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October 17, 2002

Kofi Annan: Why are you criticizing only Israel?

Enough, already, with the hypocrisy of the United Nations!

By Harry Reicher October 17, 2002

His Excellency
The Honorable Kofi Annan
Secretary General
United Nations Organization
New York, NY 10017

BY FAX: 212 963 4879

Dear Secretary General:

Very regrettably, I feel constrained to record my deep disappointment at your statement in criticism of Israel's action in the Gaza town of Khan Yunis.

I looked in vain to find in your statement some reference to a central - indeed critical - fact, namely the continuing strategy, pursued by the leadership of the Palestinians, of locating terrorists, as well as caches of their arms, in heavily populated civilian areas. That this is quite deliberate is long past the point of denial, as is the reprehensible object accomplished thereby, namely the use of civilian men, women and children as human shields.

What is also obvious is that, as long as the international community especially per medium of the United Nations allows, and even encourages, this practice to continue, it is utterly inevitable that Palestinian civilians will continue to be exposed to risk, as a direct consequence of the policies of their own cynical and uncaring leaders. What, one may wonder, could be more guaranteed to encourage those policies than the certain knowledge that, if Palestinian civilians are tragically killed, it is Israel that will be blamed by the United Nations?

The point gathers even more force, when it is recalled that you yourself have gone on record as expressing abhorrence at the very same practice, albeit when occurring in other parts of the world. Your own report, S/2001/33 1, of March 30 of last year, contained particularly strong language in condemnation of the failure to "separate armed elements from civilians," which has "led to devastating situations." Speaking of West Timor (Indonesia), you point out that:

"[N]ot separating combatants from civilians allows armed groups to take control of a camp and its population, politicizing their situations and, gradually establishing a military culture within the camp. The impact on the safety and security of both the refugees and the neighboring local population is severe. Entire camp populations can be held hostage by militias that operate freely in the camps, spread terror, press gang civilians, including children, into serving [in] their forces, sexually assault and exploit women, and deliberately prevent displaced people from returning home. In addition, humanitarian aid and supplies are often diverted to these armed elements, depriving the intended civilian beneficiaries. Finally, blurred lines between the civilian and militia character of camps expose civilians inside to the risk of attack by opposing forces where camps are perceived to serve as launching pads for renewed fighting." (p7, para 30, emphasis supplied).

The recent history of the West Bank and Gaza bears out, all too tragically, the force of your own assessment. I trust you will therefore appreciate my concern at the silence of your Khan Yunis statement on this very matter.

At the same time, it is a source of continuing bewilderment to witness the ongoing double standard that is applied, so far as Israel is concerned, and which is so clearly evident in this case.

I trust that future statements will be directed at the heart of the problem, so that the dangers thereby posed to the civilian population in Palestinian areas are removed once and for all.