Lethal fatuity characterises the United Nations' treatment of Sudan and Israel. To what its own officials have termed the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world, in the Sudanese western region of Darfur, the UN Commission on Human Rights responded in April by passing a weakly worded decision calling for the ceasefire to be respected and access granted to humanitarian organisations.
Even now, when the onset of the rainy season threatens the refugees with famine, the Security Council has still to vote on an American draft resolution. That would impose sanctions only on the leaders of the Janjaweed militias terrorising the Darfuris, not on the Islamist government in Khartoum which has recruited, armed and provided operational support to those militias.
There is no mention of a UN force to protect the refugees, nor of appointing an independent international commission into abuses in Darfur, as recommended by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
While fiddling as people die in Sudan, the world body has overwhelmingly condemned Israel for taking a step which has drastically cut the number of deaths from Palestinian suicide bombings. On Tuesday, by 150 votes to six, with 10 abstentions, the General Assembly approved a resolution ordering the Israeli government to dismantle the barrier on the West Bank.
Following the assassinations of Sheikh Ahmed Hassin, the leader of Hamas, and Abd al-Aziz Rantisi, his successor, the Palestinians threatened "rivers of blood". In fact, terrorist attacks inside Israel proper dropped by more than 80 per cent in the first six months of 2004, compared with the same period last year. The barrier is undoubtedly proving effective in protecting the population, the prime duty of any government.