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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Should Ban Ki-Moon be in Iran?

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is in Tehran attending the Non-Aligned Movement summit. He actually used the occasion to blast Iran for its threats against Israel and its Holocaust denial.
"I strongly reject threats by any member state to destroy another, or outrageous attempts to deny historical facts such as the Holocaust," Ban said in his speech to a Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in the Iranian capital.

"Claiming that Israel does not have the right to exist or describing it in racist terms is not only wrong but undermines the very principle we all have pledged to uphold," he added.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly denied the Holocaust and this month described Israel as a "cancerous tumor." In 2005 he caused uproar by being quoted as saying that Israel should be "wiped off the map."
Moon's behavior reminds me of the behavior of Columbia University President Lee Bollinger in 2007. Bollinger, you will recall, invited Ahmadinejad to speak on campus and then asked him some embarrassing questions.
Bollinger’s performance, however skillful, was illusory and narcissistic, precisely because he and his admirers forget that human ideals require the force of political and military institutions to guarantee their relevance. He prefers to think, no doubt, that it is his own idealism—and his knack for projecting it—that is defeating his victim. If Bollinger had to live as Iranian citizens do, he would know that idealism alone does not suffice. Any number of Iran’s jailed pro-democracy dissidents might be just as eloquent as Bollinger, but we can’t hear their voices. They lack the comfort of his illusions.

At Columbia, Bollinger was in the position of an effete mob boss in any number of gangster movies: slapping his victim around while the poor guy’s arms are pinned back. Ahmadinejad is no hero, and he deserves no sympathy. But that shouldn’t stop us from regarding Bollinger as a weakling, and being rather disgusted by the entire spectacle.
Evelyn Gordon writes that even Hamas has more moral sense than Ban (Hat Tip: Stephen D).
While Hamas was invited to attend the NAM summit by Iran, it ultimately declined. This decision followed a public threat by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that if Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh went, he would stay home. But senior Hamas officials say the desire to prevent an open rift with Abbas was only a secondary consideration. Their number-one reason for staying home was that they didn’t want to be seen as supporting Iran at a time when Iran is openly supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s slaughter of his own people by supplying him with arms and even troops.

Clearly, no such qualms troubled Ban or any of the other high-profile delegates, most of whom are very senior officials of their own countries. By attending the summit, they sent the clearest possible message: Assad is free to continue slaughtering his people (the death toll has already topped 19,000, with no end in sight). And Iran is free to continue helping him do so without suffering any consequences whatsoever: It will still be treated as an honored and valued member of the international community.

So now we know that even Hamas has a red line: Murdering 19,000 fellow Sunni Muslims is beyond the pale. But for Ban and the other 120 delegates, there are no red lines: Mass murder is fine and dandy.

Actually, this shouldn’t come as a surprise; both the UN and the Non-Aligned Movement have shown many times before that they have no moral red lines. But here’s what is surprising: that so many Western countries–including all of Europe and, under Barack Obama, the U.S. as well–nevertheless continue to treat the UN as a source of moral authority, without whose imprimatur no international action is justified.
Ban should have stayed home. Any of his statements could have been made just as effectively from the UN's podium. And if he had stayed home, maybe some of those 120 nations would have kept their delegates home too.

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