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Isi Leibler on Tower of Babble: How the United Nations Has Fueled Global Chaos

Filed under: Europe and Israel, International Law
Publication: Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review 17:3-4 (Fall 2005)

Dore Gold’s most recent scholarly but highly readable book is an important contribution for anyone seeking to understand the role of what is generally regarded as the most important multilateral body of the past century. As a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations with excellent academic qualifications, Gold is in a unique position to evaluate the organization’s effectiveness.

Gold outlines the original objectives of President Roosevelt and the Allies, who sought to establish a global body to oversee a new world order based on law and morality. That vision already collapsed, however, with the onset of the Cold War when U.S.-Soviet rivalry brought about the paralysis of the UN Security Council.

Gold concentrates on the post-Soviet era, and provides a caustic critique of the UN’s impotence and double standards in attempting to manage most of the political issues it has become involved with. He indicts the organization for its unwillingness – or inability – to confront terrorism and mass murder and its failure to forestall a series of global catastrophes in which millions of innocent civilians were killed.

Indifference to Genocide

One such case is Rwanda in 1994, which, apart from Cambodia, underwent the worst genocide since the Holocaust. At the time the UN had a sizable presence in that country, but when a debate over the issue in the Security Council was inconclusive, then-Under Secretary- General Kofi Annan recalled the UN peacekeeping forces and in less than a hundred days over a million Tutsis were massacred with particular brutality. Subsequently, the Security Council approved a French-led military intervention that ended up providing a safe haven for the Hutu killers.

The following year, in July 1995 in Srebrenica, Bosnia, a UN battalion in a UN-declared “free zone” handed over eight thousand Muslim civilians to the Serbs, who slaughtered them all. The UN failed to convene an inquiry into the atrocity; instead Annan, who was later to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his contributions to the UN, made do with sanctimonious statements. Ultimately the Yugoslav crisis, in which a quarter of a million people were killed, was resolved only after the Americans bypassed the Security Council and intervened directly.

The ongoing human tragedy still taking place in Darfur is yet another example of the UN’s complete failure to defend helpless people under attack from tyrannies.

It seems, however, that little could be expected from a body that elected Libya as chair of its Human Rights Commission, and at one stage even approved the rotation of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to head the UN Commission on Disarmament. Annan is now belatedly calling for the dissolution of the existing Human Rights Commission and its substitution by a new Human Rights Council.

Gold also highlights the UN’s use of double standards against Israel. Even when Iraq was on the agenda, the UN continued to spend more time annually condemning Israel than on any other single issue. Gold describes the blurring of distinctions between legitimate Israeli acts of self-defense and deliberate Palestinian targeting of innocent civilians. The antagonism against Israel was also on display at the UN-hosted conference in Durban, which history will record as the launching pad for the new global anti- Semitism.

A chapter is devoted to the International Criminal Court and its biased approach to “war crimes.” In this context, Gold de- fines the Court’s conduct as “institutionalized moral equivalence.”

An Uncertain Future

Gold warns that mortgaging aspects of global security to the approval of a body that is itself actually responsible for a number of international atrocities, amounts to a prescription for disaster. He demonstrates how the UN has become a major obstacle to the U.S. war on terror and predicts that in future, the United States will have to address serious threats to its security without the constraints of the global body.

Although Gold does not go so far as to endorse the UN’s dissolution, he recommends that the United States consider creating an association of democracies to act as a caucus within the UN. Such a group could be effective in neutralizing the bias and double standards that currently determine policies.

At present, Annan is seeking to divert attention from the scandals associated with the Oil for Food imbroglio, which involved some of his leading officials, and is proposing some minor reforms. An increasing number of critics, however, are reaching the conclusion that an organization dominated by dictatorships and sponsors of state terrorism will never be able to truly improve itself from within. There is growing support for creating a new body rather than providing artificial life support for the present dysfunctional one. A voluntary association of nations committed to promoting democracy, which would pressure other organizations to reform in order to qualify for membership, offers hope for more meaningful implementation of the ideals that motivated the original founding members of the UN.

By providing case studies of how the UN has betrayed its mission to protect the world’s security, even to the point of ignoring mass murder, while emboldening terrorists, Dore Gold makes a powerful argument that the UN has been an abject failure. His book also exposes the claim that the UN is a “source of international legitimacy” as having no basis in reality. Nevertheless, in the coming months the UN will be seeking to placate its major democratic sponsor, the United States, by introducing reforms. Annan realizes that action is necessary to forestall America’s growing reluctance to continue propping up the corrupt international body.

Dore Gold’s book draws on earlier studies, including those of Jewish scholars such as Irwin Cotler, Alan Dershowitz, and especially, of late, Anne Bayefsky, who have contributed particularly to exposing the UN’s bias toward Israel. Gold, however, adds important material and provides a fresh conceptual framework for assessing the organization’s weaknesses. Tower of Babble will undoubtedly become the prime source for those wishing to review the operations and failures of the United Nations.