News is fast-breaking and fast-changing in Gaza. This link purports to give live updates, and one that caught my eye was this:
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was “shocked and profoundly disappointed” by Hamas’ violation of the humanitarian cease-fire Friday morning and demanded the immediate release of the reportedly captured [Israeli] soldier.
The UN has long been an anti-Israel institution, in fact one of the leading anti-Israel institutions on the globe. Here’s a brief description of the history that could lead a person to conclude that “a principal purpose of the world body is to censure a tiny country called Israel,” and here’s a very recent article on the subject (July 26, 2014). An excerpt from the latter:
The United Nations Human Rights Council has voted to create an “independent international commission of inquiry to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human-rights law” in the current war in Gaza.
Well, actually, not all violations. Only those attributable to Israel — as the resolution makes quite explicit.
And what might those violations be? The very same resolution spells them out, not as allegations but as established findings. “The Council,” it reads, “condemns in the strongest terms the widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms arising from the Israeli military operations…since 13 June 2014.”
In other words, Israel’s guilt is already established…
Hamas is not subject to “investigation.” Its role is to be the star witness for the prosecution. This is not spelled out, but we know the script.
Four years ago, when Israeli forces last entered Gaza, this same council passed a similar resolution, condemning Israel and mandating an “investigation.”
This was the Goldstone Commission, and its principal source of information was testimony at hearings in Gaza arranged by Hamas where witnesses detailed the toll of Israeli strikes while denying the presence of military targets.
That was written almost a week ago. And it all may end up coming to pass just that way. But recent admissions by the UN that weapons are being stored in its schools (“‘We condemn the group or groups who endangered civilians by placing these munitions in our school,’ Chris Gunness, spokesman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency”), as well as the statement from Ban Ki-moon that I quoted earlier in this post, both seemed curious to me and somewhat of a break from previous denial on the part of the UN.
Now, I haven’t monitored the UN closely enough in the past during such conflicts to say that such admissions of wrongdoing on the part of Israel’s enemies are completely unprecedented. But it’s my impression that this either is something new on the UN’s part, or that they’ve been doing more of it lately. There seems to be something about this particular conflict that is pulling the UN back ever-so-slightly from a flagrantly one-sided condemnation of Israel and Israel alone.
If I’m correct about that, what could that “something” be? Many Arab nations are quietly on Israel’s side in this episode of conflict, since they increasingly see Hamas as a threat to them. That could certainly be part of the UN’s attitude. I doubt, though, that it represents a real and permanent shift to a more reasonable stance on Israel by either the UN or the world. But at least it’s a slightly encouraging move—although unfortunately it’s accompanied by a noted counterbalancing anti-Israel movement by the executive branch of Israel’s former good ally, the US.
It’s only in bizarro-world that Ban Ki-moon (or anyone else following world events, for that matter) would profess to be “shocked” by Hamas violating a cease-fire. But that’s the world in which we live—a world in which the likes of John Kerry is our Secretary of State:
Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office say that Israel only agreed to a humanitarian cease-fire after John Kerry received explicit assurances from Qatar that Hamas and the other Palestinian factions in Gaza would honor the truce. They added that Hamas gave similar assurances to the UN, but that Hamas decided to violate both commitments.
[ADDENDUM: I'm not sure which came first, the Ban Ki-Moon statement I discussed above or this more muted "we can't independently confirm" reaction by the UN. The timelines are hard to compare because of time zone differences.]
[ADDENDUM II: If you're confused about my statement that "many Arab nations are quietly on Israel's side" this time, here's a CNN article that attempts an explanation:
It's a "joint Arab-Israeli war consisting of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia against other Arabs -- the Palestinians as represented by Hamas."
As the New York Times put it, "Arab leaders, viewing Hamas as worse than Israel, stay silent."
One of the outcomes of the fighting will likely be "the end of the old Arab alliance system that has, even nominally, supported the Palestinians and their goal of establishing a Palestinian state," Younes says.
"The Israel-Hamas conflict has laid bare the new divides of the Middle East," says Danielle Pletka, vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. "It's no longer the Muslims against the Jews. Now it's the extremists -- the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, and their backers Iran, Qatar and Turkey -- against Israel and the more moderate Muslims including Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia."
"It's a proxy war for control or dominance in the Middle East," says CNN's Fareed Zakaria...
Turkey and Qatar remain supportive of Hamas.
So, are some "moderate Muslims" finally emerging? Actually, it's not new; the conflict between the Egyptian government and the Muslim Brotherhood is many many decades old, for example, and certainly predates this Egyptian government. I wrote about the history here.]