THE PATHETIC ATTEMPT last week by the Arab League to oust Israel from the United Nations arouses both anger and contempt. On the one hand, the Arab's hypocrisy in trying to go beyond their usual verbal assaults on the Jewish state inspires outrage. On the other hand, the counter-productive short-sightedness the Libyan-led move displayed seems evident.
When asked why his country was trying to expel Israel from the General Assembly, the Libyan ambassador to the U.N. explained, "Israel is not a peace-loving nation." Assuming for a moment the validity of that statement, you wonder whether Libya won't go after Iran and Iraq next. The little war those two countries are fighting has claimed tens of thousands of lives. Or how about the Soviet Union, whose troops recently slaughtered more than 200 Afghan civilians in a single afternoon? And what of the Palestine Liberation Organization, currently seeking U.N. recognition? Won't the Libyans and the 20 other members of the Arab League try to block that move in the light of Munich, Lod and the Lebanese civil war?
The absurdity of such argument tends to mask the grievous harm the Arabs nearly succeeded in inflicting upon themselves and the rest of the Third World. Had Israel been excluded from the U.N., top-level officials in Washington--including Secretary of State George P. Shultz--said the United States would have departed as well. Such a move would have destroyed what little legitimacy the world body has left. And because the U.S. funds 25 percent of the U. N. 's budget, worthy projects--like development assistance for the Third World, did to Palestinian refugees and the maintenance of a peace-keeping force in Lebanon--would have been weakened or eliminated altogether.
Politically, the fallout from Israel's ouster would have endangered both the Arab and the Palestinian cause. In the aftermath of all-out war in Lebanon and the massacres in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, the Arabs are riding a wave of sympathy the world over. But the new-found perception of Israel as a Goliath surrounded by poor little David's would likely have shifted had the Jewish state been bullied out of the U.N.
Clearly, the debacle in the U.N. did nothing to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East, Rather, the Arab venture served only to bolster the hawks in Jerusalem and limit the projects for constructive dialogue--which is, after all, the raison d'etre of the U.N. If the Arabs truly want to make things better and not worse, they must avoid initiating petty, idiotic squabbles like last week's.