Within the last few weeks, we’ve been able to once again witness the fecklessness and hypocrisy that is endemic when it comes to the U.N. and terrorism against Israelis. Hamas and Hezbollah—two of the most menacing terrorist groups bent on attacking Israelis—have found themselves on the defensive at the U.N.
This in itself is rare. Hamas, for instance, is usually omitted entirely from U.N. resolutions and reports. The U.N. often ignores Palestinian terrorism, but when it feels obligated to at least minimally address the key factor in the conflict, it is adept at condemning “both sides.” The resolutions will feign balance, but then harshly attack Israel, while the terrorists that Israel is defending itself against are generalized as “militants” or “the Palestinian side” and given little attention.
This despite the fact that Hamas has brutally ruled over Gaza for more than a decade in which residents of nearby Israeli communities have had to live with rocket attacks. Prior to the rocket attacks, Hamas’s tactic of choice was suicide bombings, first in an open attempt to derail the peace process in the 1990s. For a world body so obsessed with lecturing Israel about the lack of progress on negotiations (even though the blame, as always, lies with the Palestinian leadership’s disinterest in compromise), the silence about such a radically anti-peace organization is quite telling.
The U.N. was given a chance to begin to right this wrong when the U.S., led by Ambassador Nikki Haley, introduced text at the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) specifically condemning Hamas for various activities that put Israeli and Palestinian lives in peril. This move panicked those hostile to Israel. Hamas sent letters to U.N. member states seeking to justify their terrorist activities. The Palestinian Authority—whose leadership knows first-hand what a danger Hamas is in the region—worked with their allies to try to sink the resolution.
First, Bolivia introduced an amendment with poison pill language that the U.S. and Israel could not support. This language was not included in the resolution, but instead, as a compromise, was offered by Ireland as a separate, stand-alone resolution. Next, the UNGA was asked to raise the threshold needed to pass the anti-Hamas resolution to two-thirds of the members—a rarely invoked rule. This was a clear double standard. A week earlier, the UNGA passed numerous resolutions under the same agenda item that attacked Israel mercilessly without triggering the two-thirds requirement. Indeed, the separate Irish resolution, which referenced an anti-Israel U.N. Security Council resolution and tried to set parameters for a peace deal that would leave Israel without sovereignty over the Old City in Jerusalem (amongst other areas), was also not subjected to this rule. Only the resolution that condemned a terrorist organization bent on murdering Jews required a two-thirds majority to pass. The vote was close, but a two-thirds majority was required in the end, a threshold which was unfortunately not reached. However, 87 countries did vote in favor of condemning Hamas.
The blocking tactics showed, without a shadow of a doubt, that the anti-Semitic double standard against Israel is still very much in play, and out in the open, at the UNGA. Although the resolution did not ultimately pass, it is still a step in the right direction. The vote total of countries voting in favor of condemning Hamas had increased from a previous U.S. attempt to condemn the group at the UNGA earlier in 2018. Hopefully, the U.S. and other friends of Israel will increase the pressure until a resolution is finally passed.
In the days following the Hamas resolution, Israel began Operation Northern Shield, which exposed a number of Hezbollah tunnels that run under the Lebanon-Israel border. The tunnels were meant to be used in a surprise terror attack to murder Israeli civilians living near the border. The war in 2006 started similarly, when Hezbollah terrorists infiltrated Israel and attacked an Israeli patrol, killing three IDF soldiers and kidnapping two others. A terror attack of the magnitude that Hezbollah was planning with the use of these tunnels would have necessitated an Israeli military response that would be stronger than the 2006 Lebanon war. Many in the international community understood the seriousness of this development and condemned the violation of Israel’s sovereignty and U.N. Security Council resolution 1701 (which passed at the end of the war in 2006). The U.S. called for a meeting of the council to discuss the violation.
At the council meeting, many countries did condemn the Hezbollah tunnels in their speeches, although some again tried to seek balance where it does not exist and condemned “both sides.” Kuwait and Bolivia ludicrously sought to downplay the tunnels as a “relatively minor incident” and “not really a threat to peace.”
The U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFL) was praised by many, as was the Lebanese army, for their response to the exposure of the tunnels. This is not the time to praise either entity. UNIFL has failed to carry out its mandate. It has been telling the Security Council in reports that the situation is calm while not taking seriously Israeli warnings about the buildup of 100,000 Hezbollah missiles in southern Lebanon and that Hezbollah is camouflaging missile depots, bunkers and surveillance operations under a civilian smokescreen (including using a fake environmental NGO).
The Lebanese Army has not lifted a finger to disarm Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, as it is supposed to under resolution 1701. And why would it? Hezbollah is entrenched now within the politics of the country and has infiltrated the army. Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon told the council that when Israel gave UNIFL the exact locations of the tunnel entrances, UNIFL passed it to the Lebanese army, who, instead of destroying the tunnels, informed Hezbollah, which then tried to seal the tunnel to cover up their perfidy.
The Security Council should have taken action to condemn the Hezbollah tunneling operation. It chose instead to do nothing. No resolution. No official statement (which has less force than a resolution, but requires unanimous agreement—an impossibility considering Kuwait and Bolivia would block it).
The ongoing U.N. hypocrisy on terrorism does put Israelis at risk, of course, but it also does harm to the U.N. itself as an institution supposedly serious about peace (or even a more basic idea—stability) in the region and to civilians in Gaza and southern Lebanon. Hostility to Israel at the U.N. and hypocrisy on terrorism against Israelis allows Hamas and Hezbollah to continue to use civilians as human shields to protect rockets aimed at Israeli civilians. Israel will eventually have to respond forcefully to the threat from both groups on its borders. The international community’s scorn and condemnation will fly against Israel—as usual—but it is their own failure to confront the issue now that will lead to regional strife in the future when Israel must defend Israeli lives.
Oren Drori is the Program Officer for United Nations Affairs at B’nai B’rith International where he supports advocacy and programming efforts that advance B’nai B’rith’s goals at the U.N., which include: defending Israel, combating anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and promoting global human rights and humanitarian concerns. He received a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota in 2004 and an M.A. in International Relations from the University of Chicago in 2006. Click here to view more of his additional content.
B'nai B'rith International has widely respected experts in the fields of: