The international community –  A purpose-made ghoul  

The international community is all in the mind. It amounts to a patchwork of allies and adversaries looking after their own backs.

Steve Apfel,

OpEds Steve Apfel
Steve Apfel

One who wants to pass off a political opinion as a fact can do no better than revert to the International Community. Often for motives less than honourable many revert to it for tactical reasons. In truth, an imaginary thing can disquiet an adversary more than a tangible body would do. One definition tells the full story.

“The International Community is a phrase from international relations referring to a broad group of people and governments of the world. Typically the term is used to imply the existence of a common point of view towards such matters as human rights. Often it implies unanimous international support for a point of view on a disputed issue, e.g. to enhance the credibility of a majority vote in the U N General Assembly. Activists, politicians and commentators use the term in calling for action to be taken, e.g. against what in their opinion is political repression in a target country”. 1

“Imply” would be the operative word, though “plot” would convey motive when the ghost community is invoked for some agenda. With winks and nods the spectral body is wheeled in, applies its mind, makes a unanimous ruling, and presto! – a point of view is no longer in dispute. And look at the motley crew that engages the ghost, and the malign purpose: activists, politicians and commentators “calling for action to be taken, e.g. against...”

Insert Israel for the target and you have the perfect e.g.

“Halt settlement building!”

“Why—what’s wrong with settlements?”

“They’re illegal.”

“Who says they are?”

“The consensus of the international community is that they are.”

“Make concessions for peace!”

“Why—umpteen times Israel made concessions, but the neighbours won’t ever to terms with a Jewish state.”

“Then make more. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is fuelling terrorism.”

“Who says it is?”

“The international community.”

“Settlement building is the main stumbling block to the two-state solution.”

“According to whom?”

“‘According to the international community.”

The body that is no body exemplifies how a concept can pack a punch above its weight – how indeed the less defined a concept the more scope you have to call for “action to be taken” against a group or country. Stalin’s Bolshevism and Hitler’s National Socialism were like that. Incorporeal (not cast in stone) they allowed much leeway, explains Hannah Arendt in her Origins of Totalitarianism. “From day to day it was impossible to predict what new
Many owe their power to the ghoul community. Diplomats barter through it; UN bodies live on it; juridical figures cheat with it; non-profit bodies gorge on it; opinion writers attack with it.
canard or atrocity they might inspire.” 2

The shifty shadowy ideal named the international community plays a similar role, but on the world stage. It cuts notables the slack to play their shifty shadowy foreign cards. Many owe their power to the ghoul community. Diplomats barter through it; UN bodies live on it; juridical figures cheat with it; non-profit bodies gorge on it; opinion writers attack with it. As an arbitrary arbiter of what is good and what is bad nothing beats the community and its bible. If you don’t believe it has one, look to Europe.

Andrew Standley is an ambassador of Europe who never leaves home without the bible. Meeting with a group of rabbis in the Holy Land, Standley told them, “The framework that we operate in is the framework of international law. International law is our bible.” 3

Then Hezbollah carried out a deadly terror attack in Burgas, Bulgaria. The world held its breath. What would the bible command be done with Hezbollah? Nonetheless, pronounced Europe’s leaders, hand on bible, Hezbollah remains a charity. Meaning that charity-funded terror, like Europe, operates in the framework of international law.

The President of Europe’s Parliament is another honcho in that mould. Martin Schulz insists that Jewish settlements are illegal. According to who or what? According to international law, he huffs. One waited for the leader of all Europe to be asked a few things about this bible he brandishes.

For one, why will he not recognize Israel's sovereignty over the territories occupied since June 1967? After all, Europe’s bible gives Israel the nod to be there and to stay there (UN Resolution 242 of 1967.) Another thing, why does Europe not make other countries that occupy territory (China, Morocco, Russia and Pakistan, for example) label goods whereas it makes Israel do so? Imagine a label, "Product of Tibet, produced by Han Chinese occupiers." Or a label, "Crimean produce under Russian occupation." Or how about, "Western Sahara minerals extracted by Moroccan settlers." Absurd? Yet led by Mr Schulz the EU makes Israel label goods from the “Occupied West Bank”, and even from unoccupied Gaza.

And the settlements that vex leaders night and day– what does Europe’s bible command be done with Jewish settlers? It says leave them alone. Only the armed forces of Israel must be withdrawn if and when proper boundaries are created (UN Resolution 242 of 1967 again.) Jewish settlements, by Europe’s bible, not only can but must stay put. The League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, as incorporated into UN Resolution 181 stipulates “close Jewish settlement in all areas.”At this point leaders of Europe blow a raspberry at their bible by seconding the Palestinians’ demand for a state wherein Juden will be verboten? You heard right. Jews not welcome in a State of Palestine. Echoes of Nuremburg are heard over Brussels when the din from bible drumming fades.     

Or take France. It went to war in Mali because, said the President of France, “we cannot have a terrorist state at the door of Europe.”[4] Yet Paris, 6,000 km away from Mali, looked askance on Israel, only 1 km away from Gaza, when it went to war over missile lobbing from Gaza. France called it aggression. A crass and inconstant bible, to be sure!

