Thursday, March 31, 2011

UN 377 and the UN 'Responsibility to Protect': a trap for Israel?

In the last couple of weeks, Israel has seen a dramatic increase in hostile attacks: the brutal murder of the Fogel family in Itamar, a Jerusalem bomb blast, another bomb in Haifa that, because heavy rains swept it into the road, did not explode, more rockets fired into southern Israel in a single forty-eight hour period than in the last two years; and, according to at least one American, any list of recent hostilities against Israel must also include  the United Nations authorization to sanction military attacks against Muammar Qaddafi in Libya.
On March 24, 2011 Glenn Beck, an American TV personality, declared that all of these events –including UN actions in Libya--are related: they are part of a global attack against Israel.
Beck told his TV viewers that, while the UN authorization of force against Libya does not look like an attack against Israel, that is nonetheless exactly what it is. For Beck, Libya is not the main concern of the UN. Their real target, he suggests, is Israel. He pointedly argues that what the UN is doing  with Libya is establishing the means to attack Israel through its “Responsibility to Protect” principle—something most have never heard of (and which you’ll hear about in a moment).  Libya, and by inference, any other Arab state where a government is shooting at protesters and where the UN seeks to introduce a military response, is simply a way for the UN to create a working precedence to justify military intervention against the potentially biggest problem they could face this year--Israel.
Before exploring Beck’s thesis, we need to note that his point of view is of interest to us in Israel, because we are now just discovering UN Resolution 377, something former Israel Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev has recently discussed. She believes that this Resolution, known also as the UN General Assembly’s “Uniting for Peace” resolution, could be used to isolate and abuse Israel. UN Resolution 377 exists so that the UNGA (the UN General Assembly) can act, with teeth, in cases where votes in the UN Security Council do not meet certain standards; and current thinking here is that a veto in the Security Council could be, in essence, overridden in the larger General Assembly through Resolution 377. In addition, Amb Shalev suggests, 377 could be used to install sanctions against Israel, and might also be used to send military force against Israel.

Until Ambassador Shalev brought up the subject last week, no one in Israel seemed to know that Resolution 377 existed.
Now Glenn Beck is suggesting that Israel’s enemies might have another tactic—using the same  principle the UN has just used to authorized armed force in Lybia—the Responsibility to Protect;  so where Amb Shalev only suggests that  UN Resolution 377 might be used for military actions, Glenn Beck says unequivocally that the UN now has on its books the specific precedence it needs to take that military action: because of Libya, the UN can now act militarily against Israel without doubt or hesitation.
What is Beck looking at?   The UN Responsibility to Protect  principle has been around for about five years, and received a positive vote of affirmation in the UN in 2009. It posits that every government has the responsibility to protect its people against four evils: genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. If a government does not meet this responsibility, then the UN can, for humanitarian purposes, seek Security Council sanctions, along with an official threat of prosecution for war crimes in the ICC (the International Criminal Court).  Military intervention is listed as one option open to the UN if this principle is invoked.
In late February 2011, the UN Secretary-General warned that Libya “must meet its responsibility to protect its people”, a quote taken directly from the language of the Responsibility to Protect. This language preceded the UN’s call to authorize military strikes against Qaddafi forces, and is the justification for that intervention.
To buttress his case that this principle can be used against Israel, Beck cites the Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey as saying that, in so many words, the UN should use this same principle to attack Israel.
 But how will the UN do this?
Where has Israel committed any of those four evils—genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity?
How does Israel merit receiving a UN military attack?
The answers come from Richard Falk who, in 2008, was appointed by the United Nation Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to a six-year term as a United Nations Special  Rapporteur on  the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. Such is his reputation that, in  Dec 2008, on a trip through Ben Gurion airport to visit Gaza and the West Bank, he was detained at the airport by the Israelis, and then , essentially, expelled. In 2008, he said—in a clip broadcast by Beck-- that Israel’s treatment of the people in Gaza amounts to the same treatment the Nazis used for populations, and that such treatment “could produce a Holocaust”. Beck makes clear that, in his opinion, this language could be finessed to trigger the Responsibility to Protect principle, thereby sanctioning military attacks on Israel—just as Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister demanded.  
Who is Glenn Beck? He has been called a polarizing American conservative radio and TV talk-show host on the Fox channel whom Time Magazine described as  “a gifted storyteller with a knack for stitching seemingly unrelated data points into possible conspiracies—if he believed in conspiracies, which he doesn’t; he’s just asking questions.”
In his own defense, Beck often tells viewers not to believe him, but to do their own research, to check his facts; he will also regularly recall or replay statements he has made months before which, at the time, were called ‘crack-pot’, and which have subsequently turned out to be true.
Surely, he tells a good story. He has already said that he believes the United States has turned against Israel, and employs White House advisors who are aggressively anti-Israel. He offers Samantha Power, a White House Foreign policy advisor, as an example. Before going to the White House, she had written a book entitled, The Problem from Hell, about genocide, which Beck calls anti-Israel; and in a film-clip that shows Power being interviewed (before her White House appointment), she is seen as appearing to suggest that, if she could, she would cancel all aid to Israel and send it to a new Palestinian state, using much of that aid to support what she called a ’mammoth protection force’ for the new Palestine.
On March 28, 2011, Beck restated his comments about Richard Falk and then declared that Israel is being set-up for a fall in the UN. He believes that, while the United States has been an ally of Israel for more than sixty years, America’s commitment to Israel has now evaporated.
For Beck, US President Obama is the most hostile and anti-Israel US President in memory, who employs Foreign policy advisors who are stridently anti-Israel, and who supports openly anti-Israel UN personnel who do their best to attack Israel.
If both Beck and Amb Shalev are correct, we can suggest what might be the UN  strategy for the Palestinian Authority (PA), to create a new state: first, by using 377 to outflank any veto in the Security Council;  and then, by using the principle of Responsibility to Protect, to introduce a mammoth protection force into the new state to protect it against Israel—and ,presumably, to  help implement and enforce the new state's boundaries.
And since the new state of Palestine could have borders that push Israel back to 1949 lines, the introduction of a massive army onto the West Bank could mean a UN-sponsored  ethnic cleansing of all Jewish residents currently over the Green Line—a cruel irony few in Israel seem interested to explore.
Does the UN have the legal authority to create a new state that demands ethnic cleansing of a specified homogeneous population?  Ethnic cleansing is considered by the UN Charter to be both a war crime and a crime against humanity;  does the UN have the legal right to use  military force to break its own code? No one in Israel’s government seems interested in pointing this out to the UN, even as the PA declares both its intent to become a new state and its intent to remove all Jews from it.
We are entering a world where white is black, and black is white—and no one, least of all Israel’s leadership, seems to be paying much attention.
We do not know if Beck is right. But as you think about his descriptions of the UN and the White House, consider this old Anglo saying: if something looks like a duck and quacks like a duck and walks like a duck—it’s probably a duck.
Israel does not have the luxury of ignoring such an old saying.  Israel is now being tested, which means that the only question she should ask is, what do we do if both Ambassador Shalev and Glenn Beck are correct?
The way we answer that question could determine if and how we survive.

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