b'nai brith canada, this country's oldest Jewish organization, has been pumping up the pro-Israel rhetoric ever since the World Trade Center attacks. Its latest salvo: a pointed criticism of the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the United Nations and its widely respected secretary-general, Kofi Annan.The Israeli government seems to have no problem with the award. Foreign minister Shimon Peres, says David Cooper, a spokesperson at the Israeli embassy in Ottawa, sent a letter of congratulations.
"Mr. Peres speaks for the government," Cooper says.
But in a strongly worded press release ignored by the mainstream media, B'nai Brith blames Annan and the UN for, among other things, presiding over "the whirlwind of hate and incitement" at the recent World Conference Against Racism in Durban.
B'nai Brith also lists the "unbalanced anti-Israeli resolutions" passed at the UN condemning Israeli aggression against Palestinians "while failing to reflect the violence unleashed against Israelis."
Most shocking, however, is a charge levelled by B'nai Brith that the UN has obstructed justice and "admitted its concealment of a videotape containing evidence in the kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers and the conduct of UN peacekeepers." It's a reference to the incident that preceded the famous photo taken at the height of the intifada and beamed across the world of an Arab waving his hands soaked with the blood of Israeli soldiers.
Stephane Dujarric, Annan's associate spokesperson in New York, says reports that UN peacekeepers in Lebanon witnessed the kidnapping and filmed it are erroneous.
"The secretary-general ordered an investigation, and we found that there had not been a cover-up. The fact is, we've been in touch with the Israeli authorities. Israeli Defence Forces reps came to New York and Geneva."
Although the press statement issued by B'nai Brith suggests otherwise, executive vice-president Rochelle Wilner says the organization is not denouncing Annan or the UN, "but merely posing the question, are they the most worthy candidates?"
The recent inclusion of Syria on the UN Security Council seems to be a major point of contention. "Almost a farce," Wilner says.
As is the UN's holding of one of its regional conferences against racism in Tehran -- and the banning of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre by organizers there.
"One has to question the moral credibility of the United Nations," she says, although others argue that the incidents of September 11 point to no greater need than that for a body like the UN.
Back in New York, Dujarric seems caught off guard by the criticism being levelled by B'nai Brith north of the border.
"The secretary-general has been accepted by the Israelis as a player in the Middle East peace process, which underscores the fact that he's respected by the Israelis and appreciated."