It's not Israeli Prime Minister Olmert who should be apologizing to Kofi Annan for the death of four UN observers in Lebanon--if indeed it was the IDF that killed them--but Annan who should be apologizing to Olmert and to the Lebanese people. For years, UN observers have watched the build-up of Hizbullah’s armory and the construction of its fortified tunnels and its bunkers in the hills overlooking Israel and they have done nothing. The UN has allowed Hizbullah to move rockets into homes, schools and mosques, in the midst of heavily populated towns, and they have done nothing. The UN observers have watched Hizbullah terrorists train and be trained by Iranian Revolutionary Guards on their doorstep and they have done nothing.
These activities are not the kind that can be conducted in stealth or at night. The Hizbullah take-over of southern Lebanon took place in full view of the UN outposts and with the full knowledge of UN observers. Yet these observers failed to inform the Security Council of what was happening under their very noses and took no action to stop the violation of UN resolutions prohibiting the presence of armed terrorists in southern Lebanon. It was obvious what would happen once terrorists began raining rockets onto Israel from launching pads hidden in population centers. The death of Lebanese civilians caused by Israel’s airforce trying to stop the bombing of its towns and cities is therefore directly attributable to the fecklessness of Kofi Annan’s leadership and the covert and overt complicity of UN observers in the arming of southern Lebanon. The UN, and not Israel, is to blame for any civilian casualties in Lebanon.
The UN has a long history of cooperation with Hizbullah terrorists in Lebanon. On October 7, 2000, Hizbullah terrorists dressed in UN uniforms crossed into Israel at Mount Dov and attacked an Israeli patrol. They kidnapped three badly wounded soldiers and took them across the border into Lebanon. An Indian contingent of UN observers watched the whole event and recorded it on videotape. For nine months, the UN vehemently denied the existence of the videotape. UN Middle East envoy Terje Larsen and Kofi Annan angrily rejected Israel’s claim that the UN observers had seen anything, even though the claim was based on statements made by one of the Indian soldiers.
Only on July 6, 2001 did the UN finally admit that the UN observers had indeed filmed the aftermath of the attack and kidnappings. The tape showed UN tow trucks beginning to remove two of the Hizbullah getaway vehicles and then, when Hizbullah terrorists appear, meekly turning them over to the terrorists.
The UN observers had already removed bloodstained items from the vehicles, including UN uniforms, insignia, weapons and explosives. Yet for months, the UN refused to hand over the videotapes to Israel or any of the items found in the cars that could have provided information on whether the soldiers were still alive. Ultimately, Israeli government officials were only permitted to see a doctored version of the videotapes with the faces of the terrorists obscured on the theory that the UN wanted to remain “neutral.” The bodies of the three Israeli soldiers were only returned to their families in 2004 as part of a prisoner exchange.
An Indian government investigation seriously criticized the behavior of the returning Indian contingent. Reports surfaced that four members of the contingent had been bribed by Hizbullah to assist in the kidnapping by giving the terrorists information regarding the location of the Israeli soldiers. At first, it was believed that the bribes consisted only of alcohol and Lebanese women, but subsequently information appeared in the press that the UN observers had received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the terrorists. The UN launched its own internal investigation but whitewashed the whole sordid event, claiming that the UN soldiers had no prior knowledge of the kidnapping preparations, despite clear evidence to the contrary. Kofi Annan apologized only for the UN troops’ “error in judgment.”
Turning a blind eye--or, in the case of the four Indian UN observers, assisting in murder--is not an “error in judgment.” For years, the UN has not only tolerated terrorist activity in full sight of its observers, but allowed its outposts to be used for the vilest form of propaganda. Photographs I have personally seen that were taken of the UN observation post on the Lebanese-Israeli border last year show the yellow Hizbullah flag flying only a few feet away from the UN’s blue flag, in flagrant violation of UN resolutions calling for the demilitarization of the border. Worse, smack in front of the UN outpost is a billboard with a photograph of a masked Hizbullah terrorist holding the severed head of a young Israeli soldier. The billboard faces Israel. The message is obvious. The UN is a useless, shameless and toothless organization that has provided cover for Hizbullah for years.
No, Israel does not owe the UN an apology. At most, its bombing of the UN outpost was “an error in judgment.”
The author is a former journalist and long-term observer of the Middle East.
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