Or is he simply a fool, dutifully reciting excerpts from the UN’s Moral Equivalency Manual and Guide to Validating Tyrants and Terrorists of the Middle East. (Seems like they must have one … Maybe Kofi Annan left his dog-eared copy to Ban?)
Or maybe it all amounts to the same thing. Whatever might be going through the Secretary-General’s head as he pops up to opine about Israel and Gaza, he sounds like he’s either pro-Hamas (which, with Iranian backing, is dedicated to destroying Israel) or living on Pluto.
Ban has by now established himself as a knee-jerk subscriber to the UN formulation of “disproportionate force” — the term which is never applied by the UN to Hamas (or Hezbollah) terrorists launching rockets indiscriminately into Israel, or kidnapping Israeli solders, or gunning down and blowing up Israeli civilians. But “disproportionate force” is habitually howled out by the UN when Israel — having negotiated and conceded and warned — finally strikes back, targeting terrorists in its own defense. In practice, this means that terrorists attacking Israel get a ritual and meaningless tut-tut from the UN, usually while UN aid trucks keep rolling in to keep them resupplied. But when Israel attacks terrorists, that warrants emergency Security Council meetings and special press briefings at the highest levels, and repeated, lengthy statements aimed at generating genuine, massive pressure for Israelis to lay down their arms and let the terrorists carry on. Thus Kofi Annan’s histrionics when Israel struck back after Hezbollah, unprovoked, attacked Israel out of Lebanon in 2006.
And so, since Israel launched Operation Cast Lead on December 27th, to stop the attacks out of Gaza, Ban has been preaching full-throated Moral Equivalence from the UN pulpit, demanding an “immediate ceasefire,” calling on “all parties” to “fully uphold humanitarian law,” and insisting that all border crossings into Gaza should be flung open “to ensure the continuous provision of humanitarian supplies.” He got worked up enough about it to make a rare appearance in person at the UN noon press briefing this past Monday.
You can toil through some of his recent effusions here, and here; or for a bit of earlier history, here is Ban’s statement of September 19,2007, in which he pronounced himself “very concerned” that the government of Israel had declared the Gaza Strip an “enemy entity,” and called on Israel not to interupt essential services to Gaza. Ban did allude to the reason for Israel’s action — calling for a stop to “the continued indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza into Israel.” But how did he propose to make that happen: “I call for it to stop immediately.” (Note: Ban did not mention the word “Hamas,” or call upon any specific actor firing the rockets; he called for “it” to stop. And, thousands of rocket and mortar attacks later, Ban might have noticed that “it” didn’t give a damn).
OK, so what could Ban do? As Secretary-General, he enjoys the opportunity to provide statements and advice to the Security Council, and of course he can order up a press conference and find an instant world audience. And though it might be something of a departure from custom, he could try finding the backbone to speak the truth — that the UN member state of Israel is under relentless attack out of Gaza by a terrorist group, Hamas, dedicated to its destruction. That another terrorist group, Hezbollah, which infests Lebanon is also dedicated to “Death to Israel.” That both are backed and provisioned and trained by Iran, where the president, who is overseen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini, has called for Israel to be wiped off the map.
Ban could even throw in a few footnotes, about the role of Syria as a cohort and enabler of all this destructive activity and intent, and Saudi wahhabism in all its ruinous manifestations. He might even add a note about a subject which, as a former foreign minister of South Korea, he ought to know very well — the collaboration of Syria and Iran with nuclear-armed, missile vending, totalitarian North Korea.
Ban might also want to mention a name which, as far as I can see on the UN web site, has not passed his lips in any public setting since a September press conference in which he read out a Quartet statement that included a fleeting reference: Gilad Shalit. Actually, it would be fitting for Ban to devote an entire press conference (and then some) to Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped two-and-a-half years ago into Gaza. If Ban is genuinely concerned about humanitarian traffic through the border crossings, would he care to explain why he has been so publicly insistent on the flow of free goods into terrorist-run Gaza, and so apparently uninterested in whether Gilad Shalit might finally be released to travel back out?
All this would be a great help in clarifying the problems in the Middle East. It would be salutary for the UN as well. True, the organization still has no official definition of terrorism, so Ban might find himself venturing into what is, for UN officials, exotic terrain. But there is nothing to prevent the Secretary-General from saying “terrorist,” if he wants to. It might bother the finely tuned sensitivities of actual terrorists, or states that support them. But there’s not much they could do about it. The UN has no procedure for removing a sitting secretary-general. It would be a move of great integrity were Ban to re-focus the UN debate right now, away from the inane formulations about “disproportionate force,” and toward the genuinely germane issue of terrorism.
So that’s what Ban could do, were he willing to stand up for the actual peace-and-human-dignity charter causes of the UN, or even for simple decency. And if he cannot find it in himself to do that, then the least he could do right now is stop making statements that sound like the utterances of a UN-trained parrot. Give it a rest. Take a holiday, Mr. Ban. It will make for a better world.