IDF soldiers in search of terrorists involved in past week's attacks (Photo: IDF Spokesman's Office)

On June 7th the office of the United Nations Secretary General (SG) notified Israel of SG Guterres’ decision to include the IDF in the annex of his annual report on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) which lists entities that were found to have committed grave violations against children, also known as the “black list”.

The distortions in the CAAC report

The decision to list the IDF is said to have been made due to high numbers of killing, maiming and “attacks on schools and hospitals” during 2023, mostly during the war in Gaza. It requires either willful ignorance or ideologically-driven blindness to pronounce moral, let alone legal, judgement based on figures that are stripped of any context, as they appear in the CAAC report.

Since October 7th, Hamas has not only butchered Israeli children gleefully in cold blood and held them hostage, but has also used Palestinian children as shields, first by embedding its immense terror machine inside and underneath the civilian population, second by preventing people from evacuating out of combat areas, third by operating from homes, schools and hospitals, and fourth by seizing humanitarian assistance for its fighters or to sell it to civilians at inflated prices.

Facing such heinous tactics, Israel, in pursuing its war of self-defense to eliminate Hamas’ expressly genocidal threat against all Israelis, including children, has taken more precautions to minimize harm to civilians than other armies of democratic countries engaged in urban warfare. It has provided advanced warnings on areas where combat was planned, secured the evacuation of civilians out of harm’s way, aborted countless strikes when children were identified near the target, and much more, all in line with international law.

Nothing from that reality is factored into the statistics of the CAAC mechanism due to its decontextualized method of reporting. Consequently, the vast moral distinction between Israel and Hamas is turned on its head.

Apart from its misleading statistics, the CAAC report’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is highly selective. It totally ignores the Palestinian Authority, despite the incitement for hatred and violence which it promotes among schoolchildren via textbooks and curriculum. The UN was also unable to verify a single account of a Palestinian minor who was recruited by terror organizations, despite overwhelming evidence of Hamas and Islamic Jihad recruiting thousands of children each summer in their “summer camps”, a well-known and widely reported phenomenon.

Guterres’ decision rewards Hamas for its war crimes against its own population and encourages other terrorist groups to follow the same cynical practice of deliberately placing children in the line of fire.

The inclusion of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the list has little impact on them due to their general disregard for humanitarian norms and international law and their reliance solely on other terrorist organizations and state-sponsors, chief among them Iran, who share that disregard.

A systemic failure which feeds hate   

While the final decision on listing the IDF was taken solely by Guterres, it was enabled by the institutional failures of the UN agencies which compile the figures and write the chapter on Israel and the Palestinians in CAAC reports. They are led by the local office of UNICEF, with the participation of OCHA, WHO, UNRWA, OHCHR and others. As explained in depth in this report , the information provided by these agencies in the CAAC reports has been consistently and systematically manipulated, resulting in inflated numbers of alleged “violations” attributed to Israel, and in blatant underreporting of violations by Palestinian authorities and armed groups.

For years Israel engaged constructively with the SG’s Special Representative for CAAC and the UN agencies, primarily UNICEF. Israeli officials presented in depth the wide range of policies and methods applied by the IDF to minimize harm to children, and provided extensive information on abuse of children by Palestinian authorities and armed groups. In addition, in the course of that dialogue Israel raised questions regarding the biased methodology and double standards applied consistently against it in the CAAC reports. No credible explanations have ever been forthcoming.

The deceitful and inflated statistics on the IDF year after year in CAAC reports have fed the antisemitic libel that Israel, and Israelis, have a unique propensity towards killing Palestinian children or causing them suffering. One BBC presenter even dared to say on air that “Israeli forces are happy to kill children”. In various reported incidents, random American Jews were assaulted by people who accused them of being “baby killers”. Further examples abound.

A troubling record on antisemitism

Guterres’ decision follows a worrisome trend in his handling of antisemitism as UN Secretary General. While every year, on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, he speaks of rising antisemitism and the need to combat it, when it comes to acting against actual antisemitism when it occurs, even inside the UN, he has shown little resolve.

