Condemnation and Condolence by the UN Secretary General — Genuine or
Politically Biased?
Amb. Alan Baker, August 6, 2015
Jerusalem Issue Briefs Vol. 15, No. 24 August 5, 2015
Institute for Contemporary Affairs
Founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation

-The recent act of hatred and terror in which a Palestinian child was
tragically burned to death and members of his family seriously wounded is
clearly deserving of utter condemnation and repudiation by all.
-It was indeed strongly condemned by the U.N. Secretary-General, who
expressed condolences and called for the perpetrators to be promptly brought
to justice.
-However, the sincerity and bone fides of this condemnation and expression
of condolence would appear to be somewhat questionable, in light of the
unfortunate and unnecessary addition by the Secretary General of a political
message arbitrarily attaching blame.
-As long as the investigation of the act has not yet been completed by the
responsible investigative authorities in Israel, the Secretary General
cannot and should not use the tragic event of the child’s death to
arbitrarily render a selective, and clearly political and unproven
determination, declaring, without any basis in fact, that it was caused by
the lack of a political process or by Israel’s settlement policy.
-Analyzing the Secretary General’s reactions, or lack thereof, to similar
and even more serious acts of terror throughout the world over the past few
months, it becomes clear, as in most issues regarding Israel, that the
classical UN double-standard would appear to have been applied even here,
with one mode of behavior applicable to Israel only.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
U.N. Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon

The recent tragic act of terrorism and hatred that caused the murder of a
Palestinian child Ali Dawabsha in the West Bank and the serious wounding of
the child’s family, cannot, and should not, in any way be minimized.

It is deserving of utter condemnation and repudiation by all elements of
society, and has indeed been so condemned and rejected.

In the strong condemnation by the UN Secretary General dated July 31, 2015,
issued hours after the tragic event, in a statement attributable to his
spokesman, his expression of condolences to the family and his call for the
perpetrators to be brought to justice were clearly pertinent and justified.

The Secretary General’s statement reads as follows:

“The Secretary-General strongly condemns today’s murder of a Palestinian
child in the West Bank and calls for the perpetrators of this terrorist act
to be promptly brought to justice. He expresses his deepest condolences to
the family of Ali Dawabsha, who were themselves severely injured in the
arson attack. Continued failures to effectively address impunity for
repeated acts of settler violence have led to another horrific incident
involving the death of an innocent life. This must end.

The absence of a political process and Israel’s illegal settlement policy,
as well as the harsh and unnecessary practice of demolishing Palestinian
houses, have given rise to violent extremism on both sides. This presents a
further threat to the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for
statehood as well as to the security of the people of Israel. The
Secretary-General urges both sides to take bold steps to return to the path
of peace.

The Secretary-General reiterates his call on all parties to ensure that
tensions do not escalate further, leading to more loss of life.”1

However, the bona fide and genuinely heartfelt nature of the Secretary
General’s condemnation and condolences would appear to be somewhat tempered
by the unfortunate and unnecessary political message contained in the
statement. He makes unproven assumptions and political accusations couched
in terminology that can only serve to undermine the genuine and bona fide
nature of the message.

To arbitrarily link this heinous act of violent extremism and terror to the
“absence of a political process and Israel’s illegal settlement policy, as
well as the harsh and unnecessary practice of demolishing Palestinian
houses” is nothing more than a regrettable and unnecessary non-sequitur and
a politicization of what should be a straightforward message of sorrow and

The Secretary General may well have the absolute prerogative, whenever he
deems necessary, to express regret at the absence of a political process,
and to criticize Israel’s settlement policies and other actions, and even to
blame Israel for threatening the “legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian
people for statehood.” This is his political viewpoint, and that of the
organization he heads, whether it be correct or not. This prerogative is
exercised frequently whenever the Secretary General finds the need to refer
to the Israel-Palestinian issue.

However, as long as the Israeli police have not yet completed the
investigation, he cannot and should not, within hours of the event itself,
use the tragic event of the child’s murder to arbitrarily determine who
committed the act. He cannot and should not render a political determination
declaring that it was caused by the lack of a political process or by Israel’s
settlement policy. This may well be his own opinion or value-judgment, but
it has no place in a formal UN statement of this kind.

It is perhaps illustrative to compare the Secretary General’s recent strong
reaction to the tragic murder of the Palestinian baby on 31 July 2015, with
his hesitant and curt reaction to the 11 March 2011 murder of an Israeli
family of five, – the Fogel family – including three children aged between
three months and eleven years, in the village of Itamar.

In his two and a half line statement issued by his spokesperson, the
Secretary General simply stated that he “condemns last night’s shocking
murder of an Israeli family…”2

He evidently felt that this no-less cruel and dastardly act did not warrant
any “strong condemnation” or even any expression of condolence to the
Israeli family that had been so brutally butchered in their sleep.

This cynical and insensitive lack of any expression of condolence vis-à-vis
Israeli families repeated itself only a few days after the Itamar attack, on
the 23 March 2011, when he strongly condemned a bomb attack at a Jerusalem
bus stop which “reportedly” (as stated in his statement) killed one woman
and injured over thirty civilians.3

The practice of the Secretary General in condemning acts of terror and
expressing condolence and calling for investigations would appear to have a
standard pattern and format, when it relates to such acts of terror
everywhere else in the world, and thus merits some consideration.

Three days prior to the July 31 2015 murder of Ali Dawabsha, the Secretary
General condemned a 28 July 2015 terrorist bomb attack in the Bahrain
village of Sitra that killed two policemen and injured several other
civilians. He expressed deep condolences and called for a full and
transparent investigation, but in this case he neither attached blame nor
attributed the act to any particular circumstances, political or

In his daily press briefing of 27 July 2015, the Secretary General’s
spokesman, despite being asked to do so, markedly refrained from expressing
any kind of condemnation, condolence or call for investigation of a missile
attack on the town of Marib, Yemen, on 27 July 2015, which indiscriminately
targeted civilian targets and in which hundreds of people were evidently
killed and injured and a power station destroyed.6

A terrorist suicide bombing of a hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia, 26 July 2015,
killing fifteen civilians, including a Chinese diplomat, was condemned “in
the strongest terms” by the members of the Security Council in a statement
issued on the same day, with an expression of sympathy and condolences.

In this case, the Security Council did not consider it necessary to
attribute blame, nor to add political comment or criticism, apart from a
reaffirmation that “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations
constitutes one of the most serious threats to peace and security and that
any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable regardless of
motivation and by whomsoever committed.”7

When the Secretary General and Security Council issued a statement on 22
July 2015 condemning “in the strongest terms” the terrorist attack of 20
July in Suruc, Turkey, where at least 31 persons were killed and over 100
injured8, he did not find it necessary either to attribute blame or to
accuse any particular element in society for carrying out that heinous
attack, despite the comparatively large number of victims.9

A similar occurrence happened with the Secretary General’s mere condemnation
(not “strongly condemns’ or “condemned in the strongest terms”) of a
terrorist attack dated 17 July 2015 by the Boko Haram terror organization,
that killed over 60 people in the towns of Gombe and Damatru in northeast
Nigeria while the victims were conducting their festival prayers.10 He found
no need in that case to attribute blame or to determine the cause of such a
heinous and cruel act of terror.11

His condemnations “in the strongest terms” of terrorist attacks committed on
26 June 2015 in Tunisia, Kuwait and France12, as well as his condemnations
of the 29 June 2015 terror attack in Cairo that killed the Egyptian
Prosecutor General13 and the 25 June 2015 killing of former Lesotho Defense
Force commander14, made no determinations as to cause, circumstances or
identity of whoever perpetrated such acts.

His strong condemnation of a 22 June 2015 terrorist assault on the Kabul
parliament, following the killing of 16 civilians two days earlier15, as
well as the 19 June 2015 racially motivated killing of congregants of a
church in Charleston, South Carolina16 constitute meaningful messages of
sympathy and “condolences to loved ones of victims and solidarity to
survivors”, but, in all these cases, without political overtones, innuendo,
or any attempt to arbitrarily lay blame.

This evidently standard pattern of UN Secretary General condemnations, –
whether “strong condemnations” or otherwise – together with expressions of
condolence, whether heartfelt, sincere or otherwise, to the government and
people of the particular state in which the act of terror occurred, and to
the families of the victims and calls for investigation, has been
consistently used as a matter of course following terrorist atrocities
throughout the world.

However, none of these condemnations have presumed to attach blame or to
arbitrarily proffer political value judgments.

These include:
-the 16 June 2015 bombing by Boko Haram in N’Djamena, Chad, where more than
25 people were killed;17
-the 22 May 2015 indiscriminate and horrific attacks by Boko Haram against
civilian populations in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria;18
-the 22 May 2015 terror attack on a Shia mosque in the town of al-Qudaih in
Saudi Arabia during Friday worship, in which the Secretary General extended
“his sincere condolences to the families of the victims and expresses his
sympathies to the Government and people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”19
-the 13 May 2015 terror attack in a public bus in Karachi, Pakistan, killing
45 members of the Ismaili community, in which the Secretary General extended
“heartfelt condolences to all families of the victims and to the government
and people of Pakistan”;20
-the 11 May 2015 killing of civilians in the city of Kumanovo in
-the 5 May 2015 killing of two Tanzanian UN peacekeepers in the Democratic
Republic of the Congo;22
-the terror attacks by Boko Haram on the 3 and 5 April 2015 in Kwaja,
Nigeria and Tchoukou, Chad23

However, in light of the above evidently standard pattern of condemnations,
expressions of condolence and calls for investigation, one may wonder why
the Secretary General and Security Council did not consider it necessary to
condemn – neither strongly nor otherwise, nor to console families of
victims – regarding the Turkish air strikes on the Kurdish village of
Zargali in the Qandil mountains of Kurdistan, Northern Iraq on 1 August
2015, in which nine innocent civilians were murdered.24

The brutal massacre of 200 civilians were by “Islamic State” terrorists in a
Syrian border town between 24-26 June 201525 did not merit any condemnation
or condolence message by the Secretary General and Security Council. The
deaths of at least 30 people in a suicide bombing in the same border region
of Turkey did not merit a condemnation either, despite the fact that Turkish
president Erdogan condemned the bomb attack.26

The brutal murder of 21 foreign tourists in the national museum of Tunis in
March 2015, as well as the attack and killing of 38 tourists in the resort
of Sousse27, would appear to have been neglected by the Secretary General,
despite the brutal and tragic nature of these killings and the large number
of fatalities.

After analyzing the Secretary General’s reactions, or lack thereof, to acts
of terror, one realizes that, as in most issues regarding Israel, the
classical UN double-standard would appear to be universally applied,
whatever the circumstances, – even for the condemnation of acts of violence
and expressions of compassion and condolence.

One may indeed ask if this is a deliberate mode of behavior on the part of
the Secretary General and his staff, or perhaps merely inadvertently
singling-out Israel only.

Be that as it may, the Secretary General and his staff are urged to review
their policy regarding expressions of condemnation, condolence, sympathy for
families, governments and people, as well as calls for investigation and
punishment, with a view to ensuring strict application of the basic UN
Charter principles of fairness, good faith, equality and non-distinction.

* * *


5 see also

9 UN Document SC/11979, 22 July 2015
see also

About Amb. Alan Baker

Amb. Alan Baker, Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, participated in the negotiation and
drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, as well as agreements
and peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. He served as legal
adviser and deputy director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs
and as Israel’s ambassador to Canada.
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Condemnation and Condolence by the UN Secretary General — Genuine or Politically Biased?