But to protest is hopeless, and even foolish; the international community is all in the mind. It amounts to a patchwork of allies and adversaries looking after their own backs. And they need to. Europe, remember, has an immense and troublesome Muslim element. So a platform against Israel, and relying on a dog’s dinner of law, makes perfect sense.

Ugly or pretty is another matter. In October 2016, members of Europe, led by France and Spain, abstained from a UNESCO vote on denying Jewish ties to Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and Western Wall. They sat on the fence. Why? Fear – Europe, for all that bold bible thumping is afraid. It’s afraid of conflict from Muslim communities, and it’s afraid of losing trade with Muslim countries. Better abstain from voting than offend Muslims. Better let them vote for a history that sits well with their bible. Better to offend the Torah than the Koran. Better let the Jews take the knock.

The international community can be power-mad as well as scared. French President Hollande leveraged Spain’s crippled economy by twisting Madrid’s arm to vote for Palestine’s upgrade at the UN. Madrid in turn courted favour with Arab members to buy the votes Spain needed for a seat on the Security Council.[4]

With the right partner the ghoul may come close to a flesh and bone thing. The international community is to the United Nations what tonic water is to gin. One without the other is not worth thinking of. It could be a rule of the UN General Assembly to invite the ghoul to every debate. In UN debates thought pictures run riot, and Palestine on its plinth has pride of place. To mark the UN’s endowment of special status to a country that is no country, Palestine’s delegate called on the international community “to hold Israel accountable for violations and crimes and to save the prospects for peace and justice.” He then called on the world (another name for the ghoul) “to take strong action to hold Israel to account for violations of international law in the Palestinian Territories.” [5]

If you like to tally them, four flights of fancy flit through the papier-mâché delegate’s call to action.

Or consider the Human Rights Council, effectively the voice box of the spectral community. Altogether it sent eight inquiry missions on Israeli military operations to Gaza and the West Bank. It dispatched a mere five inquiry missions to all other conflicts. Another Syrian killing field, you’d think. Think again. In my book Hadrian’s Echo a table of comparison astounds. During a twenty five year period the homicide count in peaceful South Africa was 300,000 compared to a 10,000 death toll from Israel’s mini wars with Gaza and the 'West Bank.' [6]

But why protest? The Human Rights Council is what it is – a dummy of the international community. It did make efforts long ago (weak and broken efforts) to be even-handed. Two motions were put up in August 2006, but withdrawn before being put to the vote. One motion condemned suicide bombing as a crime against humanity. Another called for the right of Israeli children to be protected from suicide bombers. [7] Horse-trading buried both proposals. The Arab bloc did not like their flavour and South Africa, with trade benefits on the table and an eye on the Muslim vote back home, liked the flavour no better. The idea of human rights for the children of Israel was quite unpalatable.

Or take the Iran deal. For ‘Dance Macabre’ international diplomacy few cases can beat the deal. In the summer of 2013 Iran was floundering in a morass. Tehran’s currency vault was not much fuller than Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. The UN Security Council had a binding order on Iran to halt uranium, plutonium, and missile work, and to disclose the mullahs’ nuclear cheating. Either that or face more isolation. The international community had Iran in a bind.

By the winter of that year the President of America had contrived to let Iran out of the bind. Mr. Obama’s project did not stop there. According to Michael Doran of the Hudson Institute, the President sought to extricate Iran with the hope of making it a regional power. Iran was to fill the vacuum created by another secret project: to disengage America from the chaotic Middle East. By dangling a carrot worth billions Obama got the Mullahs to sit down and talk. For his final hand five world powers were brought on board to let Iran off the sanctions hook. A nuclear timeline was set, true enough. But to stop the Mullahs sulking, Obama and the five co-conspiring powers threw them a golden lifeline made of cash and trade. Enter the international community. The ghost ‘stamped’ the deal by getting its proxy, the UN Security Council to remove the binding order, setting Iran free.

Lest we forget and grow hot under the collar, bodies without body do get up to tricks:  The international community, recall, “is commonly used to enhance the credibility, e.g. of (the Iran deal).”

But don’t get the wrong idea. Israeli leaders worship the ghost community with a fervour equal to anyone’s. Prime Minister Netanyahu brings regular sacrifices to propitiate the god.  Consider the statement in the Jerusalem Post on February 2, 2014 when he complained of plans to build housing units in disputed territory. “The construction blueprints that came to light risk causing unnecessary confrontation with the international community, at a time when Israel is trying to persuade the rest of the world to keep up pressure on Iran’s nuclear program. It creates unnecessary confrontation with the international community at a time when we are making an effort to persuade elements in the international community to reach a better deal with Iran.”

Fickleness, though, could be Mr. Netanyahu’s saving grace. There are times when he’s moved to swear at the ghost, as he did on Fox News, December 10, 2012. “I condemn the international community for its deafening silence in response to recent vows by the head of Hamas militant group to fight on until the Jewish state is destroyed.”

But then the ghoul community knows what it wants. It wants a state of Palestine, on its own terms. So enemies of Zion invent it before investing their heart and soul in the body without a body and a mind without a head.  

The author is indebted to Judy Moritz for making this work possible.  The views expressed are entirely the author’s.