President Obama addressed the United Nations and the world yesterday with his usual eloquence and his usual concessionary tone. He denounced tyranny, of course, but he was talking to an audience of world leaders who, according to The Economist’s report on world democracy, was made up one fifth to one third of tyrants.
Speaking to this group, he devoted 32 lines of his speech to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Afghanistan and Pakistan, discussed together, got a total of 5 lines; Iraq, 4; and Iran and North Korea, discussed together, a total of 9. Darfur got 2 lines, with no mention of the mass murders.
Almost 6 times as much space for Israel and the Palestinians as for Iran, which will soon threaten Israel with nuclear weapons. Practically no mention of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and the attendant risk of nuclear terror, and no mention of India and Pakistan’s potential nuclear confrontation.
There was no mention of Sri Lanka, which conducted an action this year against the Tamil Tigers that caused thousands of civilian deaths. Haiti, Congo (where civil wars have killed millions in recent years), and East Timor were mentioned in passing. Zimbabwe, Somalia, the unstable former Soviet republics, and Tibet also got no mention.
Thus President Obama confirmed in his speech the completely distorted outlook that pervades the United Nations: that world peace depends far more on Israel and the Palestinians (read: on Israel) than on any other conflict or instability. I think his reason for this emphasis was to satisfy his audience. But the reason for their emphasis is extreme anti-Zionism, which in my view includes a large dose of anti-Semitism.
Certainly anti-Israel sentiment motivated the recently released UN report on civilian casualties in the Gaza war. It was denounced by Shimon Peres, who said it “makes a mockery of history,” and by many others in Israel. Although headed by a South African judge who is Jewish, Richard Goldstone, it was obviously biased against Israel from the outset—so much so that Mary Robinson, the former Irish Prime Minister and former UN Commissioner for Human Rights, refused to lead the investigation.
Robinson has been one of Israel’s sharpest critics for many years, but of this project she said:
“I absolutely condemn what Hamas does. And that also should be a subject of inquiry. And unfortunately, the Human Rights Council passed a resolution seeking a fact-finding mission to only look at what Israel had done, and I don’t think that’s a human rights approach.”
In other words, the report’s foregone conclusion was included in its mandate, already a unilateral condemnation of Israel. It recycled Palestinian estimates of the number of civilian deaths, and included police officers as civilians. For a list of 205 police officers, including supposed “children,” identified by name as members of military units, visit this website.
Strategy expert Edward Luttwak wrote during the war that even the Hamas estimate of 25 percent civilian casualties during air strikes represents “an extremely accurate bombing campaign,” sparing civilians more than American bombing campaigns in both Iraq wars. British commander Colonel Richard Kemp, who led troops in Afghanistan and is very familiar with Gaza, said during the war, “I don’t think there has ever been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more effort to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people than the IDF is doing today in Gaza.” He explained in detail how Hamas uses civilians as shields as a key part of their explicit, planned tactical regime.
He also said, and I agree, that all civilian deaths are tragic, and I have written about evidence that some Israeli troops caused needless civilian deaths and mistreated Palestinians in an inexcusable way. But that does not justify a one-sided UN report that was explicitly biased from the outset, and which reached grossly exaggerated conclusions about Israel’s misdeeds.
Intriguingly, new polls out today offer good tidings about the West Bank and Gaza. According to the International Peace Institute, an independent polling group, a clear majority of Palestinians, 55 percent, now favor a two-state solution, with only 11 percent favoring a unified state or a union with Jordan. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has a 55 percent approval rating, while his Hamas rival Ismail Haniyeh is at 32 percent. According to the poll, parliamentary elections if held now would give 45 percent of the vote to Fatah and only 24 percent to Hamas.
This is a dramatic change from just a few years ago or even from immediately after the Gaza war. The popularity of Hamas has declined precipitously, and although Palestinians are still wary of corruption in Fatah and still very skeptical of Israel’s intentions, they are more ready for peace than they have ever been. That is true of Israelis as well.
Meanwhile, checkpoints have been reduced in the West Bank, building is going on in Ramallah and Jenin, and the Palestinian economy is coming to life. Palestinians may be beginning to see a future for themselves beyond violence. Tony Blair said yesterday in an interview with Christiane Amanpour, “You’ve got to negotiate from the top down and build from the bottom up.”
Let us hope that both governments are as ready for peace as their people seem to be. Blair also predicted yesterday that peace talks will soon resume. President Obama certainly wants that. Blair said that both Palestinians and Israelis want a two-state solution but don’t really believe it can happen. “It’s our job to close that credibility gap.”
Fun zeyner munt tzu Gottes eyer. From his mouth to God’s ear.