will help monitor compliance with treaty regulations about arms transfers, but since when did the UN have anything to do any of those qualities? But while this will provide Ami Horowitz with fodder for a “UN Me” sequel, the consequences of actions of this sort are actually quite serious. The UN’s legitimization of the Islamist regime undermines the already faltering efforts of the Obama administration to use diplomacy and sanctions to force Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions.

Those seeking to understand the obdurate refusal of Tehran to play by the rules Washington would like to lay down for them — a point amply illustrated by the position paper obtained by the Times of Israel that points to Iran’s plans for expanding rather than contracting its nuclear program — have to understand Iran’s ability to pose as a legitimate player in international affairs is at the heart of their defiance. The Iranians’ success in Geneva does not do as much to harden their hearts in the P5+1 talks as President Obama’s decision to grant blanket exemptions to Iran’s chief trade partners. But it is all part of a pattern of events that allows the ayatollahs to believe the international community will never hold them accountable for their nuclear transgressions.

The only way Iran can be brought to heel without force is if the sanctions and oil embargo were rigorously enforced and the Islamist leaders of Iran were isolated in the same way those of apartheid-era South Africa were treated. But so long as the ayatollahs are able to support themselves with oil revenue and can point out to their restive people that nobody really cares about their violations of human rights and arms dealing to terrorists and tyrants, why should we expect them to believe President Obama means business when he says he won’t allow Iran to go nuclear?

The UN may be a parody of sane international relations, but the fallout from this and other outrageous examples of how regimes like Iran are treated as responsible players is no joke.

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A New Round of Palestinian Extortion

Yasser Arafat was famous for perfecting a style of diplomacy that could win him accolades from naive Westerners without having to make a single concession or sacrifice for the peace process. He would do this by refusing to do something basic that he should have already done until he could extort a reward for it. The West would pretend they got a concession from Arafat, and Arafat would laugh and laugh. It was a classic lose-lose dance that has marked the peace process from the beginning.

Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, is a slight improvement, but in this regard he is turning back the clock. Haaretz is reporting that something which in the pre-Obama days of Middle East diplomacy was taken for granted–the willingness by Palestinians to meet for the purposes of political theater–has turned into something that requires ever more concessions. The latest is the Palestinian demand that Israel release 125 terrorists just for the pleasure of Abbas considering a meeting. Benjamin Netanyahu has supposedly accepted the offer, and issued a proposal for how to structure the deal.

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Yasser Arafat was famous for perfecting a style of diplomacy that could win him accolades from naive Westerners without having to make a single concession or sacrifice for the peace process. He would do this by refusing to do something basic that he should have already done until he could extort a reward for it. The West would pretend they got a concession from Arafat, and Arafat would laugh and laugh. It was a classic lose-lose dance that has marked the peace process from the beginning.

Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, is a slight improvement, but in this regard he is turning back the clock. Haaretz is reporting that something which in the pre-Obama days of Middle East diplomacy was taken for granted–the willingness by Palestinians to meet for the purposes of political theater–has turned into something that requires ever more concessions. The latest is the Palestinian demand that Israel release 125 terrorists just for the pleasure of Abbas considering a meeting. Benjamin Netanyahu has supposedly accepted the offer, and issued a proposal for how to structure the deal.

There are caveats to this: it’s possible Israel was mulling the release of the prisoners at some point in the near future anyway; alternatively, as Abbas has no intention of negotiating it probably won’t happen. Nonetheless, the mere whiff of such a story going public will have negative consequences, as the following two key paragraphs of the story indicate:

The Palestinians are at this point said to be in no hurry to agree to Netanyahu’s proposal; they are concerned that after the initial stage of prisoner release Israel will find excuses not to carry out the other four. The Palestinians also say Israel’s proposal for the exchange of old weapons for new ones is “humiliating,” and does not meet their security needs.

And:

Talks between Erekat and Molho are ongoing ahead of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Israel next Monday. This will be Clinton’s first visit to Israel since September 15, 2010, when she, Netanyahu and Abbas met at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem. The talks have been stalled since that meeting.

On the first: the Palestinians are actually balking at their own ridiculous demands because Israel is only agreeing to release some weapons and some murderers to them–surely a recipe for peace–but are afraid they won’t get all the murderers and all the guns and ammo they’re asking for. Translation: they made a crazy offer designed to repulse the Israelis enough to keep them away from the negotiating table. The Israelis accepted the crazy offer–something the Palestinians didn’t anticipate–and now Abbas must find a way to weasel out of it. (He’s done this before; it works.) It’s possible the Israelis are simply calling Abbas’s bluff here. If so, the peace process is no less of a cynical joke than it has been for years.

On the second excerpt from the story: Hillary Clinton is coming to the region (though she is bound to get lost on the way to Jerusalem, since she still doesn’t know what country it’s in) to do some peacemaking, and would like the publicity stunt of announcing the resumption of talks. If she is serious, the first thing she should do is reprimand the Palestinians for trying to extort this face-to-face meeting with Netanyahu. If not, she should save the trip and her breath. If what she wants is peace, she cannot in good faith bless this sort of disaster.

What’s the point of all this? If you read this and thought: This is far too nonsensical for the United Nations not to be involved somehow, you would be right. Next paragraph:

The United States and Israel believe that a Netanyahu-Abbas meeting and Israeli moves could create an atmosphere in which Abbas is less likely to approach the United Nations once again in September with a request to receive the status of a non-member observer state.

Why? What makes them think this? If Clinton wants to prevent the Palestinians from taking more unilateral action at the dictators’ Pack ’n Play that is the United Nations, she should remind Abbas that unilateralism will thus have his blessing, and so he shouldn’t be surprised if the Israelis take a few unilateral actions of their own. What would those unilateral actions be? Who knows? Clinton should dare Abbas to find out.

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Palestinians Go Back to UN Dead-End

One would have thought the Palestinians might have learned their lesson when they devoted all of their efforts last year to an attempt to get the United Nations to issue a unilateral recognition of their independence. Many predicted the showdown over the initiative would produce a “diplomatic tsunami” that would overwhelm Israel and do serious damage to its political standing around the world and even in the United States. But those predictions, which were rightly debunked here at Contentions before the UN General Assembly met last September, proved to be mere hot air. Rather than a tsunami, the Palestinian push to make an end run around the peace process was a total flop, as even many European and Third World countries not sympathetic to Israel bailed on them.

But rather than moving on from that failure and seeking a diplomatic path to statehood, Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, told the Times of Israel today that he and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas are heading back to the UN this fall for another tilt at the statehood windmill. Observers should take this signal for what it is: an indisputable statement of their disinterest in making peace with Israel on any terms.

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One would have thought the Palestinians might have learned their lesson when they devoted all of their efforts last year to an attempt to get the United Nations to issue a unilateral recognition of their independence. Many predicted the showdown over the initiative would produce a “diplomatic tsunami” that would overwhelm Israel and do serious damage to its political standing around the world and even in the United States. But those predictions, which were rightly debunked here at Contentions before the UN General Assembly met last September, proved to be mere hot air. Rather than a tsunami, the Palestinian push to make an end run around the peace process was a total flop, as even many European and Third World countries not sympathetic to Israel bailed on them.

But rather than moving on from that failure and seeking a diplomatic path to statehood, Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, told the Times of Israel today that he and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas are heading back to the UN this fall for another tilt at the statehood windmill. Observers should take this signal for what it is: an indisputable statement of their disinterest in making peace with Israel on any terms.

The Palestinian failure at the UN exposed more than their leadership’s faulty judgment. It demonstrated that even an international community that could always be counted on to bash Israel understood that a peace accord had to precede a Palestinian state. The idea of giving even symbolic sovereignty to the Fatah-Hamas mess was always a non-starter. The world body made it clear to the Palestinian Authority that if it wanted a state, negotiations with Israel was the only way to get it.

But if this message fell on deaf Palestinian ears it is not because the PA’s leadership doesn’t understand that they have no more chance of getting UN approval for their proposal than they have of persuading the Israelis of giving up and disbanding their state. If they would prefer another humiliation at the UN to talking with the Israelis it is not because the Israelis won’t negotiate — the Netanyahu government has been pleading with the PA to engage in talks without preconditions for more than three years — but because negotiations are the one thing that really scares them.

The UN ploy has exposed for anyone who cares to open their eyes the fact that the political culture of the Palestinians still makes it impossible for the PA — whether it is run by Abbas and his Fatah alone or in conjunction with the terrorists of Hamas — to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders would be drawn. The only kind of Palestinian state they want or can possibly accept is one that won’t require them to pledge to end the conflict and live in amity with their Jewish neighbors, even if all settlements in the West Bank were wiped off the map.

Erekat and apologists will go on blaming the Israelis and talking about settlements being an obstacle to peace even though Netanyahu has signaled that he is willing to give up territory if it means a real and permanent peace. But the rerun of their UN fiasco is proof that they would rather have their European allies shame them than go back to the table. Middle East peace is still theoretically possible, but so long as the Palestinians prefer surefire diplomatic failure to negotiations, it remains but a dream.

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Will Treaty Force U.S. to Abandon Taiwan?

President Obama has pinned the United Nations front and center to his administration’s philosophy of foreign policy. Prior to engaging militarily in Libya, Obama sought Turtle Bay’s endorsement, but never bothered to seek that of the U.S. Congress. With his first—and possibly—last term winding down, the Obama team is rushing headlong into a number of UN-sponsored treaties absent much regard to American sovereignty and U.S. national security interests.

The latest case in point could be the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Ted Bromund, my former graduate school colleague and now a Senior Research Fellow at the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, and his Heritage colleague Dean Cheng have an important report out looking at how joining the ATT could jeopardize the U.S. ability to help Taiwan defend itself from an increasingly aggressive China.

While China calls Taiwan a renegade province, the fact of the matter is that Taiwan was only under mainland Chinese control during the Qing Dynasty, and even then the Chinese control was tenuous. Taiwan has its own identity—apparent to anyone who travels there–and, unlike China, enjoys democracy and basic individual liberty.

