The UN and Middle East as satire

Sometimes when reading the news one gets the strong feeling that truth is stranger than fiction, that we are living through a satire, for surely what we are reading cannot possibly be true.

UN - Useless Nations

UN – Useless Nations

Alas, the truth is indeed both sad and farcical. Thus we read that Iran  sweeps coveted UN rights posts:

GENEVA, April 25The United Nations has elected the Islamic Republic of Iran and more than a dozen other repressive regimes to top committees charged with protecting women’s rights and overseeing the work of human rights organizations.

Despite the sharp condemnation of Iran’s human rights record by UN chief Ban Ki-moon — who recently reported how women in Iran are “subject to discrimination, entrenched both in law and in practice” and how “women’s rights activists continue to face arrest and persecution” —  the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in New York elected Iran to a four-year term on its 45-nation Commission on the Status of Women, the principal intergovernmental body dedicated to protecting women’s rights.

Equitorial Guinea was among other dictatorships also named to the global gender equality panel.

Meanwhile, in a separate vote, the UN additionally rewarded Iran by making the regime a member of its powerful 19-nation Committee on NGOs, a coveted position because it allows governments to silence criticism by acting as the gatekeeper and overseer of all human rights groups that seek to work inside the world body.

Other egregious human rights abusers elected to the influential panel include Azerbaijan, China, Cuba, slave-holding Mauritania, Russia, and Sudan, whose leader, President Omar al-Bashir, is wanted by the ICC for genocide. All were deemed “not free” in the 2014 annual survey by Freedom House.

Burundi, Guinea, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Turkey, Venezuela, flagged as problematic and only “partly free” by Freedom House, were also elected.

ISHR (International Service for Human Rights) had warned earlier this month that the failure of democracies to throw their hat in the ring would mean that “the Committee’s membership will worsen considerably during the next term” and severely harm the freedom of NGOs.

However, ISHR praised the election of Greece, Israel, South Africa, Uruguay, and the U.S., countries  it ranked as “strong, pro civil society candidates,” but who will now constitute a tiny opposition.

NGOs within the UN that take on dictatorships are increasingly under threat.


When the criminals are made the judges, it’s a travesty of justice. The crucial role of civil society within the world body is being eroded, its voice at risk of being silenced.


By allowing arsonists to become the chief firefighters, the UN is letting down millions of victims around the globe who look to the world body for vital protection.

Surely, only a satirist could ever had invented the UN and its twisted mindset. How else to explain such a travesty of justice in the 21st century?

The UN is not the only source of politics as farce in the world today. The Middle East itself is a rich resource for the satirically minded – as noted by frequent contributor Brian Goldfarb who has written the following portion of this post:

Michael Curtis, writing in The Commentator has produced a Swift-like satire about Middle East peace. Given the title of his article – “A modest proposal for a Swift middle east peace” – further explanation may be needed. Dean Jonathan Swift is best known for “Gulliver’s Travels”, but he was also an Anglican (i.e., a Protestant) clergyman in Ireland in the early 18th Century. At a time of grinding poverty for most Irish people, and especially the Catholics, under British rule, he also wrote “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland being A Burden to their Parents…”, in which he suggested that these children should be eaten. Before you get all horrified and rush off to the nearest bathroom, he was, of course (if you hadn’t already realised) being ironic. As is the writer of this article, one Michael Curtis, Emeritus (i.e., retired) Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University.

Having introduced us to the Swift of “A Modest Proposal”, he continues by relating this to the contemporary Middle East, thus:

“If he were alive today one can imagine [Swift] might deliver ironic comments on the subject of peace between the Palestinians and Israel. He would almost certainly have humbly offered a new modest and least objectionable proposal, in the following manner.”

What follows is quite long and witty, and I’m only going to give some excerpts. The whole really does deserve to be read in full and at a sitting.

Thus, following an introduction to the current Middle East, he continues that

[Swift] would analyze the present situation and attitudes of the Palestinians. Some of them lament their misfortune to be citizens of the State of Israel even though they have full civil and political rights, freedom of expression and religion, the ability to exercise those rights without punishment and to express themselves in their own Arabic language which is one of the official languages of the country.”

Curtis continues by noting that

“[t]he Palestinians who live in east Jerusalem where they are regarded as “permanent residents,” and have local political rights also complain about their comfortable condition.”

Then he gets really biting in the next paragraph, when he suggests that Swift would note

“that other Palestinians believe they have the good fortune to live in the Gaza Strip, under the benevolence, open minded, and the benign rule of Hamas and its Islamic Jihad ally, the members of which contribute to the art and culture of the area primarily by their advanced skill in timing and coordinating the firing of long range missiles against Israeli children.”

And if that isn’t biting enough for you, how about Curtis’s rewriting of Swift as follows:

“In area A, from which Israeli citizens are forbidden, Palestinians in towns such as Ramallah and Jericho, happily live under the democratic, efficient, non-violent, fully transparent, and uncorrupt Palestinian Authority led by Fatah and a President now in the tenth year of a four year term to which he was elected in January 2005.
Area B, which includes more than 440 villages and no Israeli settlement, is under joint Palestinian and Israeli control. Area C, the area under dispute, though more prosperous than the others, is under the jurisdiction of Israel, the despised little Satan.”

After a deserved sideswipe at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (the topic of a posting by me here a few months ago), Curtis becomes ever more ironic with the following:

“[Swift] would appreciate that Arabs find it incomprehensible that Jews, who constitute just over 0.1 percent of the population of the world, should have been awarded such a disproportionately large percentage of Nobel Prizes, about 21 percent in chemistry, 26 percent in physics, 27 percent in physiology or medicine, and 37 percent in economics.

It is certainly grossly unfair that Muslims, who account for 1.5 billion or 25 percent of the world’s population, should have received only 2 Nobel Prizes in the sciences. Moreover, everyone recognizes it is particularly unfair that Yasser Arafat, the PLO leader who enriched the art of airplane hijacking, and the science of igniting Intifadas, only shared a Peace Prize, but never gained one for his significant contributions to physics and chemistry.”

From this point on, Curtis indulges himself in a mixture of ironic parodying of Swift and adding some ironies of his own. It is a pity that in his last 5 paragraphs or so, he actually gets completely serious. While this is a serious subject, his irony brought much needed relief to an internet warrior. Still, I do recommend the whole article to you. I’m certainly going to copy it into my documents for light relief on particularly dark days and nights and also to mine for future quotations.

Anne adds: The last couple of paragraphs to which Brian refers really sum up the essence of the entire Israeli-Arab conflict.  Although Brian regrets that Curtis reverts from irony to seriousness I think the points he raises are of the utmost importance. He writes:

… the modest proposal, following Swift, would be limited to two different issues: the immediate renunciation of terrorist activity by Palestinians, especially the forces of Hamas now well armed by supplies from Iran, so that provocation can be avoided; and the recognition by Palestinian authorities of Israel as a Jewish state.


The second is imperative because Mahmoud Abbas, “President” of the Palestinian Authority has stated, “We will never agree to recognize the Jewish state.”

This is rejecting peace. Our modest proposal would mean accepting the Jewish state, not as a theocracy or in religious terms, but as the home of the Jewish people who want to live there. Not accepting the proposal is the principal obstacle to real peace.

Not accepting this proposal is what causes the Middle East peace process to continue spinning like a merry-go-round, going nowhere but providing an endless source of irony and satire.

This entry was posted in International relations, Mideast news and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.