Patrick Goodenough | International Editor | Friday, August 11, 2006
The move comes amid growing criticism of a range of U.N. bodies that have issued declarations blaming Israel for the crisis.
"How many more Israeli civilians must die before you condemn Hizballah?" the Anti-Defamation League asked in an ad published in The New York Times Thursday.
In a letter to Annan sent a day earlier, the organization said: "While you clearly are not at a loss for words when it comes to criticizing and denouncing Israel, a member state of the United Nations, you seen unable to muster an equally strong voice to denounce the daily firing by the terrorist organization Hizballah of hundreds of rockets into Israel specifically aimed at and intended to kill and maim civilians."
The Jerusalem Post reports that the ADL last week joined representatives of three other U.S. groups - the American Jewish Committee, B'nai B'rith and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations - in meeting with Annan.
They reportedly urged him publicly to declare Hizballah a terrorist organization.
Annan's spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, issued a statement Thursday saying the secretary-general "reiterates his call that the fighting must stop to save civilians on both sides from the nightmare they have endured for the past four weeks."
Asked during a briefing about the ADL allegations, Dujarric replied: "I think the tone of the ad is misplaced and people should read his statements in full and see that the secretary-general has expressed condemnation for the death of all civilians."
During the conflict, which began when Hizballah mounted a cross-border raid on July 12, killing and kidnapping Israeli soldiers, Annan has issued a number of statements.
A review of them does suggest an attempt to balance the blame, with such references as "the tragic events in Lebanon and northern Israel," and the sending of condolences to the families of victims in Lebanon and Israel.
"It is important to stress that both sides in this conflict bear a heavy responsibility, and there is strong prima facie evidence that both have committed grave breaches of international humanitarian law," he said on July 30.
Four days earlier, Annan called on Hizballah to stop its deliberate targeting of Israeli population centers, and on Israel to stop "bombardments, blockades and ground operations."
And on July 20, he said that while Hizballah's actions were "deplorable," Israel's "excessive use of force is to be condemned."
But Annan's critics reject what they see as a bid to equate a military operation by a sovereign state with attacks directed intentionally at civilians by a terrorist organization.
They were also particularly incensed by two Annan statements - his charge of Israel's "apparently deliberate targeting" of a U.N. monitoring force base in southern Lebanon in an air strike that killed four observers; and his assessment this week that an Israeli attack on the town of Qana followed "a pattern of violations of international law ... during the course of the current hostilities."
Twenty-eight people died in the July 30 incident. Israel said that it would not have targeted the building had it known civilians were sheltering inside, and said Hizballah had fired more than 150 rockets into Israel from Qana, in line with its strategy of using civilians as shields.
In a hard-hitting letter earlier, the Zionist Organization of America accused Annan of rushing to judgment and of engaging in "moral equivalence" by saying there was evidence both Israel and Hizballah had broken international law.
"Despite lip-service paid to the right of Israel to self-defense, its legitimate military campaign is being distorted and maligned by the United Nations' chief executive officer," ZOA president Morton Klein and others said in the letter.
"Your biased and loaded criticism of Israel is another page of dishonor in the history of the United Nations' conduct towards the state of Israel and its legitimate fight to secure its existence and protect its citizens."
In recent weeks, Israel has been condemned by the U.N.'s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; a U.N. subcommission on human rights; and by six U.N. human rights experts dealing respectively with the rights of internally-displaced persons, the right to housing, the right to food, the right to freedom of expression, the right to health, and the right to education.
On Friday, the U.N.'s flagship rights body, the Human Rights Council (HRC), is holding a special session, at the prompting of Arab and Muslim nations and their allies.
Rather than debate the conflict in its entirety, the session will "consider and take action on the gross human rights violations by Israel in Lebanon, including the Qana massacre, country-wide targeting of innocent civilians, and destruction of vital civilian infrastructure."
It's the second time in five weeks that the HRC has called an irregular session to discuss Israel, which was condemned last time for the situation in Gaza. Critics say the Geneva-based body is already following its discredited predecessor's habit of focusing disproportionately on Israel.
The American Jewish Committee Tuesday sent letters to the ambassadors of countries serving on the 47-member HRC, expressing concern that the session would ignore Hizballah's role in starting the conflict and continuing to harm and threaten Israel.
"If the council adopts yet another one-sided resolution condemning the attacked while rewarding the aggressor, it may irrevocably stain its reputation for years to come," said the AJC's Aaron Jacob, urging governments to vote against any such resolution.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center said it was time the U.N.'s HRC turned its attention on Lebanon, which it said had failed to implement Security Council resolution 1559. the resolution's requirements include Hizballah's disarmament and the extension of Lebanese government control over all its territory.
"Lebanon is guilty of complicity with Hizballah in the commission of war crimes against the people of Israel because of their failure to disarm Hizballah or to even alert the U.N. of such violations," said the organization's dean, Marvin Hier.
The HRC session was called after a required one-third of its members backed a request, submitted by Arab and Muslim states. The threshold of 16 members was passed when Islamic members were supported by China, Cuba, Russia and South Africa.
Anne Bayefsky, editor of the Hudson Institute's "Eye on the U.N." project, charged this week that Annan had "effectively turned the United Nations into the political wing of Hizballah."
Rather than "come to the aid of a U.N. member under fire from one of the world's leading terrorist organizations," she said, the U.N. "came to the aid of the terrorist by attempting to prevent the member state from exercising its right to hit back."
Hundreds Die in Sri Lanka, as UN Focuses on Lebanon (Aug. 09, 2006)
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