|The symbol of the Palestinian movement is not the dove of peace or the olive branch of friendship but the dismembered body of a suicide bomber"s victim, a metaphor for the violent ritual of death that emanates from the heart of Palestinian nationalism. Bloodshed is its point, lies its language. Sacrilege is its currency. Palestinians honor their bombers as "martyrs," defaming the names of saints who sacrificed themselves for others. These murderers die only so that innocents might die with them. They are psychopaths, deluded and equipped by cowardly fanatics, incited by the Iraqi and Saudi gold their families receive when they have done their killing.
It"s no accident that last week"s outrage at Rishon le Zion was timed for the moment when Sharon and Bush sat together in the White House. The destruction of Israel, not peace, is the aim of the Arab radicals. Yasser Arafat "strongly condemns" the terrorism, he says. But the disavowal carries no conviction coming, as it does, from a man who vents that Israelis are "Nazis." From a man who harbors known killers in his headquarters and who refused for so long to give up the terrorists who abused the sanctuary of the Church of the Nativity. This is the same man, by the way, who believes that suicide bombs are ideal for using against Israelis because they love life so much and who once revealed his true colors to the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci: "We don"t want peace. We want war, victory. Peace for us means the destruction of Israel and nothing else."
Today, only 1 in 4 Israelis believes the conflict can be resolved by a peace agreement with the Palestinians and Arab states. That"s less than half what surveys showed just three years ago. But why should we be surprised? Israelis today live next door to a level of barbarism not seen in civilized societies for decades. Americans understand that the Israelis are dealing with terrorism. In a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 90 percent think that Arafat can do more to stop the killings; 66 percent find Israel"s military incursion justified. Congressional support in both parties is nearly unanimous. This strong American leadership should stand as a rebuke to the fence sitters in Europe whose ambivalence only encourages Arab radicals. But there are three tragedies here: the tragedy of all the lives taken; the tragedy of a peace postponed; and the tragedy that the organization supposed to be a moral and diplomatic catalyst has disqualified itself by the depth of its prejudice. Yes, sadly, that would be the United Nations. On the day of the outrage at Rishon le Zion, the U.N. was in the process of condemning Israel"s efforts at self-defense. Perhaps that shouldn"t have come as such a surprise since this was the same body that voted America off its Human Rights Commission and placed Syria, that bastion of democratic enlightenment, on the Security Council. Israel is the only U.N. member that is opposed by an automatic antidemocratic majority, led by Arab tyranny. Sadly, the secretary general himself has now yielded to these Israel-haters.
At the U.N., Israel is treated as the Jew among nations, subjected to the kind of hatred and vilification the world"s tiny population of Jews once received from so much of the rest of the world. A double standard is applied to Israel, a standard that no other country would be or is expected to live up to. Israel is constantly singled out for the most cynical kind of criticism, designed expressly to create the impression that the Jewish state is illegitimate and among the world"s worst human-rights violators. Some of the nongovernmental organizations hiding behind high-minded names like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have bought into this bigotry, ignoring the fact that besieged Israel is the only open democracy in the region. It has a free press, an independent judiciary, observes the rule of law. Most of its neighbors, by contrast, practice the grossest violations of human rights without ever hearing a rebuke.
The pulpit of the U.N. has been exploited by this anti-Israel coalition. The Security Council has devoted fully a third of its energy to criticizing Israel. The U.N. Commission on Human Rights has devoted a quarter of its official actions to the same cause; if present trends continue, it will soon be saluting the homicide bombers for their contribution to human rights. The U.N., meanwhile, is silent on violations in places like China, Syria, Yemen, Iran, and others. It did not utter a murmur about Syria"s mass murder of 20,000 people at Hama in 1982. It never protests the violations by Arafat"s corrupt tyranny.
Stonewall. Sadly, the secretary general, Kofi Annan, has recently added to this anti-Israel sentiment. He has worked hard to make the U.N. more effective, but under pressure, he is hazarding his reputation by ill-judged interventions. He attacks Israel"s presence on the West Bank as "illegal," ignoring the U.N."s own resolution that calls for a territorial compromise. He draws an unfounded equivalency between the terrorism carried out against a democratic country, Israel, with the purpose of maximizing civilian casualties, and the response of the Israeli government to protect its citizens with the purpose of minimizing civilian casualties.
