No one should be shocked or surprised by the news that some United Nations Relief Works Agency staff directly participated in the heinous savagery of Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7.
According to Israeli intelligence, AJC reports, “six UNRWA workers were part of the wave of terrorists who breached the Gaza-Israel border and massacred civilians inside of Israel. Additionally, two helped to kidnap Israelis, two others were tracked to sites where hundreds of Israeli civilians were shot and killed. Others coordinated logistics for the assault, including procuring weapons.” Seven were identified as primary school teachers, and one is a Hamas commander.
By the way, U.S. taxpayers finance a third of the UNRWA’s budget, including paying for schools where terrorist sympathizers indoctrinate half a million students with murderous hatred for Jews. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres implied that those staffers were just a few bad apples, but Israeli intelligence estimates that 10% of UNRWA’s 12,000 employees have links to Hamas or Islamic Jihad.
Again, no surprise there. Ever since its birth, the UN has been rife with corruption, politicization, and failure. Until we start making this “cockpit in the tower of Babel” ––as Churchill in 1946 presciently warned that the most important institution of the “new world order” might become–– accountable to U.S. taxpayers, our national interests and security will remain hostages to those of other nations, many of whom are sworn enemies of the free world.
That failure should have been predictable from the start, given the sorry record of its precursor, the League of Nations, which included future aggressors like Germany, Japan, and Italy as signatories. The UN repeated the same incoherence that compromised the League. The Versailles settlement had enshrined the sovereign, self-governing nation as the universal political order, but at the same time created a supranational institution that required member states to cede some of their sovereignty, and be bound by its rules and resolutions, which reflected Western political principles and goods like political freedom and human rights.
Given the complex, cultural diversity of the world’s nations and governments, there could be no “harmony of interests” that could satisfy every nation and honor its particular culture and political ideology. National self-interest and cultural goods like religion would trump the UN’s collective interests, usually by exploiting for illiberal and tyrannical ends the lofty Western rhetoric of “national liberation,” “national self-determination,” and “human rights.”
Moreover, like the League, no credible force was created to enforce the UN’s decrees that often collide with a nation’s interests or territorial ambitions. The UN quickly became a paper tiger, its offices and resolutions hostage to such interests, especially those of the great powers that comprise the permanent, veto-bearing, nuclear-armed members of the Security Council. Parochial political ambitions––including those of autocratic, totalitarian, and gangster states–– and economic interests replaced the UN’s lofty principles.
Thus the UN has regularly served as the vehicle for states to pursue those interests, no matter how illiberal. For example, in 1986 the Soviet bloc got passed a resolution that in effect proscribed the use of human rights abuses as a preterite for UN intervention. Likewise in 1993, a UN conference on human rights ended up writing a declaration that left out any reference to individual rights such as freedom of speech. As Dore Gold wrote in Tower of Babel (2004), “The new UN majority had emptied the term ‘human rights’ of its original meaning and hijacked it to serve its authoritarian political agenda.”
As a result, Gold continues, the UN’s foundational principle––to curtail state aggression against other states, and to prevent the occupation of their territories––couldn’t be coherently defined: “Over the years the General Assembly introduced enough exceptions into prohibitions against aggression to give a pass to states that initiated armed conflict.”
For example, General Assembly Resolution 2708 (1970) states that the UN “reaffirms its recognition of the legitimacy of the struggle of the colonial peoples and peoples under alien domination to exercise self-determination and independence by all the necessary means at their disposal.” In effect, that latter phrase exempted the brutal violence of “national liberation” movements from restraints on armed conflict.
In practice, this loophole legitimized terrorism such as the savagery we recently witnessed Hamas inflicting on Israeli civilians, including infants and the elderly. This free pass for terrorists was reaffirmed in 1982 when the General Assembly approved the “legitimacy of the struggle of peoples . . . from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle.” Notice how Woodrow Wilson’s naïve idealism about “national self-determination” has degenerated into a license for murder.
The history of the UN’s double standards and virtually antisemitic policies directed against Israel from its birth, illustrates these flaws. The very existence of the UNRWA––the only UN agency devoted to one small group of global refugees––is testimony to this politicization. Two World Wars created millions of refugees, which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees tended to, and helped to relocate in new homes.