The United States, of course, like much of the world, recognized the Republic of China as the legitimate representative of China until Richard Nixon’s rapprochement with the Peoples’ Republic of China. While the United States and Taiwan no longer maintain formal embassies in each others’ capitals, both house institutes and organizations which act as de facto embassies. Officially, the United States remains committed to Taiwan’s security, although the number of U.S. cabinet-level visits has declined precipitously in recent years, a fault which can be laid at the hands not only of the Obama administration, but the George W. Bush administration as well.

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President Obama has pinned the United Nations front and center to his administration’s philosophy of foreign policy. Prior to engaging militarily in Libya, Obama sought Turtle Bay’s endorsement, but never bothered to seek that of the U.S. Congress. With his first—and possibly—last term winding down, the Obama team is rushing headlong into a number of UN-sponsored treaties absent much regard to American sovereignty and U.S. national security interests.

The latest case in point could be the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Ted Bromund, my former graduate school colleague and now a Senior Research Fellow at the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, and his Heritage colleague Dean Cheng have an important report out looking at how joining the ATT could jeopardize the U.S. ability to help Taiwan defend itself from an increasingly aggressive China.

While China calls Taiwan a renegade province, the fact of the matter is that Taiwan was only under mainland Chinese control during the Qing Dynasty, and even then the Chinese control was tenuous. Taiwan has its own identity—apparent to anyone who travels there–and, unlike China, enjoys democracy and basic individual liberty.

The United States, of course, like much of the world, recognized the Republic of China as the legitimate representative of China until Richard Nixon’s rapprochement with the Peoples’ Republic of China. While the United States and Taiwan no longer maintain formal embassies in each others’ capitals, both house institutes and organizations which act as de facto embassies. Officially, the United States remains committed to Taiwan’s security, although the number of U.S. cabinet-level visits has declined precipitously in recent years, a fault which can be laid at the hands not only of the Obama administration, but the George W. Bush administration as well.

At any rate, as Bromund and Cheng explain, U.S. accession to the ATT would have devastating implications on the U.S. ability to sell arms to Taiwan which are needed to keep the peace and keep an increasingly aggressive China at bay:

One reason for the State Department’s concern is that the ATT is likely to recognize—in the words of the current Chairman’s Draft Paper, the closest equivalent to a draft treaty currently available—“the inherent right of all States to individual or collective self-defense,” and thus their right to buy, sell, and transfer arms. But Taiwan is not a U.N. member state, nor is it recognized as sovereign by a majority of U.N. member states. It thus appears that the ATT will not recognize Taiwan’s right to buy or import arms.

Moreover, the ATT will require signatories to control their imports and exports of arms. It will be incumbent on treaty signatories not to circumvent the import control systems of other signatories. The PRC claims—correctly—that it operates the import control system for China, and, much more controversially, that Taiwan also constitutes part of its territory. By the same token, the Chairman’s Draft Paper uses terminology from the U.N. Charter to reaffirm “the right of all States to territorial integrity.” The ATT thus provides the basis for a Chinese argument that U.S. sales or transfers of arms to Taiwan would circumvent the PRC’s import control system, violate China’s territorial integrity, and thus violate the treaty.

The United Nations likes to cloak itself in the mantle of peace but, alas, its actions can instigate war. No administration should subordinate U.S. national security to an international body that cares little for freedom and liberty, nor should well-meaning academics in the Obama administration trade the freedom and right of self-defense of 23 million Taiwanese for a philosophical embrace of internationalism that might win applause in a university seminar, but which would be a disaster if ever implemented.

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Film Review: “U.N. Me” — Everything the Left Doesn’t Want to Know About the UN

Those who view his films as compendiums of distorted propaganda may rightly despise Michael Moore, but there’s no denying that his work re-popularized the documentary as an independent art form while effectively promoting his views. Moore and others who followed in his footsteps, such as Morgan Spurlock, whose “Super Size Me” lambasted the fast food industry, created a popular template in which the filmmaker’s personal narrative, interspersed with humor and relentless attempts to expose and thereby belittle the objects of their scorn, set the standard for the genre. But the question for viewers of a newly released film that was created in the spirit of “Roger and Me, ” “Bowling for Columbine” or “Super Size Me” is whether there is an audience for this sort of work if the subject matter is not one that liberals and leftists love to hate.

In “U.N. Me,” Ami Horowitz and Matthew Grof have done just that. Horowitz, the on-screen personality and narrator, takes his audience on an international tour intended to show that the United Nations is a corrupt talking shop that has made a mockery of the ideals that it was created to promote. As “U.N. Me” makes clear, the world body has criminal peacekeepers who fail to protect the innocent, purposely-blind nuclear inspectors, thieves in charge of food programs, and has a Human Rights Council that is a forum for tyrants and murderers.

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Those who view his films as compendiums of distorted propaganda may rightly despise Michael Moore, but there’s no denying that his work re-popularized the documentary as an independent art form while effectively promoting his views. Moore and others who followed in his footsteps, such as Morgan Spurlock, whose “Super Size Me” lambasted the fast food industry, created a popular template in which the filmmaker’s personal narrative, interspersed with humor and relentless attempts to expose and thereby belittle the objects of their scorn, set the standard for the genre. But the question for viewers of a newly released film that was created in the spirit of “Roger and Me, ” “Bowling for Columbine” or “Super Size Me” is whether there is an audience for this sort of work if the subject matter is not one that liberals and leftists love to hate.

