Ban Ki-moon’s Complicity in Israel’s Occupation and War Crimes

Ban Ki-moon speaks of an end to Israel's occupation and of peace, but he has repeatedly been complicit in Israel's crimes against the Palestinians.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote an op-ed in the Israeli daily Haaretz this week titled “Israelis and Palestinians Need Two States Before It Is Too Late“.

He talks about how he visited Israel and Gaza “with a clear goal”, which ultimately was to “reestablish a political horizon that can lead to lasting peace.”

To that end, he announces, “we must spare no effort to bring the Israelis and Palestinians back to meaningful negotiations.”

One required step is to “rebuild trust and encourage bold and significant measures on the ground that will tangibly improve lives and irreversibly move toward the end of occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

That is needed in order “to establish the appropriate international infrastructure, through the United Nations and the Quartet, that supports and encourages negotiations and a comprehensive and just resolution of the conflict.”

Translated, some purely symbolic gesture is needed from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, perhaps such as another meaningless so-called settlement “freeze”, to make it politically feasible for the illegitimate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to return to talks.

And the “peace process”, of course, is simply the process by which the US and Israel block implementation of the two-state solution to the conflict.

So maybe another meaningless so-called settlement “freeze” will be needed.

Ban Ki-moon is a disgrace to his office. He has been complicit in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians during his time in office.

He has been complicit in his role as a member of “The Quartet”, which is nothing more than a tool whereby the US pursues its policy of rejecting Palestinian self-determination.

But Ban’s role has gone far beyond simply preserving the status quo of occupation…

Complicity Israeli War Crimes During Operation Cast Lead

In the aftermath of Israel’s 2008-2009 massacre in Gaza, “Operation Cast Lead”, during which Israel targeted the civilian infrastructure, including numerous UN buildings such as schools, there was a UN Board of Inquiry. Here’s an excerpt from my forthcoming book, Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict about the role Ban Ki-moon played in that episode:

The US had already been hard at work behind the scenes to protect Israel from being held accountable for its attacks on UN facilities—a task in which it found a willing accomplice in its Quartet partner the UN Secretary General. Ambassador Susan Rice had spoken with Ban Ki-moon three times on May 4 to express the US’s concerns over the Board of Inquiry’s report. Washington was particularly worried about its recommendations to investigate other incidents involving UN premises and personnel that were not included in the Board’s terms of reference, as well as incidents unrelated to the UN that involved civilians. According to leaked State Department cable, Rice “underscored the importance of having a strong cover letter that made clear that no further action was needed and would close out this issue.” Ban Ki-moon told Rice that he “was constrained in what he could do since the Board of Inquiry was independent”, and he could not alter their report and recommendations. He assured Rice that his staff was, however, “working with an Israeli delegation on the text of the cover letter.” Rice thanked him “for his exceptional efforts on such a sensitive issue.”

Furthermore:

It’s useful to also note, with regard to Ban Ki-moon’s role as a tool of US foreign policy, that after a delegation of Arab foreign ministers met with the permanent members of the Security Council on January 5, 2009, to press for an immediate ceasefire resolution, the Secretary General assured the US Ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, that “he was sympathetic to Israel’s position, even if he would then be forced to shore up his image in the Arab world by reacting to Israel’s ground operation in Gaza.” The fact that the Secretary-General expressed his sympathies not for the victims, but the perpetrator of the massacre, and would only speak out against Israel’s war crimes because he was “forced” to under public pressure is a remarkable illustration of his willingness to serve US interests in a manner conflicting with the duties of his office.

And:

Under Ban Ki-moon’s leadership, the UN ultimately received $10.5 million in compensation from Israel for damages, which “concluded” the matter as far as he was concerned. Amnesty International criticized the Secretary-General for securing compensation for the UN “without securing compensation for any of the actual victims of the attacks”—despite the Board of Inquiry’s specific recommendation that the UN seek compensation for civilian victims of attacks not involving UN facilities or personnel. “Surely, the acceptance of this sum for damage to UN buildings can only be the first step in repairing the damage caused by the conflict,” Amnesty said in a letter to the Secretary-General. “The UN cannot ignore the lack of reparations to the hundreds of women, men and children who were killed, injured or the thousands who lost property during the Gaza conflict in attacks that violated international humanitarian law.”

Complicity in Israel’s Collective Punishment of Gaza

And then there was the “Palmer Report” produced under the auspices of the Secretary-General’s office.

In short, that Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip constitutes an illegal act of collective punishment in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and other relevant international law is completely uncontroversial. It is a simple point of fact. The entire world recognizes this, as reflected in UN Security Council Resolution 1860 calling for an end to it …

the discussion in the UN Security Council following Israel’s murderous attack on the humanitarian flotilla attempting to break the blockade in May 2010 …

the report of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict …

countless statements and reports from numerous UN bodies …

the International Committee of the Red Cross …

international humanitarian organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch …

Israeli human rights groups like B’Tselem and Gisha….

But Ban Ki-moon commissioned a panel consisting of two former heads of state with no credentials on international law to produce a report with the political goal of finding a way to “put the incident behind” and “move on”, which it did by declaring that the blockade is not illegal by employing the petitio principii fallacy: it arrived at this conclusion by simply assuming as a premise that it was not a part of a policy of collective punishment (an assumption it supported with nothing more than numerous references to Israel’s own Turkel Commission report on the incident).

Not that the Panel had a mandate to make legal findings about the blockade. On the contrary the report explicitly noted this judgment exceeded the mandate it was given and was non-authoritative.

