Machlokes / Controversy

Jewish World Review July 30, 1998 / 7 Menachem-Av, 5758

Julia Gorin

Kofi Annan's crimes against sensibility

IN THEIR EUPHORIA over the establishment of an international war crimes court, and their chastisement of the United States for voting against it, the country’s major metropolitan media have failed to report one small detail: Egypt’s price for supporting the measure was that the Israeli settlements on the West Bank be branded as a war crime.

The nations defining this new beacon of international justice agreed to it. The court won approval by an overwhelming 120 to 7.

Among the most vocal supporters of the court was UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who convened the five-week conference in Rome.

According to the New York Times, at the start of the conference Annan warned "that the eyes of past and future victims ‘are fixed upon us.’" He "urged establishment of a global war crimes court as a ‘bulwark against evil,’" and added, "I trust you will not flinch from creating a court strong and independent enough to carry out its task."

Is this righteous advocate the same Kofi Annan who in 1994 denied a U.N. general in Rwanda authorization to raid the government’s weapons stockpiles three months before the same government massacred its people? The same one who instructed this general to turn information about the genocide plan, which had been provided by a confidential witness, over to the government planning the genocide?

Apparently, Annan really wanted this court. He helped produce fodder for it. The genocide took place without a hitch, and no one’s heard from the secret government informant or his family since.

Annan is lucky the court isn’t retroactive. So is France, which was among the first countries to eagerly sign on. Otherwise, both would have to be tried for complicity to genocide—a crime they’re pushing to try others for.

With the notable exception of The New Yorker magazine, the major media didn’ t report the Annan situation, either. Of course not. Why would they? If they played up the U.N. Secretary General’s sins, he might deprive them of his charming personage at all those book and dinner parties they so like inviting him to.

Given the Israeli settlement clause which supporting nations used to bribe one vote out of Egypt—and the deadly hypocrite who is the force behind the world court—I’d have expected to see thousands of Jewish and black picketers this week in front of the U.N. building here. Yet all is quiet.

That’s because no one knows anything about it. And that’s because no one is reporting it.

To the media, the Israeli settlements have always been a crime. But is the media honestly OK with it being considered an atrocity on par with the worst crimes against humanity? Probably not. They just want their court. Sweep the details under the rug.

What a sad state of affairs it is when the only mention of Egypt’s heinous proposal appears in the editorial pages of the otherwise Oslo-Accords-happy Baltimore Sun and Washington Post.

The main reasoning for the U.S. vote against the tribunal involves fears of arbitrary and politically motivated prosecutions. The Israel clause proves their fears correct: it hasn’t even been brought to life yet, but from the outset this world court is suspect—the pet project of guilt-ridden parties.

I do, however, commend Mr. Annan on his choice to convene the conference in Rome. He put the saying to the test: "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." And they all did.

At least the proponents of the court are right about one thing: The establishment of such a court is a poignant measure of how far we’ve come since 1945: Not very.

JWR contributor Julia Gorin is a Manhattan-based writer

©1998, Jewish World Review