Broken promises

Lubna Abdel-Aziz , Monday 20 Jul 2020


“Never Again,”. It was a solemn promise made three-quarters of a century ago to humanity.

In the aftermath of WWII and the atomic bomb of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the United Nations was established by a group of nations on 24 October 1945 to keep world peace and become a forum for resolving disputes and conflicts.

“We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” etc, etc, etc. It launched four statuettes of sincere obligations towards the progress of mankind.

“Never Again” shall man be allowed to commit heinous crimes against his fellow man, yet only a few days ago, 11 July, was the 25th anniversary of the 1995 brutal massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica by their fellow countrymen the Bosnian Serbs.

The commemoration, held at the Srebrenica Memorial Centre, was expected to be attended by tens of thousands as was the 20th anniversary, but was scaled down because of the coronavirus.

A funeral was held for nine people killed 25 years ago and had as yet not found a burial home until now.

Bosniaks, as Muslim Bosnians are called, continue to search for the remains or even body parts of family members and afford them the dignity of a decent burial.

You may or may not have heard of Yugoslavia, as it exists no more. Once the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, communist president Josip Broz Tito had a strong hold over a population made up of Catholics, Orthodox Serbs and Muslims, for almost 40 years (1946-1980). After his death, religious tensions quickly surfaced.

Bosnia-Herzegovina declared itself an independent state and systematically began massacring the Muslim population. It took three years for the UN to act and they declared the town of Srebrenica as a safe place for Muslims to flee. They positioned 400 Dutch troops as a peace-keeping force. leading the way for Muslims to hide, but the Serbs came in full force, separated the women from the men and boys, slaughtered 8,137 innocent souls, and 20,00 women & children were raped and tortured.

The UN Dutch troops fled, wept or watched. So did the rest of the world.

Too apparent an absurdity is this peacekeeping force that has never kept any peace, anywhere.

What made the massacre all the more horrifying was that the Muslims sheltered in safe areas under the UN protocol. The fact was meaningless to the Serbs.

Was the international community shocked by the gruesome images of another genocide? Maybe. Where then were the newsreels, documentaries, films, articles, pictures spread all over newspapers? What? No Hollywood buzz, no haunting movies?

Where is the propaganda machine to engrave the horrors in your heart and soul, day after day after day?

It was not Auschwitz, yet it was. It tore the hearts out of us, but if you remember Srebrenica, so will your children or grandchildren.

This is only one of what observers claim were at least 12 major genocides that took place under the guardianship of the UN.

Since WWII we seem to have learned little or nothing.  Despite its splendid intentions, the UN’s actions fall too short, or the intentions too frail.

Think of Indonesia (1965), three million dead, or Bangladesh, (1971), another three million. How about the “killing fields” of Cambodia, (I975)? Two million were killed, and Rwanda, (1994), more than a million dead, not to mention Uganda’s Idi Amin, Darfur, Zimbabwe and on and on and on.

Oh, what a lovely dream, the UN. Could it be that a task of such dimension and difficulty is beyond human achievement? After 75 years of its existence, the dream is still a dream — the noble promises broken.

“Never again” had one letter too many.  

The fault dear reader, may lie with us. We need a miracle to transform the UN. How about us? Are we the educated, sophisticated, civilided race we think we are, or are we no more than naked savages dressed up in coats and tails with spears in hand, ready to pierce the heart of a helpless running deer? Is it done for food, greed, power, or is it just a sport, a game adults play?

“We the peoples of the UN” are still failing. Our most tragic failure was the creation of the Zionist state. A reckless act against the people of Palestine. Since then, 1948, Palestinian victims have been fighting what a UN investigator once described as “Israel’s ethnic cleansing”.

The killing of 15,000 Palestinians and the dispersion of 750,000, forced to flee from their homeland was a mockery of humanity. Israel now controls 85 per cent of Palestine and has ignored all General Assembly resolutions against it. It has become the most condemned nation in the UN. Does it care?

In the formation of this great establishment a Security Council was included, with five members: the UK, the US, Russia, France and China. They hold a veto power that can override any resolution. The US has vetoed 43 times resolutions condemning Israel than the rest of the world combined.

The bulk of mankind is weary of the slow, self-centred, inefficient UN. Is it worth the $50 billion that the weary world pays annually? We trusted it with our lives.

Despite the failings we have the profoundest respect for the ideas and aspirations of the UN.

 If only it could push boldly forward, and save the dream.

“The United Nations was not created to take humanity to heaven, but to save it from hell.”                     

Dag Hammarskjold (1905-1961)

*A version of this article appears in print in the 16 July, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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