It was a total farce, an absolute disgrace to his office, and yet it did the job. The New York Times, for example, repeatedly educated its readers about the legality of Israel’s blockade by stating that Israel said it was legal, and that Israel’s position was supported by the Palmer Report … and that was it. Never mind the numerous authoritative judgments of UN, ICRC, etc. Readers needn’t know any of that. Apologists for Israeli crimes were able to declare that “the UN” had declared the blockade was legal — the actual facts notwithstanding.

Then there was the Quartet statement in response to Israel’s deadly attack on the flotilla (nine civilians were killed, including an American citizen). Another excerpt:

The purpose of the Quartet statement, however, was not to demand that Israel end its siege, but to warn the flotilla participants against sailing to Gaza and to demand that they deliver any goods “through established channels”—meaning to cooperate with and legitimize Israel’s siege by delivering humanitarian aid to Israel for it to deliver (or not). The Quartet blamed the killing of civilians aboard the Mavi Marmara the previous year not on Israel, but on the victims (“the injury and deaths”, it said, were “caused by the 2010 flotilla”). Only within this context did the statement urge “restraint”. Instead of warning Israel against again violating international law and assaulting civilians, Washington’s Quartet partners joined in calling on any concerned governments “to use their influence to discourage additional flotillas”.

Conducting Hasbara for Israel

When Israel launched “Operation Pillar of Defense” in 2012, Ban Ki-moon played the role of Israeli propagandist. Another excerpt from my book:

The day Palestinian groups agreed to the ceasefire, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon saw fit to issue a statement condemning indiscriminate rocket attacks by Palestinians while saying nothing about Israel’s attacks resulting in the killing of Palestinian civilians. Instead, the US’s Quartet partner essentially provided Israel a green light of his own, calling on its government to merely “exercise maximum restraint” and echoing Israel’s own narrative that the recent burst of violence had started with a Palestinian attack on an IDF jeep.

Never mind that the attack was against Israeli forces that had invaded Gaza and were in Gaza at the time.

Never mind that the attack on the jeep was retaliation for the murder of a 13-year-old boy earlier that morning by IDF forces in Gaza.

Never mind that it was Israel that violated the aforementioned ceasefire by launching its “Operation Pillar of Defense” with a surprise attack to assassinate a Hamas official.

Complicity in Israel’s Settlement and Occupation Regime

Then there is Ban’s complicity in Israel’s occupation regime as the US’s partner in “The Quartet”. Again from my book, with reference to an Israeli announcement of additional illegal settlement construction in East Jerusalem:

The US responded by immediately issuing a joint statement with its Quartet partners taking note of the application and affirming “its determination to actively and vigorously seek a comprehensive resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, on the basis of UN Security Council Resolutions 242, 338, 1397, 1515, 1850, the Madrid principles including land for peace, the Roadmap, and the agreements previously reached between the parties”. It called upon both parties “to refrain from provocative actions” and “reiterated the obligations of both parties under the Roadmap”. It then rendered this all meaningless by reiterating its call for the resumption of negotiations “without delay or preconditions”, the standard code letting Israel know that it could feel free to continue violating previous agreements and international law with impunity. Reporting on the Quartet statement, the New York Times perceived how, “before the thunderous applause greeting his announcement in the General Assembly had faded, international powers laid out a new plan to resume direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that was designed to delay a contentious vote on the Palestinian request as long as possible.” The text of the statement was nevertheless still “heavily diluted” from what the US would have liked, having “failed to achieve a consensus” among its Quartet partners.

The government of Israel, however, was satisfied with what the US was able to accomplish on its behalf. “We were pleased to see that the Quartet has called for an immediate return of the Palestinians to the negotiating table with us, without preconditions,” lauded Michael Oren. “The US and Israel are more closely coordinated now than they have been at any time in the last two years, or more,” he added. “We see things very much eye-to-eye on how to move forward.”

The euphemism “without preconditions” simply meant while Israel’s illegal colonization of the West Bank was ongoing; the Palestinian side’s demand that Israel cease this violation of international law was deemed a “precondition” by Israel and the US and thus something that should not occur. (The US even went so far as to veto an uncontroversial UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s illegal settlements.)

Another example, with reference to Palestine’s bid — dubbed a “unilateral” action by the US and Israel — at the UN to achieve an upgrade of status in the General Assembly to non-member state — a recognition of statehood that would allow Palestine access to international legal mechanisms such as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and International Criminal Court (ICC):

On April 11 [2012], the Quartet issued a statement describing Israel’s “continued settlement activity” as being among “unilateral and provocative actions by either party”—thus drawing equivalence between Palestinian appeals for recognition of their rights and Israeli violations of international law. The statement asserted that such actions “cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations”. Then it rendered that meaningless, insofar as it applied to Israel, by declaring that talks under the existing framework—in which international law was deemed immaterial and Palestinians’ rights subject to negotiation—were “the only way to a just and durable solution to the conflict.”

Ban Ki-moon speaks of the need for Palestinians to have a state of their own and for an end to the occupation while his actions have served only to perpetuate that same occupation that denies the Palestinians their right to self-determination.

He speaks of peace while his actions have served only to ensure impunity for Israeli war crimes against the Palestinians and collective punishment of the entire civilian population of Gaza.

Ban Ki-moon washes the outside of his cup while the inside is full of uncleanliness; he is like a whitewashed tomb which on the outside appears beautiful but on the inside is full of decay.

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