Defying UN Resolutions: Double Standards in Iraq and Israel

By Samia Khoury
Tuesday, September 24, 2002

With the summer holidays over, I found myself pondering over what issue to focus on after all that has been happening in our region during these last few months. Then, listening to Condoleezza Rice recently, I was sure that a war will be at our doorstep very soon, especially after Mr. Sharon urged the USA not to delay the strike.

It was almost a year ago, after the tragic and sad events of September 11th, that tension was starting to build and the threats to strike Afghanistan in retaliation were getting louder and louder until the inevitable did happen. But did the devastation of Afghanistan end the “terrorism” or rid the world of Osama bin Laden? Certainly not. So will the spirit of revenge and unleashed evil continue to prevail while the world is watching in silence as the USA plans to wage another war to get rid of Saddam Hussein. For what reason? Is it revenge, or a personal vendetta for unfinished business?

We had a very meaningful poster hanging in my son’s room when he was a teenager entitled “WHY???” It showed a photo of a young soldier kneeling with his gun on his side and surrounded by thousands of helmets representing those fallen soldiers. Almost 20 years later, I continue to ask this question: “WHY???” Is there any justification for war, especially in an era where the arms of mass destruction have become so threatening, whereby nobody will be spared, whether guilty or innocent. And most likely it will be innocent children and women who will continue to be victims of war. Can there be a just war? Who decides? And what is the criteria or the justification? Other than Mr. Blair and Mr. Sharon, there are no supportive voices, neither in the Middle East nor in Europe, for this prospective war.

Yet we all feel that it is bound to happen, because it is the superpower that is calling the shots, and it can easily get away with it and justify it to suit the mood of “the war against terrorism.” Mr. Bush says the USA has no option but to go ahead with this offensive. People who have no options are the powerless, helpless, poor and marginalized. But the United States with all its power and might has all the options available at hand. Maybe it will help to suggest some options such as wisdom, compassion, reconciliation, humility and justice. So it would be a disaster to choose the option of arrogance, revenge and war.

Unfortunately, the voice of the United Nations, opposing war, has not been loud enough or strong enough — the way it was expressed by Mr. Annan simply said, “It is not a wise step.” Surely it is not a wise step. I could have said that myself. So what? The United Nations must do more than that. It has a moral responsibility and should simply prevent the war, especially when the people of the region have not yet recovered from the devastating effects of the sanctions imposed on Iraq eleven years ago.

I am not writing as a politician because I am not one. And because in politics moral values do not always count and very often get trampled upon. I am writing as a concerned human being for the future of our region which has seen so much blood, devastation, deprivation and oppression. The children are my main concern. What future are we offering them? How much education can they get with all the closures and the curfews? What values will they adhere to with so much oppression and violence encompassing the region? And how much fun and space do they have to grow up in? So I will continue to speak, write, and work for justice, peace, and moral values until there are no double standards in dealing with issues of the same nature, and no one country should have the privilege to defy United Nations resolutions. If the United Nations is the body that determines solutions for conflicts then the United Nations better live up to its responsibility. Unfortunately, even on the regional level the Arab League has been just as impotent as the United Nations.

It is very clear that many leaders around the world have failed to fulfill the hopes and aspirations of their people. Those leaders, even if they are dictators, should be accountable to their own people. No leader, not even a leader of a superpower should assume the right to dictate to any country, no matter how powerless or remote that country is, who it should elect for its leader. The world seems like a game of chess these days, with Mr. Bush and Mr. Sharon being the sole players while the international community is watching as the pawns are moved from one area to another until the magic word of “checkmate” is pronounced.

Democracy by brute force is no democracy, and democracy is no justification for waging war. This kind of logic always reminds me of the story of the man who ran to salvage his wife from a beast that had attacked her. In the process, the man punched his wife’s eyes, fractured her skull, broke her arms, tore her clothes, and a lot more before the beast retreated. Happy for salvaging his wife he proudly said, “See, I saved you.” The devastated wife, hardly able to raise her head, answered, “I am sure the beast could not have done all that to me.”

