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UN Secretaries-General Discuss Israel

By Naomi Farrell

UN secretaries-general (left) Kofi Annan and Ban Ki Moon. Photo courtesy the UN.“My goal is to contribute as much as I can as the Secretary-General of the United Nations to the ongoing peace process,” Ban Ki Moon of South Korea said at a Press Conference in Tel Aviv. He is doing a whirlwind tour of the region and speaking to ordinary Palestinian and Israeli people as well as having serious meetings with dignitaries.

On a helicopter flight over some parts of Israel, he said he came to better appreciate the security constraints facing Israel. He stressed his “conviction that the long-term safety and security of Israel and the creation of a Palestinian State go hand-in-hand.”

In Jerusalem he told Prime Minister Olmert that: “You have the United Nations and myself as Secretary-General who understand, appreciate and sympathize all these difficult challenges you are now facing.”  That is certainly a switch from the many years of Israel bashing, blaming and scape-goating.

He said that he would like to see more increased and active partnership between the United Nations and Israel because, in his opinion “Israel is one of the important member states of the United Nations and has the rights and privileges to be fully engaged and to participate in the United Nations.” That is quite refreshing and optimistic – didn’t anyone tell him that for the past 60 years Israel has been an “outcast” at the UN and has not been welcome to participate in the official activities of the Organization, particularly membership in the Security Council?

At the UN and at gatherings with leaders of the Jewish communities in United States, Ban ki Moon has also been  friendly and sympathetic to Israel, as expressed in his speeches. The Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman, remarked on the difference of tone in Mr. Ban's statements in comparison to his predecessor, Kofi Annan, who's statements on Israel were sometimes not too friendly and, "had to be artificially balanced" most of the time.

Annan, who completed his ten-year term in office on Dec. 31st, 2006, was not very popular with the Jewish Community, to say the least. He was blamed for allowing and condoning all the Israel bashing and bigoted, unbalanced, resolutions, as though he was “in charge” and responsible for them.

But, the UN is as good as its 192 members, which includes some 56 Arab & Muslim countries, who all have an equal vote and enjoy uniting and influencing others to pick on Israel to create a distraction from their own outrageous human rights violations. The unfair and cruel treatment of their own people seems to go unnoticed.  It is considered unremarkable in many of those societies to practice beheading, stoning, chopping off hands of thieves, honor killing of women who are their own family members who have been accused of adultery without a trial or getting pregnant out of wedlock.

Whatever Annan himself personally believed he could not go against the powers that be, since he was the Secretary-General of 192 nations. Also, the fact that he is married to the niece of Raoul Wallenberg and attended thousands of ceremonies related to the Holocaust could have given him some conflicting thoughts and emotions that he was not free to express.

This came to light when Annan finally had the opportunity to reveal his true feelings and sentiments  at his last meeting of the Security Council as Secretary-General, which was his final report on the Mid-East.

He was so fair and unbiased that even the Israeli representative, Ambassador Dan Carmon, expressed his amazement  & appreciation when he said: “ Allow me to commend the Secretary-General on his remarks, where he comprehensively addressed the conflicts in our region in an unbiased, balanced manner, turning to both sides constructively – which I must add, is not a traditional narrative we hear at the United Nations and its various organs, as the Secretary-General himself has stated, we offer him our deep appreciation.”

Among his enlightened statements, Annan said to the Security Council that; “ those who complain that the security council is guilty of a double standard – applying sanctions to Arab and Muslim governments, but not to Israel --- should take care that they themselves do not apply double standard in the other directions, by holding Israel to a standard of behavior that they are unwilling to apply to other states, to Israel’s adversaries, or, indeed, to themselves.”

He added strongly, “Some may feel satisfaction at repeatedly passing General Assembly resolutions or holding conferences that condemn Israel’s behavior, but one should also ask whether such steps bring any tangible relief or benefit to the Palestinians.  Has any of that had an affect except to strengthen the belief in Israel and among many of its supporters that this great organization is too one-sided to be allowed a significant role in the Middle East peace process?”

“Even worse,” said Annan, “Some of the rhetoric used implies a refusal to concede the very legitimacy of Israel’s existence, let alone the validity of its security concerns.”

“We must never forget that Jews have very good historical reasons for taking seriously any threat to Israel’s existence.  What was done to Jews and others by the Nazis remains an undeniable tragedy, unique in human history,” he said.  He explained to the Council that Israelis are often confronted with words and actions that seem to confirm their fear that the goal of the adversaries is to extinguish their existence as a state and as a people.

His advice was to those who want to be heard on Palestine should not deny or minimize that history or the connection that many Jews feel with their historic homeland.  Rather, they should acknowledge Israel’s security concerns.

He said: “I believe in the right of Israel to exist, and to exist in full and permanent security --- free from terrorism, free from attack, free from even the threat of attack,”.

Also, Annan said what no one at the UN, except Israel dared to say, that the Palestinians have been miserably abused and exploited by their own leaders and by the international community. “They deserve to see fulfilled their simple ambition to live in freedom and dignity, self-determination and peaceful coexistence.”

“Should we fail to seize the opportunity for negotiating a two-State solution, the extremists of the world over will enjoy a boost to their recruiting efforts,” he told the Council.

It remains to be seen whether Israel will be treated more fairly at the UN than it has in the past due to the influence of the new Secretary-General, or if the pressure from a decisive number of countries in the Arab-Muslim arena will in time cool his warm feelings, influence his “public position” and pull him away, as it did Kofi Annan during his term in office.

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