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Peter John Beyfus

‘Put not your trust in princes……’ Psalm 146

Most people have little difficulty in identifying an aggressor. In a street brawl, witnessed by the general public, there is usually consensus as to who threw the first punch. This incident may require corroborative testimony but if there is sufficient evidence to prosecute an individual, then the police will act accordingly. Simple, so far? In the case of the Russo-Ukraine war only the most short-sighted would have a problem in naming the invader, and the United Nations, quite reasonably, condemned Russian aggression and demanded the withdrawal of Russian Federation troops. Is there any doubt who attacked Israel on 7 October, killing over 1,400 citizens: men, women and children in the most appalling manner; and abducting, according to Reuters, an estimated 220 hostages, many of whom are holders of foreign passports?

We look to the UN for moral leadership in helping to resolve conflict. To maintain credibility such a body has to demonstrate evenhandedness, avoiding being bogged down by ideological differences and, when there is just cause for intervention, to ensure such measures are efficacious. Sadly, the UN fails on all counts! 

On the 27 October the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for a truce between Israel and Hamas, to facilitate the delivery of aid to Gaza. 120 countries voted in favor, 14 against, while 45 abstained. The implication is clear, it is Israel who is preventing aid from entering Gaza, and this accusation had been made by UN officials in Gaza before the latest resolution. What is missing from the resolution is a demand that Hamas ceases firing rockets into Israel and for the immediate release of hostages. There would then be a basis for meaningful negotiation to supply humanitarian aid. It is so transparent that Hamas will use the hostages to play mind games with Israel. Qatar, honest broker or not, is acting as go-between to secure the release of hostages, but so far little substantial progress has been made; this all smacks of a deliberate campaign to stall Israel’s ground offensive, and one has to ask how committed are the Qataris to promoting peace when they tolerate the Hamas leadership to reside in their country. Israel is not going to stop defending itself until Hamas stops its military action. Once again we see the finger of blame not being pointed at the aggressor, Hamas, but at the defender: how unlike the attitude adopted toward Russian aggression!

It is hardly surprising the UN is little respected by an increasing number of people who are skeptical about its objectivity and effectiveness. Can one ever forget the genocide in Rwanda? In 1994 the UN failed to stop the majority Hutus from murdering nearly one million Tutsi. And what about the massacre of more than 8,000 Bosnian Moslems at the hands of Serb forces in Srebenica in 1995? What did the UN do: nothing!

In 2005 the UN was tasked to protect women and young girls in the so-called Democratic Republic of Congo, but UN peacekeepers are reported as paying for sex or raping women and girls; similar accusations were made about the “beneficent”  UN in Cambodia, Bosnia and Haiti.

Referring to Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the  world, after the 2010 earthquake, it is likely the cholera epidemic  was spread by a Nepali UN peacekeeping force who carried the disease; 8,000 died and 700,000 were infected. Another unmitigated UN disaster was its poorly managed initiative to relieve war-torn Iraq by softening international sanctions by permitting Iraq to sell its oil through the UN. This was designed to provide much needed food and medicine to the population, but, in fact, the money from oil sales ended up in private hands, making this the worst financial scandal in UN history.

The UN has no mandate to lecture Israel on its legitimate right to self-defence, and since the complexion  of the General Assembly has changed over the years, becoming increasingly influenced by Arab and African nations, all of whom are inherently antagonistic toward the West, it is hardly surprising partisanship is what we now expect from any resolution concerning Israel. The UN’s prejudice toward Israel is to be regretted and this has led to an erosion of trust in the ability of this organisation to speak for the world. 

Finally, we have seen on the streets of many cities around the world pro-Palestinian demonstrations. I do not take issue with the right of people to express dissent, but when this becomes an opportunity to make vile comments about Jews, to praise Hamas, to call for Jihad and an intifada, to  carry the flag of the Islamic State, that is another matter. Both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are hate crimes, and are rightly condemned. At one time there was a clear distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Not all Jews are Zionists but that does not free them from anti-Semitic slurs, and not all Zionists are Jews.

Following a number of attacks, many of which proved fatal, including the Manchester bombing of 2017, by an Islamist terrorist,  there was an upsurge in ant-Islamic sentiment in Britain. However, Jews did not react by chanting “death to Moslems”, trying to hack off the head of a soldier and participating in multiple incidents of knife crime. During this troubled time some Moslems have voiced hatred toward Jews and, if it wasn’t for effective law enforcement, potential violence against the Jewish community may well occur. Synagogues and Jewish schools still need to be protected because there is a serious risk of damage to Jews and property. Are mosques having to take measures to protect themselves against attacks form  Jews – I think not. What does that say about our society, where one minority group live in fear, while another is allowed to intimidate? 

Am Yisrael Chai! 

About the Author
Peter John Beyfus is an historian, published author, poet, and a person who prides himself on “thinking outside the box”. I have written many essays on Jewish themes, published in various journals, including ‘Wessex Jewish News’ and ‘Westminster Quarterly’, the magazine of Westminster Synagogue, London.
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