In “U.N. Me,” Ami Horowitz and Matthew Grof have done just that. Horowitz, the on-screen personality and narrator, takes his audience on an international tour intended to show that the United Nations is a corrupt talking shop that has made a mockery of the ideals that it was created to promote. As “U.N. Me” makes clear, the world body has criminal peacekeepers who fail to protect the innocent, purposely-blind nuclear inspectors, thieves in charge of food programs, and has a Human Rights Council that is a forum for tyrants and murderers.

This may be familiar territory for readers of COMMENTARY, but if the intended audience is the crowd who enjoys the politically skewed humor of Moore and Spurlock’s movies, a great many eyes will be opened. Judging their effort by the standard set by those two, “U.N. Me” must be considered a resounding success. The film combines a low-key sense of righteous indignation at the outrageous behavior it uncovers with humor and paints its subjects as hypocrites and scoundrels. Yet even as we laugh along with Horowitz’s disingenuous attempts to get UN officials to tell the truth about what they are doing, one can’t help but wonder if this is a story most lovers of indie documentaries want to hear, because its point is to debunk an institution deeply loved by liberals and President Obama.

To get past the prejudices of filmgoers predisposed to dismiss criticism of the U.N., Horowitz concentrates his fire on the causes that most appeal to liberal sensibilities, such as the genocide in Darfur. That means the number one object of U.N. perfidy — the state of Israel — is conspicuous by its absence in the film. Though so much of what is wrong about the U.N. is illustrated by the widespread anti-Semitism given a hearing in its halls and the double standard by which the democratic State of Israel is subjected to most of the resolutions adopted by the institution, the Jewish state is mentioned only in passing throughout “U.N. Me.” Though this may disappoint some viewers, it’s not a mistake. While it eliminates many of the most egregious instances of U.N. misbehavior, the tactic also allows Horowitz to make his point about its failures without miring his narrative in the rhetorical battlefield of the Middle East conflict.

But even without a discussion of the U.N.’s unfair obsession with Israel, there is more than enough scandalous material to fill several hours, let alone the 90 minutes of “U.N. Me.”

In the Ivory Coast, Horowitz delves into the scandal of “peacekeepers gone wild” where the “blue helmets” are not only pleasure-seeking thieves who don’t protect the people of that war-torn nation but have themselves committed massacres.

The direct failure of the U.N. to do anything to stop the genocide in Rwanda though it had the forces on the spot and the intelligence to do so is a heartbreaking story, and here, Horowitz goes easy on the humor. But he makes up for that with his exploration of the U.N.’s failures to deal with genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan during which a Sudanese diplomat asserts that “climate change” is the reason so many were massacred by his government, prompting Horowitz to suggest that more Priuses is the answer to the problem.

The film also goes into great depth to describe the way ordinary corruption is part of business as usual at the U.N.. The “oil for food” scandal in which Saddam Hussein skimmed more than $10 billion from the world body in exchange for millions in bribes to U.N. officials is a central part of the story. At its core is the role of former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, demonstrating that this scheme was ordinary practice and not an exception.

And though the documentary doesn’t go into the bizarre way the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) has helped perpetuate the plight of the Palestinians (the U.N. has one agency for all other refugees and one devoted to the Palestinians), it is shown as employing terrorists in Gaza and allowing their ambulances to be used as getaway vehicles.

The film, which was first shown at film festivals in 2009 but only gained a general release on June 1 of this year, suffers in one respect from the delay. During the past three years, one of the U.N. agencies that Horowitz spoofs has changed for the better. Though the International Atomic Energy Agency was rightly seen as a body that was determined to “see no evil” when inspecting Iran under its previous leader, the Egyptian diplomat Mohamad El Baradei, his successor Yukio Amano has altered its course. Whereas in the past, the IAEA aided proliferation, these days, it is a thorn in the side of the Iranians and its release of incriminating evidence about their work on military applications of nuclear power have prodded the West to step up sanctions.

It may be that what Amano did with the IAEA shows the failure of the “new” U.N. Human Rights Council and other agencies need not have happened. With the right sort of leadership and an application of the principles of the original U.N. Charter, it is theoretically possible that all of the abuses and scandals Horowitz discusses in “U.N. Me” can be corrected. Yet given the deep-seated nature of the problems that are put on display here it could be that the reform of the IAEA is the exception that proves the rule. An institution where accountability is almost always absent, where Third World politics dictates that horrible crimes must be excused if not rationalized or sanitized may be beyond redemption. As journalist Claudia Rosett notes in the film, “avoiding the truth is in the DNA of this organization.”

In one of the concluding scenes, Horowitz escalates his reportorial hijinks. Not content with interviews with Iranians, Syrians and Sudanese who expose their contempt for human rights, the narrator jumps up on the stage of the U.N. hall in Geneva and attempts to address the delegates about their hypocrisy. While this can be dismissed as nothing more than a silly stunt, the fact that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Holocaust-denying president of Iran had opened the conference on human rights that Horowitz crashed makes it all too clear that the line between satire and truth has long since been erased at the U.N.

