Ban Ki-moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds

By Ramzy Baroud, The Palestinian Chronicle, 29 September
Ki-moon’s second term as UN secretary-general is ending this December, he was
the most ideal man for the job as far as the United States and its allies are

course, there will always be other Ban Ki-moons. In fact, the man himself was a
modified version of his predecessor, Kofi Annan.
unspoken but unmistakable rule about UN secretary-generals is that they must
come across as affable enough so as not to be the cause of international
controversies, but also flexible enough to accommodate the US’ disproportionate
influence over the United Nations, particularly the Security Council.
At the
end of their terms, the “success” or “failure” of these secretaries has been
largely determined by their willingness to play by the aforementioned rule:
Boutros Boutros-Ghali had his fallout with the US, as did Kurt Waldheim. But
both Annan and Ban learned their lessons well and followed the script to the
end of their terms.
would be utterly unfair to pin the blame for the UN’s unmitigated failure to
solve world conflicts or obtain any real global achievement on a single
individual. But Ban was particularly “good” at this job. It would be quite a
challenge to produce another with his exact qualities.
admonishment of Israel, for example, can come across as strong-worded and makes
for a good media quote, yet his inaction to confront Israel’s illegal
violations of numerous resolutions passed by the very UN he headed, is
his purportedly strong words of censure were often cleverly coded, which,
ultimately, meant very little.
Israel carried out its longest and most devastating war on Gaza in the summer
of 2014, a large number of international law experts and civil society
organisations signed a letter accusing the UN chief of failing to clearly
condemn Israel’s unlawful action in the Occupied Territories, its targeting of
civilian homes and even the bombing of UN facilities which killed and wounded
signatories included former UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk who, along with
the others, called on Ban to either stand for justice or resign. He did
signatories criticised him, specifically, about the Israeli shelling of a
school managed by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), in which ten
civilians were killed.
In his
“condemnation” of the Israeli attack, Ban even failed to mention Israel by name
as the attacker, and called on “both parties” to provide protection for
Palestinian civilians and UN staff.
statements have been either misleading, because they endorse and further
Israeli false versions of facts, or contrary to the provisions established by
international law and to the interests of its defenders, or because your words
justify Israel’s violations and crimes,” they wrote.
they were right. This is Ban Ki-Moon’s signature policy – his ability to
sidestep having to criticise Israel so cleverly (and, of course, the US and others)
when that criticism could have, when needed most, at least given a pause to
those who violate international law at will.
this, many have perceived Ban’s farewell speech at the 71st session of the UN
General Assembly on 15 September as a departure from his old reserved self. It
was understood that it was the end of his term and he was ready to show some
backbone, however belatedly. Sadly, this was not the case.
pains me that this past decade has been lost to peace. Ten years lost to
illegal settlement expansion. Ten years lost to intra-Palestinian divide,
growing polarisation and hopelessness,” he surmised, as if both parties – the
occupied and the military occupier – were equally responsible for the bloodshed
and that Palestinians are equally blamed for their own military occupation by
is madness,” he exclaimed. “Replacing a two-state solution with a one-state
construct would spell doom: denying Palestinians their freedom and rightful
future, and pushing Israel further from its vision of a Jewish democracy
towards greater global isolation.”
again, no solid commitment either way. Who is “replacing a two-state solution?”
Why would a “one state reality” – which incidentally happens to be the most
humane and logical solution to the conflict – “spell doom”? And why is Ban so
keen on the ethnic status of Israel’s “Jewish democracy” vision, considering
that it was Israel’s demographic obsession that pushed Palestinians to live
under military occupation or live under perpetual racial discrimination in
Israel itself?
fact is that there is more to Ban’s muddled language than a UN chief who is
desperately trying to find the balance in his words, so that he may end his
mission without registering any serious controversies, or raise the ire of
Israel and the US.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, still ranted against the UN chief
for calling Israel’s illegal Jewish settlements “illegal” in his address. Other
Israeli commentators raged against him for being a “liar”. Strange that even
repeating old, irrefutable facts is still a cause of anger in Israel.)
again, this is not the matter of the choice of words. A WikiLeaks document from
August 2014 is an excellent case in point.
to the document released by WikiLeaks, Ban collaborated secretly with the US to
undermine a report issued by the UN’s own Board of Inquiry’s report on Israeli
bombing of UN schools in Gaza during the war of December 2008 – January 2009.
is actually a soft reference to that event, where Susan Rice – then the White
House national security adviser – called on him repeatedly to bury the report,
not to bring it to the council for discussion and, eventually, to remove the
strongly-phrased recommendations of “deeper” and “impartial” investigations
into the bombing of the UN facilities.
Ban explained to Rice that he was constrained by the fact that the Board of
Inquiry is an independent body, she told him to provide a cover letter that
practically disowns the recommendations as ones that “exceeded the scope of the
terms of reference and (that) no further action is needed.”
Ki-moon obliged.
the UN chief is gone, he will be missed – but certainly not by Palestinians in
Gaza or refugees in Syria, or war victims in Afghanistan. But by the likes of
Susan Rice, whose job was made very easy when all she needed to do was merely
instruct the chief of the largest international organisation on earth to do
exactly as she wished and for him to gladly do so.
In his
last visit to Palestine in June, Ban Ki-Moon told distraught Gazans that the
“UN will always be with you.”
tens of thousands there still stand on the rubble of their own homes, denied
freedom to move or rebuild, his statement is as forgettable as the man’s legacy
at the UN.
– Dr. Ramzy Baroud
has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an
internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several
books and the founder of His books include “Searching
Jenin”, “The Second Palestinian Intifada” and his latest “My Father Was a
Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story”. His website is