To be relevant or not to be relevant, that is the burning question for the United Nations.
In his January 28 State of the Union address, President Bush said, “The course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others.”
Only three days later, President Bush told Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair, “1441 gives us the authority to move without any second resolution.”
So, if the majority at the UN Security Council doesn’t agree to force Iraq into complying with UN Resolution 1441, the UN may become irrelevant. On the other hand, if war occurs, then the United Nations will be relevant because it will demonstrate that UN resolutions have teeth. Such is the quagmire that the Bush Administration has put forth before the world. Well, guess what? The UN has been irrelevant for decades now because of its own inconsistent record.
As an American Republican of Palestinian descent, the recent speeches about the necessity of Iraqi compliance with UN resolutions have been less than amusing. Nobody doubts that Saddam Hussein is a tyrannical dictator, but to obsessively focus on Hussein while rolling out the unending red carpet for Israel’s Ariel Sharon is hypocrisy at its best. Please note that Sharon may still be brought before the Belgian courts when he leaves office – for his part in the Sabra and Shatila massacre of 1982.
The crux of the Middle East conflict is about Israel’s failure to comply with UN Resolutions, most notably 242, which demands Israel’s withdrawal from territories it seized in the 1967 Six Day War. While the neo-conservative hawks in Washington like to marginalize UN resolutions regarding Israel, they might want to consider the fact that I! srael was largely created as fulfillment of UN Resolution 181. For whatever reason, the United Nations truly believed they could solve the tragic persecution of Jews in Europe by creating the State of Israel in Palestine. Setting aside the resulting dispossession of Palestine’s original inhabitants, little has been done to force Israel into withdrawing to the 1967 borders.
Instead, we keep hearing about former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s so-called generous offer at Camp David in 2000. The problem is Barak’s “generosity” never meant fulfillment of the UN Resolutions, which have been on the table for nearly 36 years. At least 80% of illegal Israeli settlements were to remain, and sovereignty over Jerusalem would have consisted of eight Arab neighborhoods.
So why accept the disregarding of UN Resolutions in that case? And why wouldn’t Saddam Hussein be encouraged to turn his no! se up on UN resolutions, when Israel has been doing it with impunity? President Bush has made much ado about the 17 UN resolutions that Iraq refuses to comply with. Yet, nothing is said of the 60 plus UN resolutions that Israel is violating — many of which are listed in former US Congressman Paul Findley’s book, “Deliberate Deceptions: Facing the Facts About the US-Israeli Relationship.” Interestingly, the most recent UN Resolution 1402 came as late as March, 2002. It calls for the immediate “withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian cities, including Ramallah.” While the foreign policy pundits debate among themselves as to why there is such an Arab rage at our government, it would be worthwhile to recall the 1996 Sixty Minutes interview with then-Secretary of State Madeline Albright.
Leslie Stahl: We have heard that a half million children have died (as a result of sanctions against Iraq). I mean, that is more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?
Madeleine Albright: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price, we think the price is worth it.”
UN resolutions can be that important. Yet, Ariel Sharon openly thanked the American government for scuttling a proposed UN investigation into the tragic events of the Jenin refugee camp in 2002. Sharon, in fact, declared his heart-felt appreciation only moments before a meeting at the White House.
Indeed, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is where President Bush should be flexing his muscles of leadership. The scores of people killed in recent weeks alone prove just how pivotal it is that we resolve this crisis. Add to all of this, the Sharon government is now seeking at least $14 billion in aid from the US, despite our own economic problems.
Ultimately, there can be few doubts that all roads of the Middle East conflict run through Jerusalem, not Baghdad. Unless we push for Israeli compliance, the UN is in danger of forever being irrelevant.
Sherri Muzher, who holds a Jurist Doctor in International and Comparative Law, is a Palestinian-American activist and free lance journalist.