If defiance of UN resolutions is enough reason for waging a war against a country then for sure Israel should not be spared. But it has, and it has been encouraged to defy UN resolutions by the unwavering support of the USA and its veto power. The application of one set of rules and conventions to any one government and not the other will only add to the frustration and anger that brings about more violence in any conflict.

When Mr. Bush announced last month that the administration was going to oppose any additional foreign aid for Egypt to protest Cairo’s prosecution of the human rights campaigner Saad Eddin Ibrahim, it sounded very legitimate. Indeed, Mr. Bush would have been commended for such an action if Israel were treated likewise. On the contrary, the USA administration seems to increase its financial support to Israel whenever Israel gets criticized for its violations of Palestinian human rights and for its ill treatment of international activists who come to be in solidarity with the Palestinians. Besides being harassed, jailed and deported, many of those activists are not allowed into the country in the first place.

Ever since the elections of the Palestinian Authority took place in 1996, many Palestinians have been disenchanted by the performance of the Authority. A lot was desired, and many people, especially those in civil society organizations, were urging the Legislative Council to do something about it. We knew we had a long way to go to develop a legal infrastructure. Maybe it helps to understand that ever since we were dispossessed more than fifty years ago, we have never been in charge of our own affairs on our own independent soil. We were always somebody else’s problem or burden: the Jordanians, the Egyptians, the Lebanese, the Israelis, and even the United Nations. And the set of laws that were available to the Authority as a starter were a worn-out collection of what was left behind from the British Mandate, Jordan, Egypt and the Israeli Military Orders.

After Oslo, the hopes for peace, liberation and independence withered away due to the failure of Israel to implement the Oslo Accords, which were initiated under the slogan of “Gaza Jericho First.” As we commemorate the 2nd anniversary of the Intifada at the end of this month, we realize that the situation is worse than ever. The peace agreement which the PLO forged with Israel brought neither peace for the Palestinians nor security for the Israelis. It has become very clear that peace and security cannot be achieved under Occupation.

Yet in spite of all that failure and the ongoing devastation, deprivation, siege and brutality, the Palestinian Authority, never wanting to be blamed for the failure of the peace process, is still pursuing the path of negotiations with Israel — but unfortunately only on security matters, and basically the security of Israel. This is bringing us back to square one under a similar slogan, “Gaza Bethlehem First.” As if we haven’t had enough with Gaza Jericho First and the rest of the step-by-step arrangements, such as the Ywe agreement, the Mitchell Report, the Tennet plan, Zinni, etc., all of which are now history.

Hardly had the Palestinian police been redeployed in Bethlehem when the Israeli Minister of Defense announced that Israel would freeze this arrangement because the Palestinians had not met their commitments on security matters. Mr. Sharon, with all his army, was unable to grant Israel the security he promised them, so now the worn-out Palestinian police with a destroyed infrastructure was expected to do that job. This sounds like a very bad joke, but I do not think it was meant to be one. In fact, it is simply an evil game that will bring about nothing but more frustration and devastation for all. Neither will Mr. Arafat achieve liberation for his people nor will Mr. Sharon grant security to his people, and peace for the region will be further away than ever.

How much more should the Palestinians suffer and still be expected to make more concessions and compromises on their own rights for freedom and liberation? Leaders who fail to fulfill the aspirations and hopes of their people have to be honest to themselves and to their people and admit their failure. But no leader, no matter how magnanimous, will accept an outside power to coerce him into admitting that failure. So considering Mr. Arafat irrelevant is not going to help bring about a change in our system. Even those in the opposition will refuse this logic out of respect for the dignity of their own people and the leader who was elected democratically by the people, even if his term is overdue.

So if the U.S. administration is really concerned about bringing an end to all this conflict it should pressure Israel first to end the Occupation. Once the Occupation comes to an end, the U.S. administration and the international community could then help the Palestinians have their democratic elections. There is no way elections can be held when the Palestinian Territories are under Occupation and each area is under siege and separated from the other areas.

May the memory of the very sad and horrific events of September 11th deter the U.S. administration from inflicting further devastation and suffering on innocent people. So let us pray for wisdom and compassion to guide the world leaders into the path of justice, peace and security for all.

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