Is the UN 'Irrelevant' with Regard to Israel Too?


By Matthew Riemer

Yellow Times
February 18, 2003

If the United Nations is "irrelevant," it's only because the United States has made it so. Yet the complexity of the situation requires us to examine the dynamics very closely to reveal that this is indeed the case. When an observer remarks, "The U.N. is irrelevant" or "...may become irrelevant," what do they actually mean? What evidence is leading them to this conclusion? Perhaps most importantly, what criteria are being used to form such an opinion?

For example, our observer might say, "The U.N. is irrelevant because it is incapable of enforcing the mandates it establishes via resolution." Another might say, "The U.N. is irrelevant because of the overwhelming force wielded by the U.S. in the context of the U.N., which in turn nullifies the democratic nature of it."

Let's take the first example. This is the logic and philosophy generally espoused by those in the Bush administration; in fact, it was the focal point of Bush's address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 12, 2002. Bush said, "The conduct of the Iraqi regime is a threat to the authority of the United Nations, and a threat to peace. … All the world now faces a test, and the United Nations a difficult and defining moment. Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced, or cast aside without consequence? Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?"

Here the U.S. strategically links the enforcement of Security Council resolutions with the relevancy or effectiveness of the U.N. -- it's their argument's defining criterion. In other words, if the U.N. can't enforce resolutions, they're irrelevant. But if we apply this same logic and approach to all countries, conflicts, and resolutions, we begin to see inconsistencies, even hypocrisies very quickly.

First question: "Is this method of evaluation applied consistently and universally?" Answer: No. Because other countries are in violation of U.N. resolutions, as is Iraq, yet nothing is done or even said. The only case in point needed is Israel. Since the inception of the United Nations, the number of resolutions issued because of Israeli aggression are literally too numerous to mention, but a small sampling is warranted nonetheless.

Resolution 242: November 22, 1967 -- The Council emphasized "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war" and that "withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territory occupied in the recent conflicts" was part of the "establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East."

Resolution 248: March 24, 1968 -- "Condemns the military action launched by Israel in flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter and the cease-fire resolutions," which was of a "large-scale and carefully planned nature."

Resolution 256: August 16, 1968 -- "Condemns the further military attacks launched by Israel in flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter and resolution 248 (1968) and warns that if such attacks were to be repeated, the Council would duly take account of the failure to comply with the present resolution."

Resolution 298: September 25, 1971 -- "Deplores the failure of Israel to respect the previous resolutions [Security Council resolutions 252 and 267, and General Assembly resolutions 2253 and 2254]," and "confirms in the clearest possible terms that all legislative and administrative actions taken by Israel to change the status of the City of Jerusalem, including expropriation of land and properties, transfer of populations and legislation aimed at the incorporation of the occupied section, are totally invalid and cannot change that status."

Resolution 347: April 24, 1974 -- "Condemns Israel's violation of Lebanon's territorial integrity and sovereignty and calls once more on the Government of Israel to refrain from further military actions and threats against Lebanon. … Calls upon Israel forthwith to release and return to Lebanon the abducted Lebanese civilians."

Resolution 515: July 29, 1982 -- "Demands that the Government of Israel lift immediately the blockade of the city of Beirut in order to permit the dispatch of supplies to meet the urgent needs of the civilian population and allow the distribution of aid provided by United Nations agencies and by non-governmental organizations."

Resolution 573: October 4, 1985 -- "Having noted with concern that the Israeli attack has caused heavy loss of human life and extensive material damage … Condemns vigorously the act of armed aggression perpetuated by Israel against Tunisian territory in flagrant violation of the Charter of the United Nations, international law and norms of conduct."

Resolution 672: October 12, 1990 -- "Condemns especially the acts of violence committed by the Israeli security forces resulting in injuries and loss of human life; calls upon Israel, the occupying power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War."

Resolution 1322: October 7, 2000 -- "Deplores the provocation carried out at Al-Haram Al-Sharif in Jerusalem on 28 September 2000, and the subsequent violence there and at other Holy Places. … Condemns acts of violence, especially the excessive use of force against Palestinians, resulting in injury and loss of human life."

Resolution 1435: September 24, 2002 -- "Alarmed at the reoccupation of Palestinian cities as well as the severe restrictions imposed on the freedom of movement of persons and good, and gravely concerned at the humanitarian crisis being faced by the Palestinian people."

These facts clearly show that countries other than Iraq have challenged and flouted the authority of the Security Council and, indeed, still do so to this day. On dozens of occasions, the Security Council has demanded that Israel comply with former resolutions, so, like with Iraq, there's resolutions designed to enforce other resolutions. Obviously, after a time, the issuance of resolutions becomes quite moot.

What the Bush administration and their promoters are really saying is that the U.N. is "irrelevant" only when it does not hold countries accountable that the United States wants held accountable -- only when not in agreement with the U.S.' selective application of the rules. Countries that the U.S. has no interest in holding accountable like, say, Israel can cross and dismiss the Security Council at will.

The current platitudes regarding the "disarmament" of Iraq are calculated propaganda to sell the idea of an accountable U.N. However, it is a dishonest misrepresentation of the facts and relevant historical context by the Bush administration and especially the supposed "moderate" Colin Powell based on see-through logic.

The U.S. is not concerned with the integrity of the United Nations in general or of the Security Council's resolutions specifically. The Bush administration is only concerned with whether the U.N. dutifully follows its every wish. If they don't, then they are "irrelevant"; if they do, then they are "meeting a great challenge."

It seems like the second reason given in the opening for the irrelevancy of the United Nations is more plausible: "The United Nations is irrelevant because of the overwhelming force wielded by the U.S. in the context of the U.N., which in turn nullifies the democratic nature of it."

Every time the U.S. vetoes a resolution disciplining Israel, they are acting hypocritically. How can an apologist even hope to reconcile this? The U.S. goes out of its way to shelter Israel from the authority of the United Nations when Israel commits grave legal and human rights offenses. The U.S. then turns around and demands that other countries approve similar measures directed at countries other than Israel -- the very same procedure they've just obstructed. Only this time, it's against Iraq, Syria, or Sudan, so everybody better jump on board.

Those who believe the U.S.' recent manipulation of the U.N. is "giving it teeth" are difficult to understand. With regard to the Israel/Palestine conflict and the horrific sanctions on Iraq, the United States has done everything in its power to ensure the impotence of the U.N. as an authoritative international body. How can the U.S. be "giving it teeth" when they've worked so hard to defang it for decades, making the U.N. a mere puppet through overarching influence and an all-inclusive veto power? This "giving of teeth" is more a selective bullying than anything else.

The relevancy of the United Nations will not be determined by its willingness to support a U.S military strike on Iraq but whether the United States will honor the decision the U.N. has made, a highly unlikely event considering the recent past.

More Information on the Iraq Crisis

FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.