Guterres was silent when a member of the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry (COI), said in an interview antisemitic remarks which were widely condemned and also when the chair of the COI, Navi Pillay, defended those remarks. He has never taken a stance nor any steps regarding multiple evidence of antisemitism among UNRWA staff and by the UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese despite appeals to him on this topic. This persistent disregard of antisemitism inside the UN in recent years has been widely acknowledged and criticized.

Guterres has been totally silent regarding antisemitism from the political extreme left, by some “pro-Palestinian” groups or in Muslim majority countries. Whenever he gave examples for antisemitic phenomena, all were from right-wing movements in the West, namely neo-Nazi groups and white supremacists (see his Holocaust Memorial Day speeches from 2023202120202019, and particularly 2018). He has never condemned the blatant antisemitism and brazenly genocidal positions of Iran’s regime, nor expressed any concern about rampant displays of antisemitism in pro-Palestinian protests all over the world, which have reached unprecedented levels since 7.10.

Guterres also turned a blind eye to antisemitism by Palestinian leaders. When President Abbas made unabashedly antisemitic remarks, including that Hitler “fought against the Jews because they were dealing with usury and money”, and was internationally condemned for them, Guterres did not react. In recent years, the SG’s quarterly report to the Security Council on resolution 2334, which includes a chapter on “acts of provocation, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric”, consistently ignored well-documented antisemitic statements by senior PA officials  while reporting on every minor provocation by Knesset backbenchers. Guterres has never criticized Hamas for its antisemitic statements or for boasting “an anti-Semitic Charter that aspires to the obliteration of Israel”, as did his predecessor.

The legitimization of the UN’s double standards against Israel

In addition to Guterres’ silence in the face of actual antisemitism, perhaps his biggest contribution to the phenomenon has been his espousal of double standards against Israel in the UN Secretariat and agencies. Since he became Secretary General in 2017, the politicization of the UN system, particularly the humanitarian agencies which are supposed to act with neutrality and impartiality, reached unprecedented levels. Guterres’ own remarks from 2017 that human rights should be promoted “in an impartial way and without double standards”, not be “instrumentalized as political tools” and while “avoid[ing] unbalanced treatment of Member States”, ring hollow and almost cynical considering his record since then.

At no point has Guterres’ enabling of double standards against Israel in the UN been more flagrant and consequential than since the October 7 massacre by Hamas.

A full eight months since then, not a single report by the UN Secretary General has described in any detail the October 7 massacre. The numerous UN social media accounts flooded the internet with images, videos and personal stories from Gaza, yet none of them showed the face or told the story of a single Israeli victim of the massacre or of the Israeli a hostages. Not a single Hamas tunnel has been reported as a verified fact by the UN, nor has the launching of rockets from within populated areas, the use of hospitals and schools by militants, or the seizing and obstruction of humanitarian aid. In the realm of Guterres’ UN, all of the above did not happen or are, at best, mentioned as “Israeli claims”. Hamas, while condemned for October 7, is practically non-existent after that date,  turning the UN’s narrative into a fraudulent fable of an Israeli assault on civilians.

One courageous UN official, Special Representative Patten, documented Hamas’ sex crimes and reported them, yet her horrifying findings were ignored by Guterres who left Hamas out of the UN black list of conflict-related sexual violence.

The dire implications of a one-sided UN

At the same time, the UN’s leadership with Guterres in the lead has taken upon itself the mission of forcing Israel into an unconditional ceasefire which would effectively amount to its surrender. Such an outcome would be disastrous for peace and security in the region and beyond. It would allow Hamas to continue holding the hostages, controlling Gaza, and using its territory. resources and population to prepare another October 7 massacre of Israelis, as its leaders vowed to do “again and again”.

Since the start of the war Guterres knew all too well that a release of the hostages would inevitably lead to a ceasefire, and that the reverse is not true. Despite that, he turned an immediate ceasefire, even without any release of hostages, the prime goal of the UN. He showed by example that pursuing that goal justifies making wild accusations and baseless defamations against Israel while giving Hamas impunity for its crimes. in practice, even if unintentionally, this approach has emboldened Hamas, likely contributing to the prolonging of the war and the suffering on all sides.