U.N. vote undermines 'human rights'
4/19/2002 12:00:00 AM - Jonah Goldberg
On Monday, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights voted to condemn Israel. This is hardly news. The United Nations has been condemning Israel with the regularity of a metronome for decades. But even for the United Nations this was a particularly scandalous vote, since language in the resolution was widely perceived to be condoning terrorism. Even more outrageous, several European nations, including France and Belgium, supported the measure.
It's funny, the French won't extradite criminals to the United States for a lengthy trial at the government's expense if there's even the vaguest possibility that a conviction might result in the death penalty. But they implicitly support Palestinian terrorists wandering into Israeli pizza parlors and administering an instant death sentence to teen-agers.
The U.N. is an institution bound to cause the United States a lot of trouble in the years to come. I know, conservatives sound a bit cranky when we rail against the U.N. So let me try another approach.
The problem with the United Nations is that while democracy within nations is the best available form of government, democracy among nations can be a moral disaster - especially if some nations are not democracies.
Many U.N. member states are dictatorships. Many more are very poor quasidemocracies with all sorts of tribal and ethnic problems. Each of these countries gets a vote.
For some reason, people in the United States and abroad think these votes mean a great deal. I think, in part, it's because they think the word "vote" is, like "human rights" or "free speech," unequivocally noble. "Oh dear, the United Nations voted 162 to 2 that the United States is shirking its responsibilities? How terrible! The tide of world opinion is against us."
Here's how I look at it. Reportedly there is - or was - something called "The Commission." It was a gathering of the heads of the major Mafia families, at which the "Dons" would decide on the direction organized crime should take. The classic scene in "The Godfather" in which Don Corleone agrees to provide protection for drug dealers comes to mind. The Commission voted on all sorts of things. That doesn't mean there's anything noble or even redeemingly democratic about the Commission's decisions, does it?
Now imagine that for some reason the Commission decided to let a police officer or a priest join the board. The mob bosses all vote for selling heroin to school kids and the cop or priest votes against. Should the cop or priest feel bad? Should it respect the vote of the Commission? Of course not.
Right now the United States doesn't even sit on the U.N.'s human rights panel, while Syria does. Syria does not believe in human rights. Syria is famous for killing its own citizens on a whim.
The very best that can be said of Syria in this regard is that it enjoys talking about human rights if such talk will make life unpleasant for the United States or, better still, Israel.
There are close to 60 Muslim nations represented in the United Nations. With the exception of Turkey, there's not a real democracy in the bunch. And yet, they've all mastered the language of the West, calling for self-determination, human rights and describing Yasser Arafat as an elected leader while calling Israel a terrorist regime. And they all get votes in the United Nations.
If Israel's defenders are right when they say it is on the frontlines in the war on terrorism - and I think they are - then Israel's experience with the U.N. should concern us all. When Israel launched its largely successful operation in the West Bank to stop suicide bombers, the U.N. immediately denounced the move, calling for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "to withdraw immediately." Mary Robinson, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the move was "in total disregard of international human rights."
One did not hear such passion - or any passion - from U.N. officials when Israeli kids were murdered or when the Palestinian Authority bought boatloads of arms from the Iranians. Nor would one expect such passion from an organization that has now explicitly told the Palestinians they should use "all available means, including armed struggle" against Israel.
Such bias will only have sharper teeth when the U.N.'s new International Criminal Court is up and running. No doubt Sharon will be charged with something while it is inconceivable that Arafat will be.
In fact, Michael Rubin of the Washington Institute for Near Easy Policy recently noted in The Wall Street Journal that the United Nations purposely withheld - for eight months! - videotaped footage of Hezbollah guerillas kidnapping Israeli soldiers because they didn't want to "undermine U.N. neutrality." Imagine if U.S. servicemen were kidnapped and the United Nations withheld such evidence from us.
You may think the United Nations is 100 percent right about Israel. Fine, just so long as you realize the United States might be next.