By Aijaz Zaka Syed
Can we have a new UN ?
Given the intensity of global outrage over the assault on the Gaza aid flotilla, some of us were beginning to hope that the world might finally confront Israel. We were obviously mistaken — once again.
OK, poor Palestinians have long gotten used to getting swatted like flies and being at the receiving end forever. And Israel has always gotten away with murder. But those killed in cold blood in international waters were not some faceless “Palestinian terrorists,” as Israel calls them, but international peace activists and aid workers. And mind you they were not running guns or drugs but rushing the critically needed aid like food, medicines and most mundane stuff such as books and toys for children and bricks and cement for the ravaged homes of Gaza.
This is why the least you expected from the so-called international community and its so-called institutions was some token action against Israel, or at least strong words against its shocking and brazen acts against the unarmed peace activists. The United Nations with its fine institutions and the movers and shakers who run the world body are yet to unequivocally condemn the Israeli outrage, let alone lift a finger against the regime.
Helen Thomas, senior White House Press Corps member and the considered doyenne of international correspondents, gave a rare voice to America’s sleeping conscience when she blasted Israeli attack on the humanitarian convoy saying, “our initial reaction to this flotilla massacre, deliberate massacre, an international crime, was pitiful.”
Ms. Thomas who’s facing the combined wrath of the Israeli lobby and fanatically pro-Israel US media for advising the Jews to “get the hell out of Palestine” has been taped angrily questioning the US policy on Israel: “What do you mean you regret when something should be so strongly condemned? And if any other nation in the world had done it, we would have been up in arms. What is this sacrosanct, iron-clad relationship, where a country that deliberately kills people?”
Ms. Thomas, who grilled 10 US presidents and survived, has been brought down by the lobby and has been forced to step down. So much for the much-celebrated Western freedom of speech! Meanwhile majority of US media networks, manipulated by the pro-Israel moneybags as always, are bending over backward to justify and “explain” the madness of Israeli massacre, spawning totally bizarre and ludicrous theories about the activists brandishing weapons and assaulting Israeli troops shouting “the Prophet’s army is coming!”
IF the aid flotilla had arms on board, why it didn’t use them to defend itself? More to the point, how come all those killed were shot point blank on the forehead and in the back? But how can you argue with folks who live in a different world of their own where ephemeral things like reason, common sense and facts cannot break in.
What’s new though? This is how Israel has always operated. It sets its own rules of the game and always gets the blessings of its defenders however indefensible be its actions. Only we expected better from Obama, because of his own sublime rhetoric and the incorrigible “audacity of hope”. Clearly, the more things change for Israel and America, the more they remain the same. So instead of going after Israel that is guilty of ultimate crime of murdering peacemakers and aid workers, not to mention the humanitarian catastrophe that has Gaza in its grip because of Israeli siege, the UN and world powers have inflicted another set of sanctions against Iran. There’s talk of “shock and awe” all over again, vowing to eliminate the “threat of Iran’s nuclear weapons” and “Islamic terrorism”.
Pray who’s the real terrorist here? The one who hasn’t attacked any neighbor, nor invaded a distant neutral country in the past few centuries or one who has just killed nine innocent people on a humanitarian mission? Who’s the real threat to world peace? Iran’s antiquated nuclear program, constantly monitored and “inspected” by the IAEA gray suits, or a state that has been hoarding nuclear weapons for half a century now and is guilty of wars against neighbors that have killed thousands of innocent people and driven millions from their homes? More ironically, all those ganging up against Iran brandishing this new stick of sanctions have enough nuclear weapons in their possession to blow up the planet many times over.
CAN there be a better example of hypocrisy and duplicity? If this isn’t double standard, what is? Let’s face it. International institutions like the UN that were created ostensibly to build peace and avoid conflicts and wars have become playthings in the hands of big powers. They run the world as they please, using these international institutions. The UN, for which I have immense respect, has become a toothless tiger because the real power rests with the Big Five who rule and manipulate it with the help of their veto power. As any student of political science would tell you, this is precisely what happened with the League of Nations. With the world powers refusing to take it seriously and using it to push their own agendas, the league collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions and double standards in no time.
The collapse of the league helped and aggravated the World War II wiping out nearly half of Europe’s population. When the UN was founded by the victors of the World War II in 1945, the failure of the league was supposed to have been in sight and right lessons were supposed to have been learned. But look at the crippling powerlessness of the UN today. It has become the handmaiden of big powers despite the noble goals and objectives that were at the heart of its inception.
I agree most UN agencies have been doing an exemplary job of providing aid and fighting poverty, disease, backwardness, climate change and other demons. However, the world body has woefully failed in its chief objective; its raison d’ etre of protecting peace and preventing conflicts.
The UN has still failed to deliver 65 years after its formation because some at the table are more equal than others. Western colonial rule may have ended long ago but their writ still runs in and outside the UN. The institution that is described as the world’s Parliament is sadly dictated by the old jungle law of the might is right. The number of times the US alone has used its veto power to block even perfunctory resolutions condemning Israeli crimes against Palestinian people runs into hundreds.
If this has to change, the UN must change to reflect today’s changed geopolitical realities. Isn’t it strange that the largest democratic body on the planet offers no real say to more than half of its population? The Security Council that controls the world body is restricted to the US, Russia, China, Britain and France.
The Middle East, the cradle of civilizations, home to three great faiths and the world’s known energy resources, has no say in the UN’s decision-making process. A country like India with a billion plus population is kept out in the cold. Ditto Africa where life on the planet is said to have begun. Representatives of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are not welcome either. In fact, the entire Southern Hemisphere of the globe doesn’t have a seat at the table. When will this change? Why should the UN be the preserve of a select club? India has been knocking on the door for some time, hoping to get a permanent seat at the privileged table. But others must follow suit too, pushing for a complete restructuring of the world body. It’s time to build a new UN and a new world order. A just and democratic world is not possible without justice and equality at the UN.
Aijaz Zaka Syed is Opinion Editor and columnist of Khaleej Times, the Middle East’s oldest and largest circulated English daily, published from Dubai. He writes a weekly column called View from Dubai.. The column, which looks at and comments on world affairs from a Middle Eastern and Arab-Muslim perspective, is published widely. He received the European Union’s prestigious Lorenzo Natali Journalism Prize in 2007 for his writings on the Darfur conflict.