Horowitz and Groff have produced a documentary that may at times be a little too jocose for its serious subject matter, but is nevertheless always watchable and infused with genuine wit. It remains to be seen whether their praiseworthy effort to tell this important story will get the exposure it deserves, but anyone who takes the time to watch “U.N. Me” cannot help but walk away sharing the filmmaker’s frustration and disgust with the U.N.

“U.N. Me” is available in select theaters around the country as well as via on demand cable services and iTunes.

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In Nuclear Talks, Iran Plays the Victim Card

With the third round of nuclear talks approaching, Iranian senior figures are taking turns to the airwaves to present a well-rehearsed, grievance-filled version of the issues at stake in their current nuclear standoff with the international community. This time, speaking out is former Iranian minister of foreign affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati – currently a diplomatic adviser to the Supreme Leader. Velayati, who is wanted in Argentina for the 1994 Iran-orchestrated terror attack against the AMIA Jewish Cultural Center in Buenos Aires, announced in an interview with the Iranian news agency IRNA that he hoped that “the P5+1 group recognizes Iran’s inalienable nuclear right within the framework of the [United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] NPT and refrains from sitting on the sidelines.” He added, “By accepting Iran’s right to use peaceful nuclear energy, the forthcoming talks in Moscow should reach a favorable result.”

Iran has been spinning this tale for years now – and its propaganda is making considerable gains with Western leftists and among non-aligned movement members.

Iran is basically playing the victim card, darkly evoking an American-led and Zionist-orchestrated plot to deny Iran, alone among nations, the right to peacefully develop nuclear energy. The demand by the P5+1 to suspend all uranium enrichment and uranium reprocessing activities, Iran says, is an attempt to deny a right guaranteed under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to all its members. It is an unfair attempt, says Iran, because it is infused with a double standard where nuclear-weapons states and Israel are ganging up on Iran to preach to Tehran what they don’t practice. And it is a dangerous precedent, concludes Iran, because if legitimized, this mechanism can be adopted later to frustrate the legitimate nuclear ambitions of any other nation that is not a Western country and a friend of the United States.

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With the third round of nuclear talks approaching, Iranian senior figures are taking turns to the airwaves to present a well-rehearsed, grievance-filled version of the issues at stake in their current nuclear standoff with the international community. This time, speaking out is former Iranian minister of foreign affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati – currently a diplomatic adviser to the Supreme Leader. Velayati, who is wanted in Argentina for the 1994 Iran-orchestrated terror attack against the AMIA Jewish Cultural Center in Buenos Aires, announced in an interview with the Iranian news agency IRNA that he hoped that “the P5+1 group recognizes Iran’s inalienable nuclear right within the framework of the [United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] NPT and refrains from sitting on the sidelines.” He added, “By accepting Iran’s right to use peaceful nuclear energy, the forthcoming talks in Moscow should reach a favorable result.”

Iran has been spinning this tale for years now – and its propaganda is making considerable gains with Western leftists and among non-aligned movement members.

Iran is basically playing the victim card, darkly evoking an American-led and Zionist-orchestrated plot to deny Iran, alone among nations, the right to peacefully develop nuclear energy. The demand by the P5+1 to suspend all uranium enrichment and uranium reprocessing activities, Iran says, is an attempt to deny a right guaranteed under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to all its members. It is an unfair attempt, says Iran, because it is infused with a double standard where nuclear-weapons states and Israel are ganging up on Iran to preach to Tehran what they don’t practice. And it is a dangerous precedent, concludes Iran, because if legitimized, this mechanism can be adopted later to frustrate the legitimate nuclear ambitions of any other nation that is not a Western country and a friend of the United States.

So, as talks approach, it is useful to remind Western audiences of the basic facts around this matter.

First, Iran is a member of the NPT, and it is thus entitled to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes only as long as it meets its obligations under the NPT. But the International Atomic Energey Agency (IAEA) regards Iran as being in breach of its treaty obligations. This was stated explicitly and forcefully by the IAEA on September 24, 2005:

… Iran’s many failures and breaches of its obligations to comply with its NPT Safeguards Agreement … constitute non-compliance in the context of Article XII.C of the Agency’s Statute … [T]he history of concealment of Iran’s nuclear activities referred to in the Director General’s report, the nature of these activities, issues brought to light in the course of the Agency’s verification of declarations made by Iran since September 2002 and the resulting absence of confidence that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes have given rise to questions that are within the competence of the Security Council, as the organ bearing the main responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.

The Security Council has passed six UN Security Council resolutions under Chapter VII (1696, 1737, 1747, 1803, 1835, and 1929), which makes them mandatory and binding on all nations according to international law, commanding Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and uranium reprocessing activities.

The IAEA has reaffirmed this point in every report it published since Ambassador Yukiya Amano became its director general in early 2010.

