Jewish World Review June 18, 2002 / 8 Tamuz, 5762
Terrorism at the United Nations
It's not just massive acts or threats of catastrophe that do damage to our notion of civilization. Every bit as dangerous is the more commonplace insult or outrage that raises neither hackles nor eyebrows before passing into the record. Such an instant came and went last week, neither earthshaking in itself, nor definitive, but still deserving mention, if only to sort out whether it was worth any goosebumps or furrowed brows.
Syria, now in its eighth year on the official United States list of state sponsors of terrorism, is in its first month as the head of the United Nations Security Council. Until the presidency rotates again at the end of June, Syria -- whose capital, Damascus, serves as Terror-Central for a bloodthirsty Who's Who of terrorist gangs (from Hezbollah to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) -- is the symbolic chief of international law and order. That right there is an insult; but, of course, there's more.
Last week, after another Palestinian bomber murdered 17 more Israelis as they rode to work on a bus, the Syrian-supported and Syrian-headquartered organization Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the outrage. The group's leader, Abdullah Ramadan Shallah, incidentally, lives in Damascus following a stint as a professor at the University of South Florida. Israel then found itself in the position of having to call on the president of the Security Council (a.k.a. Syria) to condemn Syria (a.k.a. the council president) for harboring terrorists who target Israelis. Surprise, surprise: nothing happened.
But the point was made. And Syria, acting in its presidential capacity, finally decided to follow diplomatic protocol this week and circulate a letter from Yehuda Lancry, Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations. In it, Lancry wrote, "Israel is appalled that a member of the Security Council continues to lend its support to organizations committed to the deliberate murder of civilians."
(According to Reuters, Syria's Ambassador to the United Nations Mikhail Webhe -- and president of the Security Council -- rather absurdly maintains that Syria only allows "some unspecified Palestinian groups to open information offices.")
Such support for terrorism, Lancry continued, violates U.N. declarations holding that "states must prevent their territory from lending any support, financial or otherwise, to terrorist organizations." Noting that a claim of responsibility for the attack came from Islamic Jihad's Damascus headquarters, he added, "Yesterday's attack comes at the precise moment ... when the fight against terrorism is at the top of the council's agenda. It is astounding that Syria is brazenly supporting attempts to subvert the anti-terrorist objectives of an international body of which it itself is president."
But how astounding is it? Perhaps the blase attitude toward what amounts to a blatant con game -- the terrorist-sponsoring state sitting in judgment of its state-sponsored terrorism -- is what is most astounding of all.
At least, it definitely should be.
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JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2001, Diana West