For the Islamic despotisms of the Middle East, it’s an old rule of thumb. When things get tough, or confusing, or frustrating, or when you simply want to deflect anger in the direction of a communal scapegoat, go on the offensive and blame the Jews.
In the United Nations Assembly, where the 56 states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference pay a pittance of the dues but hog a plethora of the policy, it’s standard practice. Gang up on Israel. At the UN Human Rights Council, it appears to be mandatory for the majority of members. Bypass such gross violators of human rights as Cuba and Zimbabwe, gloss over the provocations of such terrorist outfits as Hamas and Hezbollah, and, as UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer testified recently to Congress, devote 70% of the resolutions to condemning Israel.
Now we come to a moment in which the Middle East is in turmoil. Protests began in Tunisia, ousted the aging dictator, spread to Egypt and ousted another aging dictator. In Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, Algeria, Iran and Libya, across a spectrum of polities that range from autocracy to some of the world’s most brutal despotisms, people are rising up. What better time for the despots of the Middle East to push to the fore a Palestinian campaign for the UN Security Council to — you guessed it — slam Israel.
What’s different is that this time, the U.S. administration, perhaps suffering its own doubts and frustrations over what to do in the Middle East, is reportedly about to join the lynching party. The Palestinians, while refusing to engage in good faith in negotiations with Israel, have been pushing for a Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements as illegal. This has been brewing for a while, but the Security Council member-state of Lebanon (where Iranian-backed Hezbollah has been consolidating control) now deems it urgent business — so urgent that a vote might come in the next day or two. (The Security Council is chaired this month by Brazil; you remember Brazil — the country whose president turned up in Tehran last May, hand-in-hand with the prime minister of Turkey and Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, exulting over a sham deal for an Iranian nuclear climbdown).
It seems the Obama administration doesn’t want to vote for this resolution. But neither does the U.S. administration want to upset the Security Council by actually wielding its veto for the first time since President Obama took office. Apparently the world’s former superpower would no longer dare to defy a group that includes the likes of Russia, China, Lebanon, and, of course, Gabon, Portugal and Bosnia and Herzegovina. So, according to a Foreign Policy report by Colum Lynch, the Obama administration has been haggling behind the scenes — not to use America’s clout to persuade the Security Council members to drop the entire thing, but to hash out with Arab regimes a Security Council “statement” that attacks Israel.
Israel, a democratic ally of the U.S., is right now quite beleaguered enough. Iran’s regime, while pursuing nuclear weapons and bloodying internal dissent, proposes to wipe Israel off the map . Iran’s terrorist clients stand ready to help, including Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah again stockpiling missiles under the gaze of UN peacekeepers in Lebanon. Egypt’s Lotus Revolution may hold great promise, but Egypt’s future — jihad-dedicated Muslim Brotherhood and all — is still in play. This is a volatile moment in the Middle East. So what is the U.S. doing to clarify its policies and priorities? In the diplomatic back rooms of Washington and the UN, U.S. appeasement may be playing right now as a delicate balancing act; an attempt to cope with the pressures of a Middle East in tumult. But it boils down to the Obama administration embracing the same ugly policy as Middle East despots: when the going gets tricky, never mind the real problems and the real dangers. Go along with the free-riders of the Security Council, placate Nigeria, bow to Russia and China, follow the lead of Lebanon — and slam Israel. Is that really what Americans want?