And the June 2008 proposal to Iran, signed by the P5+1, further states that, provided Iran complies with its obligations under the NPT and with the aforementioned resolutions, “China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union High Representative state their readiness: to recognize Iran’s right to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in conformity with its NPT obligations; to treat Iran’s nuclear program in the same manner as that of any non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT once international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program is restored.”

This text is now an integral part of UNSCR 1929 – and the details it offers (including detailed aspects of technological assistance) should leave no doubt to the following simple facts:

Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear energy, including the right to enrich for peaceful purposes, was never denied in principle and has been affirmed ad nauseam by Iran’s interlocutors. All Iranian protestations and lamentations to the contrary are lies, smokes and mirrors.

Iran’s right is suspended because Iran has failed to comply with the obligations that make it possible for Iran, and indeed any other nation who wishes to have a nuclear program, to pursue nuclear energy within the NPT framework.

Iran’s behavior is illegal. Iran’s non-compliance demands concrete steps sanctioned by UN Chapter VII binding resolutions.

No concession should be made, therefore, on these matters, and no compromise should be offered on enrichment suspension.

This provision, far from being a punishment, is the only remaining guarantee against the collapse of an already shaky non-proliferation regime.

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Political Victory Out of Battlefield Defeats

The United Nations has hardly been a cheerleader for the U.S.-led NATO mission in Afghanistan. In fact, UN representatives have often been skeptical of the methods and tactics employed by American troops. So it is particularly noteworthy that even the UN is recording a big drop—21 percent–in civilian deaths in the first four months of 2012 compared with the same period a year ago. This tallies with NATO figures showing a drop in insurgent attacks—evidence that the post-2009 surge is working.

Unfortunately, just as American troops and their allies are making demonstrable progress, their political masters are preparing to pull them out. French troops are due to leave this year and more than 20,000 American troops are due to leave in September with more, perhaps, to follow before long. Western politicians would be foolish, now that the coalition actually has the initiative and the Taliban are on their heels, to let up on the pressure. But that is precisely what may happen, allowing the Taliban, Haqqanis, et al., to pull a political victory out of their battlefield defeats.

The United Nations has hardly been a cheerleader for the U.S.-led NATO mission in Afghanistan. In fact, UN representatives have often been skeptical of the methods and tactics employed by American troops. So it is particularly noteworthy that even the UN is recording a big drop—21 percent–in civilian deaths in the first four months of 2012 compared with the same period a year ago. This tallies with NATO figures showing a drop in insurgent attacks—evidence that the post-2009 surge is working.

Unfortunately, just as American troops and their allies are making demonstrable progress, their political masters are preparing to pull them out. French troops are due to leave this year and more than 20,000 American troops are due to leave in September with more, perhaps, to follow before long. Western politicians would be foolish, now that the coalition actually has the initiative and the Taliban are on their heels, to let up on the pressure. But that is precisely what may happen, allowing the Taliban, Haqqanis, et al., to pull a political victory out of their battlefield defeats.

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The Bucks Stop with Kofi Annan

A friend on Capitol Hill alerts me to Kofi Annan’s budget for his doomed-from-the-start observer mission in Syria. (The breakdown is in paragraph 17):

The estimated requirements for the Office of the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for the Syrian Crisis for the 10-month period ending 31 December 2012 amount to $7,488,000 net ($7,932,200 gross) and will provide for salaries and common staff costs for 18 positions ($3,022,300), as well as operational costs ($4,465,700), comprising consultancies ($165,700), official travel ($1,590,500), and facilities and infrastructure ($578,400); ground transportation ($100,200); air transportation ($750,000); communications ($94,800) and information technology ($135,700); and other supplies, services and equipment ($1,050,400). Of the non-post items, $111,800 relates to one-time expenditures for the refurbishment of office space ($30,000) and provision of information technology and other equipment ($81,800).

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A friend on Capitol Hill alerts me to Kofi Annan’s budget for his doomed-from-the-start observer mission in Syria. (The breakdown is in paragraph 17):

The estimated requirements for the Office of the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for the Syrian Crisis for the 10-month period ending 31 December 2012 amount to $7,488,000 net ($7,932,200 gross) and will provide for salaries and common staff costs for 18 positions ($3,022,300), as well as operational costs ($4,465,700), comprising consultancies ($165,700), official travel ($1,590,500), and facilities and infrastructure ($578,400); ground transportation ($100,200); air transportation ($750,000); communications ($94,800) and information technology ($135,700); and other supplies, services and equipment ($1,050,400). Of the non-post items, $111,800 relates to one-time expenditures for the refurbishment of office space ($30,000) and provision of information technology and other equipment ($81,800).

So, Kofi Annan’s office will have 18 people?  Dividing the salary line item by 18, each employee will stand to make about $168,000—and that’s just ten months. The entire budget is a bit extreme, but that’s nothing new for Annan. Not only did he oversee the UN’s worst corruption scandal during his tenure as secretary-general, but he bankrupted his own “Global Humanitarian Foundation” retirement post through massive mismanagement. Western diplomats may assuage their guilt over the atrocities in Syria by throwing money at Annan and his office. They may not help Syrians, but they can be certain of one thing: When it comes to Annan, the bucks certainly stop with him.

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The UN Wants its Own Drones?

