Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Documentary on UN Corruption Makes You Laugh, Then Cry

June 8, 2012 1:44 pm 0 comments

United Nations headquarters in New York. Photo: wiki commons.

A picture of a burned Israeli bus appears among images of world terrorist attacks; a newspaper headline on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threat to wipe Israel off the map briefly crosses the screen. Those are the few fleeting references indirectly addressing Israel in U.N. ME, the new documentary on the corruption of the United Nations, which came out in theaters, video on demand, and iTunes on June 1.

As a self-described Zionist writer, director and producer, Ami Horowitz struggled with his decision not to address directly the UN’s policies regarding Israel, but “felt that in order to help Israel I had to ignore it,” he told JointMedia News Service. And as the film quickly demonstrates, there is plenty of other material documenting the moral decline of the UN and pointing to the dubiousness of the organization’s frequent condemnations of the Jewish state.

In a satire-style reminiscent of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat and films by Michael Moore, Horowitz skillfully poses absurd questions to officials who either avoid answering him, or at best provide an even more absurd response. He speaks with Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, Sudan’s ambassador to the United Nations, who says “climate change” is the culprit for the crisis in Darfur.

“So maybe the Prius (Hybrid car) is the answer to all our problems there,” Mr. Horowitz tells him. In Horowitz’s words, U.N.ME is a “docutainment” striving to “entertain first and educate later.”

But behind the humor, the picture is grim. The UN passed an anti-terrorism resolution after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. According to the UN official website, the resolution was intended to “prevent those who finance, plan, facilitate or commit terrorist acts from using their respective territories for those purposes against other countries and their citizens. States should…ensure that terrorist acts are established as serious criminal offences in domestic laws and regulations and that the seriousness of such acts is duly reflected in sentences served.”

In spite of this, Horowitz spends a sizable segment of the film trying and failing to get a UN official to provide a straight forward definition of “terrorism.” Even offering the official a basic dictionary definition doesn’t do the trick. As the film points out, the UN is simply unable or unwilling to name the aggressor.

Through interviews with a wide spectrum of sources, including former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, former CIA Director James Woolsey, former U.N. weapons inspector Charles Duelfer and Nobel laureate Jody Williams, a larger picture emerges. Countries that are essentially dictatorships, some of which are implicated in terrorism and whose governments routinely violate the human rights of their citizens, are frequently members of the Security or Human Rights Councils. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at the 2009 United Nations World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) in Geneva, Zwitzerland, calling Israel a “most aggressive, racist country.” The UN allowed this despite the fact that the Iranian government routinely discriminates against, if not persecutes, women and homosexuals. “Something tells me he wasn’t the ideal speaker to kick off this conference,” Horowitz says in the film.

U.N.ME focuses on a few major examples illustrating everything from UN corruption to actual criminal activity. In one section, the film goes over the UN Security Council’s Oil-for-Food Programme, which allowed Iraq to sell oil in exchange for food and supplies in 1996. Instead, UN employees mismanaged the program, allowing Saddam Hussein to make $1.8 billion by illegally exploiting the plan.

Just two years earlier, UN leadership told peacekeepers in Rwanda not to intervene despite legitimate indications of a potential genocide. When the violence started and about 2,500 Tutsis sought refuge in the Ecole Technique Officielle (ETO) in Kigali, the UN peacekeepers guarding the school abandoned it, leaving the refugees to be slaughtered by the Hutu militia. It was later discovered that Boutros Boutros-Ghali, then Secretary-General of the UN, had previously facilitated an arms deal that sold weapons to Rwanda.

The film reveals another ugly side of the UN peacekeeping tradition. A large number of UN peacekeeping missions around the world have been implicated in charges of sexual abuse and pedophilia. But efforts to investigate such allegations and hold the culprits accountable often lag, if not fall apart altogether.

Horowitz believes the UN should either “reform or die.” Since the political atmosphere in Washington is growing increasingly bipartisan on the issue, Horowitz hopes to push the White House over the edge. “I think the US should use its money as an opportunity to help the UN,” he said, by only giving it money based on substantial reforms.

An obvious question looms after watching this film. If the UN has been implicated in so many shocking violations of its own principles, many of which are common-knowledge, why hasn’t the organization already been reformed? Why does the U.S. continue being a member? The U.S. does not always support every U.N. action. For instance, it boycotted the 2009 UN racism conference featuring Ahmadinejad. But why, according to the state department, did the administration budget for 2011 request more than $516 million for the UN regular budget? How bad does the tipping point need to be for someone to take real action? So far, there doesn’t seem to be an answer.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    JNS.org – Alan Gross used to be nothing more to me than a tragic headline. When I started my position at this news service in July 2011, Gross had been imprisoned in Cuba since December 2009 for what that country called “crimes against the state.” Gross, a subcontractor for the United States Agency for International Development, went to Cuba to help the Jewish community there access the Internet. After his arrest, he received a trial he describes as a “B movie,” […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Features New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    JNS.org – When I saw the recent Academy Award-winning film “The Big Short,” I was struck by the sheer genius of the financiers who devised the schemes and packaged the loans for resale, but it left me with unanswered questions about how the properties these loans represented were moved. “The Big Short” was largely about paper transactions, big money, and wealthy investors, and it mildly touched on the way the actual end-users — the home buyers and brokers — played into this […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Why do we think so negatively about psychiatrists that we still insult them by calling them shrinks? Some medics might be quacks, but we don’t generally refer to them as witches! Shrinks; The Untold Story of Psychiatry, by Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, is a sobering account of how psychiatry has swung from a marginal, unscientific mixture of weird theories into one of the most common and pervasive forms of treatment of what are commonly called “disorders of the mind.” Is it […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion At Forbes Summit in Israel, Entrepreneurship Is a ‘Common Language’

    At Forbes Summit in Israel, Entrepreneurship Is a ‘Common Language’

    JNS.org – Nine months ago, Seth Cohen, director of network initiatives for the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, and Randall Lane, editor of Forbes Magazine, were schmoozing about the “vibrancy of Tel Aviv and soul of Jerusalem,” as Lane put it. They dreamed about how they could bring young and innovative millennials to the so-called “start-up nation.” From April 3-7, Forbes turned that dream into a reality. Israel played host to the first-ever Forbes Under 30 EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) […]

    Read more →