Tags: Having | Honor | and | Mistrusting | the | U.N.

Having Honor and Mistrusting the U.N.

Thursday, 09 May 2002 12:00 AM

There's an admittedly odd concept I make sure all those close to me understand. I call it "to have honor" about something.

Suppose Aunt Margie is serving veal, and you don't touch the veal because you don't like veal. You're overjoyed if she remembers hearing you say years earlier at Cousin Mark's wedding that you're not too fond of veal.

If Margie remembers, then she knows you didn't sneak a taste while she was in the kitchen and found the veal vile and are just ad-libbing an excuse for not eating it.

If Margie remembers, you have HONOR on not liking veal.

Let's say your friends found a shortcut and arrived a full half-hour early, right in the middle of the last quarter of an NFL playoff game.

Civilization, or at least etiquette, demands you turn off the TV and act thrilled that you're going to enjoy a few more minutes of your friends' company than you'd expected.

To your delight, your friend may say, "Stay where you are! Watch the game! Watch the game! Myrtle and I want to look at the garden anyhow and, by the way, I REMEMBER how you hate to miss even one instant of a playoff game!"

If he does say that, you've got a civilized friend with a good memory who knows you're not seeking to avoid him for as many minutes as possible by hiding behind a football game. You've got honor on the matter and you may watch the conclusion of the game with a clear conscience.

Got it?

As one who rises to Israel's defense (as well as the defense of any other democracy), I worry that important sections of world opinion may think Israel is suddenly inventing a distrust of the United Nations to jerry-build and gussy-up an excuse for not admitting a U.N. inspection team to enter the battered Arab refugee camp in Jenin to prepare a report on whether or not Arab claims of an Israeli massacre are true.

After all, to millions of people around the world whose attentions and expertise reside elsewhere, the very name "United Nations" has a kind of holy ring to it. It's sort of like the diplomatic equivalent, image-wise, of "Church of England."

To those millions, the "United Nations" is the very "Parliament of Man," not a VIP lounge for dictators, murderers, torturers, blackmailers, extortionists, lechers, self-important bureaucrats, bigots and thugs.

And I can imagine those millions saying, "Those Israelis must have indeed committed something terrible in Jenin. And what a flimsy excuse; they claim they can't trust the United Nations!"

I discard the usual – and thoroughly valid – examples of U.N. bias against Israel, including but not limited to the "Zionism is racism" resolution, the Durban Conference just prior to 9/11 in which Israel was the officially designated villain, the U.N. cover-up of the video in its possession showing Arabs abducting three Israeli soldiers, the stacked deck that made sure Israel would never serve on the Security Council, and the fact that terrorist bomb factories and suicide training schools were quite openly active inside refugee camps run by the United Nations.

Put all that aside for the moment.

I zip back instead a full 35 years to the Six-Day War to give you the unforgettable answer to a question I asked on radio of Chaim Herzog, a top Israeli general who later became president of Israel (not to be confused with prime minister).

Chaim Herzog was a marvelous interview. He spoke English better than I do, which is not saying a great deal but it's not bad for a president of Israel. He was born in Ireland, where his father was chief rabbi.

During the Six-Day War, Chaim Herzog performed the monumental task of holding his nation's hand on radio for the entire six days. He reported, analyzed and commented live on the news the instant it came in from the front lines. Chaim Herzog was in charge of what the world would know about the progress of the war and when it would know it.

As an American deeply concerned with Israel's security, I had a bit of a beef with Gen. Herzog, and I had the chance to confront him with it on my WOR radio show in New York shortly after the fighting.

"General Herzog," I began, "when we woke up that Monday morning, June 5, 1967, and turned on TV, before our inner ear had digested one word, we knew there was war. We didn't see Barbara Walters on the "Today Show." We saw an NBC stagehand trying to tack a map of the Middle East on an easel and a newscaster's voice saying, 'That's all we have from the war zone at the moment. We'll bring you more as it comes into our newsroom.'

"The Arab communiqués were bone-marrow curdling," I told Gen. Herzog. "Radio Cairo said, 'Two Egyptian tank columns are knifing through the Negev.' (That's Israel's southern desert. Quite credible.) 'The northern Israeli city of Haifa is in flames.' (A lot of petroleum is stored in tanks in Haifa.)

"The scary part was Israel said nothing. NOTHING!

"The first rule of war is when it starts, both sides come out straightforwardly and lie about the whole thing. Yet there was absolutely nothing, no word of any kind, out of Israel.

"There were elderly Jews in America and around the world who DIED for fear there was no Israel left to say anything.

"It wasn't until late Tuesday, General – a full 36 hours after we should have heard something from you – that we learned things were going exceedingly well for Israel.

"You had destroyed five Arab air forces on the ground. Your Israeli troops had pierced Egyptian defenses at Gaza. You had taken Khan Yunis. There was nothing between you and the Suez Canal. You knew you would storm East Jerusalem the next day. You knew you were saving Syria for Thursday.


2002 marks my 42nd year of interviewing people for a living, and I swear I can't think of a more impressive reply to any question than Gen. Herzog's reply to that one.

In answer to the question "Why did Israel, for the very first time in the history of armed conflict, CONCEAL battlefield success?" General Herzog said, "You see, we knew that as long as the world believed that Israel was losing, the United Nations would take no action!"

It's okay to inhale that.

As long as the world believed what the Arabs were reporting, as long as the world believed Israel was zipping terminally down the tube, the United Nations would remain glassy-faced and silent.

Only when Israel was revealed as the WINNER would the police cars in Manhattan guide the limousines to U.N. headquarters so the worried diplomats could impose "peace."

That, again, was 1967.

So, I didn't suddenly invent a distaste for Aunt Margie's veal. I didn't suddenly invent the desire to see a playoff game clear through to the end.

And Israel didn't suddenly invent a quickie reason not to trust the United Nations.

You may not sympathize with Israel. But I challenge you to show why the Israelis' distrust of the U.N. is anything but natural, organic and proof of Israeli clarity and sanity.

By the way, can anyone explain why the U.N. is so hostile to the only democracy between the Mediterranean Sea and the Pacific Ocean?

Maybe it's because one good apple ruins the whole rotten bunch.

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There's an admittedly odd concept I make sure all those close to me understand. I call it to have honor about something. Suppose Aunt Margie is serving veal, and you don't touch the veal because you don't like veal.You're overjoyed if she remembers hearing you say...
Thursday, 09 May 2002 12:00 AM
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