Several months ago, the U.N. was exposed in its campaign to stonewall Israel by withholding videotapes of the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers along the Lebanese border, videotapes the U.N. then refused to turn over to Israel on the grounds that they might violate U.N. "neutrality." Some neutrality!
Add to this noxious brew the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. It was originally established to assist Palestinian refugees and managed, funded, and administered the refugee camps. But these camps have become hotbeds of terrorists and bases for suicide murderers. UNRWA is the godfather to all terrorist training schools, notably in Jenin, the so-called suicide capital of the Palestinians from which 28 terrorist attacks have been launched, killing and wounding hundreds of Israelis. The UNRWA schools there teach children that all of Palestine, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, including Israel, belongs to them.
The U.N. leadership in the region is symbolic of where that bureaucracy"s sympathies lie. The UNRWA commissioner general, Peter Hansen, described the recent battle of Jenin as "wholesale obliteration," a "human catastrophe that has few parallels in human history . . . with bodies piled up in mass graves," with some 300 to 400 Palestinians killed. He told CNN, "I had, first of all, hoped the horror stories coming out were exaggerations, as you often hear in this part of the world, but they were all too true." This was, manifestly, a lie. Hundreds of Palestinians were not killed. Even Palestinian officials on the ground verified the Israeli estimate of no more than 52 bodies, of which only seven or eight were civilian casualties. And why was this number so small? Because Israel was willing to engage in house-to-house combat, so as to spare Palestinian civilians massive airstrikes or artillery attacks. To that end, Israel sacrificed 23 soldiers.
Hypocrisy. But it gets worse. The secretary general came up with the idea of a "fact-finding" commission on Jenin-an unprecedented investigation in that no similar committees investigated culpability while Bosnians, Rwandans, Chechnyans, Tibetans, or Syrians were murdered. The man who was to chair this commission was Yasser Arafat"s favorite European diplomat, and I have direct knowledge that the other two members are both hostile to Israel. Each member of this team had previously used his or her position to denounce Israel"s presence on the disputed land on the West Bank and made clear his or her sympathies lay with the Palestinians. The team also lacked the military or security expertise necessary to assess the appropriate level of military force necessary in using ground forces in an urban house-to-house struggle to find armed terrorists.
The sheer hypocrisy of this hanging jury-which the secretary general was finally forced to disband-was made even clearer when Palestinian gunmen described the fighting to the Arab press. They openly boasted about mining roads, setting thousands of explosive devices to booby-trap houses, and having "children stationed in the houses with explosive belts at their sides." Captive Islamic Jihad operative Tabaat Mardawi was excited by Israel"s decision not to bomb them out. "It was like hunting . . . . The Israelis knew that any soldier that went into the camp like that was going to get killed." An Islamic Jihad bomb maker bragged that "[Palestinians] had more than 50 houses booby-trapped" and had lured Israelis into an ambush. "We all stopped shooting and the women went out to tell the soldiers that we had run out of bullets and were leaving." And why did the Israelis bulldoze the houses after losing 13 soldiers in a booby trap? They concluded that the houses were so heavily booby-trapped that no sapper could neutralize the explosives without being killed. Before the houses were destroyed, the Israelis used loudspeakers to warn anyone inside to leave. Several thousand fled to safety, but others were held back on orders of the Islamic Jihad commander. When the Israelis lifted the Jenin curfew for several hours on April 14, so residents could buy food, Palestinians used the time to set some 480 booby-trap bombs.
Palestinian regard for truth was recently exposed in a videotape of a funeral staged in an attempt to exaggerate the number of deaths. There was one problem, though: The camera caught the body falling off the stretcher not once but twice; the second time, the dead body, miraculously, got up and jumped back on the stretcher. Even for Yasser Arafat"s fabulists and propagandists, this was too much. The bogus funeral had to be canceled.
The tragedy in all this is the fact that because Arafat"s Palestinian Authority refused to suppress the terrorists, Israel was compelled to use military force in a dense, urban area. As Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden put it, "There is a world of difference between the deliberate targeting of civilians and the unintentional and inevitable casualties that were bound to occur in a place like Jenin, where terrorists deliberately hid themselves among civilians. . . . Would any other democratic country behave any differently than Israel" in rejecting this commission? Put simply, there is no justice to be had for the Jewish state at the United Nations.
Once the epitome of a dream of a humanity united by justice, the U.N. and its General Assembly have been transformed into a dispiriting factory of hate, tragically undermining their moral authority and credibility.