Eight months ago, three Israeli soldiers were kidnapped in
the area of the Shebaa Farms near the Lebanese border. The
soldiers were on the Israeli side of the border drawn by the
United Nations, which supervised the new boundary between
Israel and Lebanon. The kidnapping originated on the
Lebanese side of the border and was completely unprovoked.
It took place about 300 meters from a UN observation post
and in full view of that post.
Just what is the UN observation post supposed to observe?
The UN soldiers are supposed to make sure that neither the
Israeli side nor the Lebanese side (which in practice means
Hizbullah since Lebanon has refused to take control of the
area) violates the peace.
Israel has no offensive intentions in the area. Its only aim
is to protect its citizens. Hizbullah, on the other hand,
has proclaimed its intention to attack Israel and has gone
about its preparations to do so in full view of the UN
observers, who have done nothing to stop the preparations or
even the attacks that have taken place so far.
Public information about the kidnapping of the Israeli
soldiers is sketchy. Israeli army officials say that there
was no violation of army regulations or field rules.
Some reports said that the Hizbullah attackers gave the
appearance of being UN soldiers, and thereby won the
confidence of the Israeli soldiers until it was too late for
them to prevent their own capture. There are some reports,
as yet unconfirmed, that UN troops may have even played some
active role in the abduction. If any of these are true, it
is very serious. Since the attack took place in full view of
the UN observers, their failure to alert the Israelis of the
subterfuge makes them tacit accomplices to the act, and not
just passive observers who should have been more active.
Now it has been revealed, after eight months of denials,
that the UN has a 25 minute video taken only hours after the
kidnapping, showing UN workers recovering vehicles used in
the kidnapping and Hizbullah terrorists. Especially since
Hizbullah has so far refused to give out any details of the
condition of the soldiers since their kidnapping (in
contrast to the prevailing expectation which is that the
kidnappers supply some definite, unequivocal signs showing
that the hostages are still alive), such footage could
provide solace to the families of the hostages about the
fate of their loved ones.
Not only has the United Nations failed to prevent the
preparations and activities of Hizbullah, nor taken any
steps to stop crimes such as the kidnapping, it now seems
that they failed to turn over information that could help
This incident has important lessons for the perennial demand
of Yasser Arafat to install international observers
throughout the territories who would make sure that "both
sides" keep the peace.
From bitter experience, international observers are liable
to exhibit a terrible bias towards the Palestinian side.
Certainly in this incident, the UN as a whole has come out
looking bad, even if those at its highest echelons were not
aware of the existence of the video cassette.