The birth of Israel also created refugees. Nearly a million Jews were ethnically cleansed from Middle Eastern countries in 1948. But those Jews didn’t get their own UN refugee agency, as did the Palestinian Arabs who fled from the battlefields of Israel’s defensive war against five invading Arab armies, many of them ordered to flee by the Arab commanders.
Israel, however, welcomed many of those expelled Jews to the new Jewish homeland, while still today Middle Eastern Arab countries refuse to let in Palestinian Arabs. Egyptian autocrat Gamel Abdel Nasser later expressed much of the Arab world’s contempt for their Palestinian brothers: “The Palestinians are useful to the Arab states as they are,” he told a Western journalist in 1956. “We will always see that they do not become too powerful.”
The UNRWA, which created and maintains a class of permanent, ever increasing refugees hostile to Israel, was just the start of the UN’s animus against Israel. For decades the UN General Assembly resolutions and diktats have disproportionately targeted Israel, such as Resolution 2708 mentioned above. Equally despicable, in 1975––on the 37th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Nazi pogrom against German Jews––the UN passed Resolution 3379, which redefined Zionism as a form of racism. This despicable slur was repealed 16 years later––not on principle, but only under pressure from the U.S. and Israel.
Moreover, this Resolution followed 3236, which formally recognized the “Question of Palestine,” and legitimized the terrorist Palestine Liberation Organization, allowing it to participate in international diplomacy; and 3237, which designates the PLO as a “non-member” observer in the UN General Assembly.
The major venue of UN attacks on Israel, however, has been the Orwellian named Human Rights Commission, supposedly reformed in 2004 by changing the name to the Human Rights Council. In both versions, autocratic thug states like Iran, Sudan, Cuba, China, Zimbabwe, and North Korea, all of whom serially violate human rights as a matter of policy, have been allowed to sit on the Council, where terrorist and state violence is seldom censured, even as Israel is barred from participation, and serially faces condemnation.
For example, in April 2005 the Commission refused to condemn killing in the name of religion, at the same time asserting that criticizing Muslim terrorists was “defamation of religion.” In March 2007, the Council’s response to the murders and riots over the Mohammed cartoons was to demand a ban on the defamation of religion, even as it ignored the threats to the human right to free speech. Perhaps the most revealing example of this moral idiocy occurred in April of 2002, when the UN Human Rights Commission, Dore writes, “affirmed ‘the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to resist Israeli occupation’ just after a Hamas suicide bomber killed thirty Israelis celebrating together the Passover Seder.”
Meanwhile, the genocidal charter of Hamas, or the widespread state-sanctioned anti-Semitism throughout the Middle East, has seldom been condemned. For decades Israel––the only liberal democracy in the Middle East–– has been singled out multiple times, and is the only nation permanently on the Council’s agenda.
And don’t forget the endemic corruption that the UN has enabled. Remember the “oil for food” scandal? The UN-supervised program ran from 1995-2003 in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. This boondoggle oversaw $15 billion a year in funds supposedly meant to feed the Iraqi people. Instead, it was “an open bazaar of payoffs, favoritism and kickbacks,” as The New York Times put it. In the end, it generated more than $10 billion in illicit funds for Hussein’s regime, which spent hardly any of it on food, and billions more for kickbacks to Russian and French politicians and businessmen.
Finally, this record of failure is the fruit of the same bad ideas that have vitiated our “rules-based order” and its fetish of “diplomatic engagement,” supranational institutions, and the begged question that unelected, unaccountable functionaries, many of them from illiberal, autocratic, and tyrannous regimes––regimes not just pursuing their own interests, but frequently undermining ours–– are more capable of determining the legitimacy of the US foreign policy and behavior than are the American people.
On the contrary, true legitimacy is conferred not by the opinions of a glorified international DMV that cares nothing for our interests and security, but by the processes of our democratic Republic, and the Constitutional rights like free and open debate on the part of citizens who can hold their leaders accountable, and who have a sense of the defining American ideals and principles that animate action and provide its goals. They should not have those rights, security, and interests subjected and subordinated to the malign machinations of our enemies.