UN cries ‘wolf’ on Assad; is anybody listening?

Once upon a time, there was a boy who was supposed to warn his village when the big bad wolf showed up. This boy, out of boredom or just for kicks (we may never know), started crying “wolf, wolf” when there was no wolf. The first few times this happened, he was delighted to see the effect of his little prank. The frenzied villagers ran for cover from the wolf; however, after several such episodes, the villagers stopped taking the boy’s warnings seriously. This became problematic when the wolf actually showed up, because when the boy cried “wolf, wolf,” nobody took him seriously. Sadly, many villagers died that day.

When I think of this story, told by parents everywhere to warn their children about the consequences of fibbing, it is difficult for me not to think about the United Nations. The United Nations was formed after the atrocities of World War II, to be the boy who is to shout “wolf” to the world when dangerous situations emerge, such as dictators who exercise their leadership through terror and mass murder.

The obsessive and unjustified condemnations of Israel by the various bodies of United Nations are classic examples of false alarms. Over the last decade, when countries such as Syria were members of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, Israel was condemned in over 40% of the resolutions of the UNHRC as well as over 80% of the Special Sessions of the General Assembly. This disproportionate focus on Israel, which is just one of the 192 member states of the United Nations, is the only country in the region that holds any regard for International human rights conventions.

I could not help but marvel when I read the UN Security Council’s condemnation of the Syrian massacre, which was too little and too late:

Such outrageous use of force against civilian population constitutes a violation of applicable international law and of the commitments of the Syrian Government under United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

Two questions immediately came to mind after reading this statement. First, where was the stern condemnation by the UN when over 10,000 rockets and mortars were raining down on Israeli civilians in the Negev? Wasn’t that also an outrageous use of force? And second, does anyone even listen to the boy who cries wolf anymore?

It is a well-known fact that President Bashar Assad has been slaughtering his own citizens in the streets of Syria for many months. However, it is only now, after gruesome photographs of the massacre in Houla have been released, that many world leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are publicly criticizing Assad. The response to the photos demonstrates the power that journalism has in Western democratic countries.

Perhaps the most telling of the responses to the photographs came this week from Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, who insisted that “both sides” in Syria’s conflict were responsible for the death toll. He went on to say that the exact details of the killings in Syria were unclear, and that we should therefore not be so quick to denounce Assad. As opposed to other responses, the photos from the massacre had little effect on Russia’s pseudo-democracy.

We should refuse to accept the indifference and skepticism of the Russians in this situation. But can they be blamed? The UN, which is the archetypal boy who cried wolf, is the entity that released the photographs. But why should anyone believe anything it has to say? The wolf is really here this time, and none of the villagers seem motivated to actually do anything about it. I wonder why. 

About the Author
Calev Michael Myers is the Deputy President of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (IAJLJ) and serves as one of their Representatives before the UN in Geneva and New York. He is also a Senior Partner at Yehuda Raveh & Co. Law Offices (YR&Co.) and a member of the World Jewish Congress Jewish Diplomatic Corps (WJC JDCorps). The opinions expressed in Calev's blogs may not necessarily reflect the opinions of the IAJLJ, YR&Co or WJC JDCorps.