By Boaz Bismuth
With events in southern Israel and the crisis in Egypt dominating the news this past weekend, we have all but overlooked a story that is no less important – a story that proves the new Middle East is perhaps as old as ever. Lebanon, which currently serves as the Arab representative in the Security Council, torpedoed a condemnation of the terrorist attacks last week, claiming that they were directed at soldiers rather than civilians, and therefore did not constitute terrorism. Some cynics might see this as a proper prelude to the U.N. General Assembly session next month, which is expected to take up the issue of Palestinian statehood.
I have just recently reread "L'Homme à la colombe" ["The Man with the Dove"] one of French novelist/pilot/diplomat Romain Gary's books, which while less known is one of his best works published under the pseudonym Fosco Sinibaldi. The book presents the U.N. in a ridiculous light as a place where the term "hypocrisy" has reached new heights. And trust Gary, he knows what he is talking about; he had an active role there.
But let's return to what happened here on Saturday. In the wake of the terrorist attacks, Israel turned to the U.N. Security Council and requested it issue a condemnation. One has to keep in mind that any such statement would have to garner the unanimous support of all 15 member states, including the five permanent and ten non-permanent members. Yet Lebanon had no problem or ethical qualms in thwarting the condemnation. It even insisted that any condemnation include a condemnation of the Israeli settlement enterprise. Some of its representatives even went so far as to call for a statement that only condemns settlement activity and makes no mention of the terrorist attacks.
Israel's Ambassador to the U.N., Ron Prosor, has gotten a first-hand look at the U.N.'s blindness, its unwillingness to speak up, and its hypocrisy when it comes to terrorist attacks against Israel. Lebanon considers its move to be a great success - mission accomplished. This was the reason it was elected to represent the Arab states in the Security Council. Lebanon argued that the terrorist attacks were a military strike, not terrorism, since one of the buses attacked was transporting soldiers, not civilians. This not only ignores the fact that civilians were also targeted during the attacks, but also begs the question: Since when is it okay to attack soldiers along an internationally recognized border like the Egypt-Israel border?
The Arab media also supported Lebanon's actions. And how do Lebanon's diplomats in New York define terror? The Israeli retaliation in Gaza, of course.
It has been fascinating to watch the Palestinian envoy to the U.N., Riyad Mansour, who is likely to be busy in the coming weeks. He claimed that the killing of civilians must be condemned regardless of their nationality, but also added that the killing of civilians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank should be condemned – as if Israel had launched a military campaign in Gaza, rather than carried out a pinpointed retaliation that targeted terrorist leaders in the Gaza Strip, and as if Israel had not shown restraint during the few days in which rockets continued to fall on its territory.
But let's get back to Gary's book. He manages to successfully convey the hypocrisy plaguing the U.N.'s conference halls and to underscore the degree to which discussions are divorced from the reality on the ground.
I highly recommend you read this book before the start of the U.N. discussions on Palestinian statehood in September. At the very least it could bring smiles to our faces as we watch the events unfold.