I was planning to write something on flash-mobs and bus ads next, but then again I had also planned to have been on a plane back home two days ago before 12-18 inches of snow decided to intervene.
With the latter problem solved, I’m going to postpone mobs and busses for one more entry in order to take part in an increasingly interesting conversation started in the comments section of previous postings.
I mentioned recently that someone who took part in a BDS project in California last Spring has been asking some serious questions and making some important points, most recently with regard to how Israel’s supporters can justify Israel’s actions, given the wide condemnations that routinely pour out from international bodies (such as the United Nations and International Court of Justice) directed at the Jewish state.
“Can the whole world be wrong?” was a question former UN leader Kofi Annan asked years ago when Israel challenged the legitimacy of some of the actions of the body Annan led. And this question rings out today, not just from partisans, but also from idealists who greatly desire there to exist an international system to check the excesses of the nation state and eventually (they, like many, hope) will lead to a global government which rules by international law.
Now one commenter with experience in international legal matters made an equally valid point that votes taken at organizations like the UN bear little resemblance to votes taken within various democratic parliaments upon which the UN General Assembly and other bodies were modeled. Most notably, the “voters” in the General Assembly are not elected leaders responsible and answerable to a particular constituency, but nation-states themselves. And if a majority of those nation states are not free or democratic, then the majority of votes taken within these world bodies are cast by the ruling class of each country, with no distinction between a vote by a democracy, a dictatorship or something in between.
This leaves open the possibility, indeed the likelihood, that votes to condemn Israel – far from representing the planet’s conscience – actually represent the political decisions of nation states, i.e., the very national power that international law was created to limit. So does the UN spend a majority of its energy condemning just one member (Israel) because Israel is the greatest human rights abuser on the planet? Or does a UN focus on Israel instead of far greater human rights abusers and occupiers (such as Syria and China) in order to serve the needs of the latter at the expense of not just Israel but of the entire international law/human-rights enterprise?
Here we come to a much deeper challenge for those who truly believe that international law overseen by international bodies (the UN, NGOs) and a global court should be entrusted with more responsibility than they have today. For what if the condemnation of Israel (easy to achieve in any of these organizations thanks to the numerousness of Israel’s foes) is actually the means whereby corrupt or vicious nation states are pushing their nation’s interests at the expense of other nations and of the global order itself?
If a powerful nation such as China, or nations that are part of huge voting blocs such as Syria can ensure that they are never subject to serious scrutiny by the human rights community or international agencies by insisting that Israel be the Alpha and Omega of for condemnation by the “international community,” then what has this international community become beyond a tool for tyranny, yet one additional method for wealthy and powerful states to get their way?
In other words, those who have high hopes for some new global order are particularly obliged to examine the way these institutions have actually behaved over the years (rather than judge groups like the UN and ICJ based on their theoretical perfection), especially with regard to the question of whether hugely lopsided attacks on one country represent international justice or the monumental corruption of everything international justice is supposed to stand for.