search

Correspondence with UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres

Antonio Gutteres gesturing
The Secretary General of the UN

 

Below is the text of a message I sent to the members of the International Society for Socratic Studies. I post it here as the first item in a series of pieces about the war against Israel.

The Front Lines 1

November 22, 2023

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As you all surely know, Israel is now in the midst of bloody wars with Hamas in Gaza, with Hezbollah in Lebanon, and with the Houthis in Yemen, all agents of Iran. Many academic societies have issued statements in the name of their memberships condemning one or more of the actors in this war and supporting others. I have not and will not seek to publicize any statement in the name of the Society or in the name of anyone other than myself because I find it offensive for people to speak in the name of others.

At the same time, remaining silent is also a statement, often a statement of the worst kind. Living in Israel for the past 40 years, and having now four children serving in its defense, I have many thoughts about the challenges facing our region and our world. So do my fellow Israelis. While I am deeply aware of the limits of my own knowledge and insight, I feel that this point of view deserves more consideration than is possible in English language media outlets, which are covering so many other issues around the world.

In today’s toxic political atmosphere there is scarcely a place where dialogue can exist. If dialogue is impossible not only in the media but also in academia then the only way to resolve issues will be on the battle field, and that is a very bad way. I can think of no better forum than the Socratic Society to engage in dialogue and conversation about issues of real moment. In this spirit, I will make an effort, when I can, to send you brief messages about issues raised by this conflict from an Israeli point of view. I encourage you to respond to me off list with questions, challenges, and concerns.

I paste below my brief correspondence with Mr. Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the UN and then my thoughts about his failure to adopt the policy I proposed.

With heartfelt wishes for a much better world,

Gabriel Danzig

President International Society for Socratic Studies

 

November 1, 2023

Dear Mr. Guterres,

The entire world is experiencing a horrific rise in violence, anger, and inhumanity stemming from the conflict in Gaza. I know that you are deeply concerned and are exploring every way possible to put an end to this.

There is only one way to resolve this conflict that is agreed on by every legitimate opinion, and that is the immediate surrender of Hamas. As recent events have shown, Hamas is one of the most vicious terrorist organizations on earth. No one in the international community disputes that its surrender is the best possible conclusion of the conflict for the people of Gaza, for the people of Israel, and for the world. Yet you have not publicly made that demand.

Surrender by Hamas would not only end the bloodshed, it would create conditions for the renewal and rebuilding of Gazan society, along the lines of the Marshall plan in Europe, and is our best and only hope for a lasting peace. Why do we have to wait for tens of thousands of additional casualties before reaching this conclusion?

I urge you to use all your moral authority to press for the immediate end to violence, for the immediate protection of human life, for a better future for all, by publicly calling for surrender by Hamas. This is a dire humanitarian demand that transcends all political considerations, and time is of the essence.

Sincerely,

Professor Gabriel Danzig

Department of Classical Studies

Bar Ilan University

 

November 1, 2023

Dear Friend,

Many thanks for your important analysis.

Warmest regards.

Antonio

 

Commentary:

I am not surprised that Mr. Guterres did not adopt a policy on my recommendation. But I am surprised that neither he nor anyone else in the international community has suggested applying pressure for Hamas to surrender. Instead, they have left Israel in the position of opposing Hamas on its own, by military means, with the consequent sacrifice of thousands of human lives on both sides of the conflict.

Mr. Guterres has called for a ceasefire. It is rare in the annals of human history that international bodies have pressed nations to come to a ceasefire with a terrorist organization. A ceasefire would leave Hamas in control of the population in Gaza for the foreseeable future, enabling them to continue to abuse their own population and to make further attacks on Israel. It would perpetuate the cycle of violence and make it impossible to take steps for a better future for the people in the region.

Mr. Guterres also expressed understanding for the motives behind the massacre that took place on October 7th. All crimes have motives, but Guterres is the first Secretary General of the UN to say that they need to be taken into consideration in cases of crimes against humanity. His words (“it did not happen in a vacuum”) will reverberate for many years and may be used cynically by tyrants of all kinds in their efforts to justify massacres of civilians. In explaining the motives he referred to “56 years” of occupation as if this were the sole issue.

Wishing you all a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday! May we hear only good news from now on, both in Israel and in all other distressing situations around the world!

Gabriel Danzig

After receiving Antonio’s warm message of appreciation, I waited some days to see if he owuld take any action to prevent the continuing bloodhsed. When he did not, I sent him the following message, to which he did not respond.

Dear Mr. Guterres,

I am disappointed that you are not willing or able to explain why you do not demand surrender by Hamas.

As you are aware, this is the best and only possible resolution to the conflict that is consistent with a peaceful future. It would save tens of thousands of lives, it would receive unanimous support from all legitimate opinions, and it alone would pave the way to peace and prosperity in the region. When we need you most, you are not in service. Your silence echoes throughout the world, and gives comfort to those planning more acts of slaughter.

This failure goes hand in hand with your previous statements denying agency and responsibility to mass murderers. You have condemned the massacre, but not those who did it. You proclaimed that there were causes for their crimes. There are causes for all crimes, Mr. Guterres.

You are the first SG of the UN to offer justification for crimes against humanity, and this will be your enduring legacy. Your ill-conceived comments will reverberate for years and will serve tyrants of all kinds in their efforts to exterminate innocent human beings.

Even when excusing the terrorists, you did not consider the “causes” in an intelligent or thoughtful way. You did not connect this massacre to other genocidal massacres in the Middle East, such as the crucifixion of Armenian Christians, the massacre of the Greeks of Istanbul, the violent persecution of Jews in Arabic-speaking countries, the wars against Israel, the massacres and enslavement of Yezidis, or the recent ethnic cleansing of Armenians. None of those were reactions to occupation, real or imagined. Instead you slandered Israel by claiming that Israel has been occupying Gaza for 56 years, a false claim that would not excuse the murderers even if it were true.

My colleagues and I have marked the date of my initial letter to you, and we will consider that from this date forward you bear responsibility for the murders of every additional human being on both sides. Those who fail to raise their voices bear responsibility, and you have a special professional responsibility in this area. You are paid for this, from public funds. You have chosen not to fulfill your sacred and professional duty by calling for surrender by Hamas, but have allowed other considerations to take precedence over everything human and everything holy.

This failure will be documented in an academic project which will emphasize the following points:

1) You are the first Secretary General of the UN to offer justifications for crimes against humanity.

2) You deny the agency of mass murderers, and explain their actions by means of false historical claims.

3) You call for a cease-fire to protect terrorist criminals from punishment and thereby encourage and enable repeated atrocities.

4) By categorizing genocidal war crimes as a form of resistance, you offer support to war criminals, dull the moral outrage of the civilized world, and prepare excuses for every future crime against humanity.

5) You abuse the notion of humanitarian aid by offering supplies to Hamas.

6) By opposing the war against terror you side with pawns of the Iran-Russia-China axis in its conflict with the western democracies.

I will be circulating this letter in my efforts to shine a light on your disgraceful behavior.

Sincerely yours,

Professor Gabriel Danzig

Department of Classical Studies

Bar Ilan University

About the Author
The author is a professor in the department of Classical Studies at Bar Ilan University. He is the President of the International Society for Socratic Studies, and the Founder of the Classical Forum for Contemporary Issues. The father of eight beautiful children, he lives in Efrat with their beautiful mother.