A friend on the Hill alerted me to this story which should raise red flags for any number of reasons:

The United Nations is weighing the possibility of using unmanned airplanes (drones) in intelligence operations and to searching for information… The issue was submitted to a committee of the UN General Assembly by the peacekeeping operations department, according to the organization’s official joint spokesman, Eduardo del Buey. Del Buey said that the United Nations is analyzing the potential use of that technology, including the support that the organization needs from the member countries if its use were recommended. The unarmed drones would be used for surveillance operations and to gather information, said the spokesman, adding that no conclusions or recommendations have been made on the matter.

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A friend on the Hill alerted me to this story which should raise red flags for any number of reasons:

The United Nations is weighing the possibility of using unmanned airplanes (drones) in intelligence operations and to searching for information… The issue was submitted to a committee of the UN General Assembly by the peacekeeping operations department, according to the organization’s official joint spokesman, Eduardo del Buey. Del Buey said that the United Nations is analyzing the potential use of that technology, including the support that the organization needs from the member countries if its use were recommended. The unarmed drones would be used for surveillance operations and to gather information, said the spokesman, adding that no conclusions or recommendations have been made on the matter.

The Obama administration unwisely puts the UN on a pedestal on a number of issues, but hopefully will quash any request that the United States share its drones with UN peacekeepers. Putting aside the question of what mandate or authority the UN has to conduct intelligence work in the first place, any UN drone capability—even in the name of peacekeeping—could greatly undermine U.S. national security. Even innocuous missions like the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire include personnel from countries such as China, Russia, and Pakistan, each of which would like to get their hands on the latest American technology.

Providing autonomous surveillance capabilities can provoke conflict rather than prevent it. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has been, for nearly 35 years, an unmitigated disaster. As Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon, the Israeli army handed its positions over to UNIFIL to transfer to the Lebanese army. UNIFIL chose instead to provide the posts to Hezbollah. Then, less than five months later, Hezbollah guerrillas—dressed in UNIFIL regalia—kidnapped three Israelis from the Israeli side of the border. UNIFIL personnel were conducting surveillance at the time. They videotaped Hezbollah operatives dressed in UNIFIL uniforms and driving vehicles with UNIFIL markings but, for nine months, refused to acknowledge a video that could have provided the information necessary to identify the perpetrators and rescue the Israelis. Only after the outcry grew too loud to ignore did UN Secretary General Kofi Annan order an investigation. The results were damning.

Too many UN personnel are corrupt, venial, and untrustworthy. To offer them independent surveillance capability when they have so often abused their positions would be unwise and a danger to American national security. Alas, that makes the possibility that Obama would oblige even greater.

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Obama’s Push to Fund UNESCO is No Joke

Even amidst the flurry of overt philo-Semitism that is the hallmark of President Obama’s election year Jewish charm offensive, some remnants of his less appealing foreign policy stands persist. One such anomaly is the administration campaign to restore American funding to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). U.S. law required Obama to cut off UNESCO after it admitted the Palestinian Authority as a full voting member of the group as part of the Arab effort to make an end run around the Middle East peace process. The Palestinian push for recognition of their independence without first making peace with Israel fizzled, but the president’s ardent love for the UN and its constituent agencies made him regret the fact that he was obligated to punish UNESCO.

There is little chance that Congress will amend the law so as to allow the flow of U.S. taxpayer cash to resume. But those supporting such a move got a boost recently when Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” did a segment intended to spoof the cutoff. The satire complimented UNESCO’s own efforts to persuade Americans that they are a collection of non-political do-gooders whose efforts are being hampered. But as Claudia Rosett writes in an important piece in The Weekly Standard, the truth about UNESCO is a familiar story for those who follow the world of international non-governmental organizations. The corruption of the agency and, in particular, its efforts in the African nation of Gabon (which was the focus of “The Daily Show’s” skits), serves as a warning of how the world body wastes American money intended for charitable purposes.

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Even amidst the flurry of overt philo-Semitism that is the hallmark of President Obama’s election year Jewish charm offensive, some remnants of his less appealing foreign policy stands persist. One such anomaly is the administration campaign to restore American funding to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). U.S. law required Obama to cut off UNESCO after it admitted the Palestinian Authority as a full voting member of the group as part of the Arab effort to make an end run around the Middle East peace process. The Palestinian push for recognition of their independence without first making peace with Israel fizzled, but the president’s ardent love for the UN and its constituent agencies made him regret the fact that he was obligated to punish UNESCO.

There is little chance that Congress will amend the law so as to allow the flow of U.S. taxpayer cash to resume. But those supporting such a move got a boost recently when Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” did a segment intended to spoof the cutoff. The satire complimented UNESCO’s own efforts to persuade Americans that they are a collection of non-political do-gooders whose efforts are being hampered. But as Claudia Rosett writes in an important piece in The Weekly Standard, the truth about UNESCO is a familiar story for those who follow the world of international non-governmental organizations. The corruption of the agency and, in particular, its efforts in the African nation of Gabon (which was the focus of “The Daily Show’s” skits), serves as a warning of how the world body wastes American money intended for charitable purposes.

