It has become a given that reports from the United Nations and elsewhere that support Israeli actions tend to get buried, while reports critical of Israel’s actions are rushed into print.
So it was this week. As the world’s media focused their attention on the latest edition of the Flotilla Follies, a “much delayed” U.N. report on last year’s ill-fated raid on the Mavi Marmara was delayed yet again. The panel was established last August by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer.
There seems to be no dispute about what the report says, according to Israeli sources. While it is reportedly critical of Israel’s use of “excessive force,” it nevertheless declares that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is legal under international law.
Apparently, this is not something a U.N. report should say when “activists” are sitting on board ships in Greek ports waiting for another chance to break that very same blockade.
News sources differ on the reasons for the delay. The most interesting is the one stated by China’s official news agency, which says the report is being held up because Turkey is holding the report hostage until it gets an apology from Israel. Other accounts suggest the Mavi Marmara report may be released within days, meaning as soon as the current flotilla flurry has passed.
Eleven months have gone by since the panel was given its mandate. Only a few weeks have passed since the so-called Nakba Day, May 14, when Arabs mark what they consider the great tragedy of the 20th century, the establishment of the State of Israel. This year, Nakba Day saw 8,000 to 10,000 Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian protesters violently storming Israel’s northern border. Seven demonstrators were killed when Israeli troops turned back the demonstrators.
Unlike the Mavi Marmara report, this one has been completed, distributed to members of the Security Council, and leaked to the media. Prepared by U.N. special coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams, it accuses Israel of using excessive force against the hordes of violent protesters.
Of course, the report acknowledges that the Arab side started the violence and that Israeli soldiers faced thousands of charging protesters, but these points seemed irrelevant to Williams.
“Other than firing initial warning shots, the Israel Defense Forces did not use conventional crowd control methods or any other method than lethal weapons against the demonstrators,” his report said.
How quickly Williams finished his critique. How slowly the Palmer panel has moved in releasing its report.
Is it any wonder that the U.N. is virtually useless in helping to resolve the Israel-Arab conflict?