Ban Ki-Moon Does Not Deserve a Prize
Some things just do not make any sense, whichever way you look at them. Tel Aviv University’s award of the George S. Wise Medal, its highest honor, to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is one of those things.
When I first heard about it, I thought someone had come up with an excellent piece of satire, because what could possibly make less sense than Israelis giving the UN chief, who presides over the most Israeli-bashing organization (granted, in close competition with the European Union), an honorary award? Perhaps if it were an honorary award for passing the most anti-Israeli resolutions in any given year, while ignoring every tyranny and dictatorship in the world — sorry, not ignoring, appointing them to important positions on the UN Human Rights Council.
There was a tragicomic undercurrent to Ban’s acceptance speech, in which he said that he was accepting it “in the name of all the women and men of the United Nations working to advance peace, development and human rights around the world and around the clock.” Never have the UN’s de facto goals and efforts been more mischaracterized.
Never missing a chance to mischaracterize events on the ground in Israel as well, Ban encouraged Israel to “not allow the extremists on either side to further fuel the conflict. Palestinian and Israeli leaders must stand firm against terror, violence and incitement,” again giving credence to the lie that there is a reciprocal “cycle of violence” instead of one-sided Palestinian Arab terrorism and PA incitement to kill Jews. He also rehashed the old tropes about Israeli “occupation,” essentially repaying the honor Tel Aviv University had bestowed on him with the customary insults that Israel has grown sadly used to when it comes to the UN.
Ban concluded: “I strongly believe that members of the international community must exercise their collective and individual influence to help reach the common destination: an end to the occupation which will soon enter its 50th year, and the establishment of two states for two peoples living side by side in peace, security and mutual recognition.” He even spoke of “responsibility,” using the Hebrew word, “achrayut.”
Yet it is hard to imagine a less responsible actor than the UN and the international community. It is precisely the collective effort of the international community, particularly the UN and the EU, that keeps the PA incitement and terrorism alive by giving it credibility and treasure and ceaselessly singling out Israel for blame. Without the international community, this conflict would have ended long ago. As is customary in all things UN, Ban had bleached out all references to PA-instigated terrorism — the murderous stabbings, shootings and car ramming attacks on Israeli civilians — from his speech. Clearly, according to Ban, there is complete moral equivalence between Israel and the PA.
During his visit, Ban went to visit a school in Gaza, where he boldly stated that “the closure of Gaza suffocates its people, stifles its economy and impedes reconstruction efforts. … It’s a collective punishment for which there must be accountability.”
It is these kinds of manipulative statements, falsely implying that there is a blockade of Gaza affecting civilians, which Ban apparently considers a “responsible” exercise of his high office for the purpose of resolving the conflict. His statements, after all, are reproduced by media and quoted as truth. His remark about “reconstruction efforts” is particularly heinous. As of November 2015, 25 million tons of construction materials had been brought in, 2,733 homes had been rebuilt, and 100,513 homes had been repaired or were in the process of being repaired. In addition, 241 international large-scale projects were under construction.
The blockade is for one purpose only: stopping Hamas from rebuilding its abilities to launch missiles and terror attacks against Israel, and as such, its de facto a weapons embargo. Israel has provided and continues to provide Gaza with millions of tons of humanitarian supplies, including food, medicine and water. What Ban said is factually untrue.
However, Ban also spoke in complete disregard of his own organization’s legal judgment: In a report from 2011 in which the UN reviewed Israel’s response to the Turkish-based flotilla to Gaza in 2010, the UN noted: “Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.”
The blockade is legal under international law. By pretending it is not and peddling the kind of false statements that he did in Gaza the other day, the only thing Ban achieved was the further erosion of the rule of international law.
The question that remains as a bad aftertaste is why an Israeli university, of all places, found it appropriate to bestow on this man its highest honor.
Judith Bergman is a writer and political analyst living in Israel. Twitter: @judithbergman. This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.