As Rosett writes:

Far from helping the world’s neediest, UNESCO’s top priority is helping itself. The Heritage Foundation’s Brett Schaefer calculates that 87 percent of UNESCO’s $326 million budget last year was allocated for its own staff, travel, and operating costs. More than half of UNESCO’s staffers are based in Paris, many pulling in tax-exempt six-figure salaries, with plush benefits and 30 days of vacation per year. UNESCO’s auditors reported that on travel costs alone, the organization was squandering more than $3 million annually via bad management and a taste for business-class airline tickets. A program of financial disclosure by senior UNESCO officials has been mysteriously delayed.

To its credit, UNESCO does have an Ethics Office, which in its 2009-2010 annual report bluntly noted “a failure by employees at all levels to take responsibility for their work.” That’s no surprise, given the findings in the same report that many of UNESCO’s employees don’t know what they are supposed to be doing. The Ethics Office further reported receiving “more and more complaints” about UNESCO employees “inappropriately using their diplomatic immunity” to show “non-respect of private legal and financial obligations.” In other words, they were abusing UN privileges to break local laws.

As for Gabon, as Rosett notes:

Apparently [UNESCO’s Washington flack] neglected to mention to Comedy Central’s intrepid reporter that little Gabon is the ninth-largest oil producer in Africa. Gabon’s 1.5 million citizens are poor not because the United States has been snatching their books or defunding UNESCO, but because Gabon has been plundered for more than 40 years by the family of President Ali Bongo Ondimba—the same fellow who showed his support for UNESCO after its Palestinian vote by pledging $2 million from Gabon.

Though UNESCO was supposedly reformed in the last decade after a long history of being one of the most corrupt and politically biased (against Israel) of all the UN’s agencies, the reality is that the rhetoric we have heard from the president and Secretary of State Clinton about its value to the world is largely fluff. It continues to show its prejudice against Israel in efforts to treat Jewish holy sites in Hebron, Bethlehem and Jerusalem as Muslim shrines and to oppose archeological digs in Israel’s capital as attempts to “Judaize” the city.

The Obama campaign to refund UNESCO is one more example of how the president intends to use a second term to show how “flexible” his foreign policy will be. UNESCO doesn’t deserve American funding. But one can bet that a re-elected Obama will spend the next four years finding ways to funnel U.S. support to his pets at the UN.

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More U.N. Officials Step Up to Push Anti-Israel Smears and Pro-Hamas Propaganda

UNRWA’s Chris Gunness has personally stepped up to fulfill his organization’s traditional role as a wartime propaganda outlet for Hamas, describing Israel’s self-defense operations as “sick sick sick.” The UN group routinely peddles anti-Israel falsehoods even during relatively quiet periods – e.g. their scapegoating Israel for UNRWA’s terror-promoting schools – but during conflicts their media manipulation becomes particularly shameless.

Now even non-UNRWA UN officials have taken to broadcasting false anti-Israel smears, per new information about a tweet that Alana first covered earlier this week. You’ll remember that Khulood Badawi tweeted a picture of an injured Palestinian girl, with a caption asserting that the girl had been hit in an Israeli air strike. The photo spread like wildfire, garnering 300 retweets and becoming the day’s top “#Gaza” tweet.

The entire thing was a fabrication. The photo wasn’t taken this week and the girl wasn’t hurt by Israeli munitions. The picture was actually snapped by Reuters in 2006, and the girl had fallen off a swing. Honest Reporting ran down the original.

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UNRWA’s Chris Gunness has personally stepped up to fulfill his organization’s traditional role as a wartime propaganda outlet for Hamas, describing Israel’s self-defense operations as “sick sick sick.” The UN group routinely peddles anti-Israel falsehoods even during relatively quiet periods – e.g. their scapegoating Israel for UNRWA’s terror-promoting schools – but during conflicts their media manipulation becomes particularly shameless.

Now even non-UNRWA UN officials have taken to broadcasting false anti-Israel smears, per new information about a tweet that Alana first covered earlier this week. You’ll remember that Khulood Badawi tweeted a picture of an injured Palestinian girl, with a caption asserting that the girl had been hit in an Israeli air strike. The photo spread like wildfire, garnering 300 retweets and becoming the day’s top “#Gaza” tweet.

The entire thing was a fabrication. The photo wasn’t taken this week and the girl wasn’t hurt by Israeli munitions. The picture was actually snapped by Reuters in 2006, and the girl had fallen off a swing. Honest Reporting ran down the original.

Now it turns out Badawi is an official at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), where she works as an Information and Media Coordinator. Again the story is on Honest Reporting, which has helpfully posted OCHA’s contact information in case you feel moved to protest how a UN media coordinator is using new media technology to spread lies.

Compared to Badawi’s hit-and-run resentment, or to the rants about the “big lies of Zionists” that other UNRWA officials are posting as blog comments, Gunness’s open gushing is almost refreshing. Not only is he a sort of happy pro-Hamas warrior, but viewed from a certain angle what he’s doing is admirably consistent with UNRWA’s historical behavior. As opposed to OCHA workers, who are neophytes on the institutionalized anti-Israel propaganda scene.

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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.

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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.

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