Mr. Guterres’ Failure to Fill the Vacuum // Missing facts lead to faulty conclusions

The United Nations wasn’t birthed until June 1945. But a “what if” scenario has been bouncing around in my head, about an imaginary UN in 1939.

The image I conjure is of its Secretary-General commenting on Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland on the first day of September that year.

He says: “I condemn the invasion and the casualties that have resulted. But it is important to recognize that the attack by Germany on Poland did not happen in a vacuum, since the proud German people have been subjected to deprivation, distress and humiliation for some 20 years.”

That would have been a reference to the Treaty of Versailles, established after World War I.

That agreement forced Germany to accept blame for the Great War, give up its overseas colonies and some of its European territory, limit the size of its army and navy, and pay reparations to the war’s winners.

In 1923, Adolf Hitler, ym”sh, said that the treaty was designed “to bring 20 million Germans to their deaths and to ruin the German nation.” Undoing the treaty was one of the central tenets of the Nazi party. You know, of course, the rest of that story.

Fast forward to the all-too-real (but no less bizarre) image of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, addressing a Security Council session last Tuesday.

After condemning Hamas’ invasion of Israel and its barbaric, gleeful slaughter of some 1,400 men, women and children, and its abduction of at least 234 others, the UN head saw fit to add that “It is important to also recognize the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum. The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation.

They have seen their land steadily devoured by settlements and plagued by violence; their economy stifled…”

He did repeat that Israel didn’t deserve the carnage Hamas created. But Mr. Guterres’ having felt a need to imply that the country’s policies might in some way mitigate or explain the mass murders—not to mention the evocative adjectives and verbs he employed—“suffocating,” “devoured,” “plagued,” “stifled”…—left ample room for criticism.

Which he rightly received. Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan, for one example, said, “A secretary-general who does not understand that the murder of innocents can have no justification and no ‘background’ cannot be secretary-general.”

Others responded similarly. It was reported, too, that, in reaction to Mr. Guterres’ comment, Israel had ceased issuing visas to UN officials.

Mr. Guterres, though, was right about the Hamas attack not having occurred in a vacuum. He just failed to fully fill the vacuum.

Essential background here includes things like the fact that Israel evacuated all settlements and military forces from the Gaza Strip in 2005, in the hope that the territory would prove willing to coexist with Israel.

And the fact that Gazans chose as their government a terrorist group that has launched thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians.

And the fact that Israel’s (and Egypt’s) “suffocating” blockade of Gaza disallowed the import only of material that can be purposed for weaponry; and that it would not exist were Gaza’s Hamas leaders not committed to murder and mayhem.

Not to mention the fact that Hamas’ foundational charter is interested not only in alleviating the “suffocating occupation” but in killing Jews, as an end unto itself.

Although, in 2017, Hamas claimed its mission was only a “struggle…against the Zionist occupation,” the group’s true colors and aims are evident in its original 1988 charter, which declared that the “Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight Jews and kill them.”

And anyone sufficiently self-deluded to imagine that Hamas had in fact changed its religious convictions in 2017 might want to consider the Islamic shouts of Hamas men as they hack at a man with a garden hoe to decapitate him. Or the words of a Hamas terrorist who telephoned his parents on a phone of a woman he had just murdered in Kibbutz Mefalsim and excitedly told them “Look how many I killed with my own hands! Your son killed Jews!”

And the words of his proud father to the killer’s mother: “Mom, your son is a hero.”

Yes, Guterres’ vacuum needs filling. Just with more than he thinks.”

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