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January 30, 1987 - Image 85

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-01-30

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Send it for Less
at ...

bre

United Nations In Israel
Keeps A Low Profile

6453 Farmington Rd.

(at Maple Rd.)

SIMON GRIVER

Special to The Jewish News

erusalem — Officially,
the United Nations
condemns Zionism as
racism and constantly hounds
Israel with resolution after
resolution charging heinous
crimes against humanity. But
in practice, United Nations
personnel stationed in Israel
appear to toe an impartial line,
favoring neither Israel nor the
Arabs.
Lisa Buttenheim is the polit-
ical affairs officer and spokes-
man for the Jerusalem-based
United Nations Truce Super-
vision Organization (UNTSO).
She differentiates between the
motions voted on by the Gen-
eral Assembly in New York
and the work conducted
around the world by the
Secretariat. "The General As-
sembly represents the views of
the majority of the nations of
the world," explains But-
tenheim. "The resolutions
passed in the General Assem-
bly are not binding on us. Thus,
the Secretariat maintains its
credibility because it is di-
vorced from the General As-
sembly. I, myself, do not agree
with the General Assembly's
resolution on Zionism."
In addition to 300 UNTSO
observers, there are 1,800 ob-
servers of the United Nations
Disengagement Observers
Force (UNDOF), 5,800 soldiers
of the United Nations Interim
Force Inside Lebanon (UN-
IFIL) and the staff of the
United Nations Relief and
Works Agency (UNRWA).
UNRWA, which was set up
to supervise the Palestinian
refugee problem, is often
blamed by Israelis and Pales-
tinians alike for perpetuating
the problem by impeding im-
provements in the refugee
camps. Buttenheim distances
herself from the agency, claim-
ing that "we have nothing to do
with them." She lauds the
work of UNIFIL in the tense,
war-torn situation in Southern
Lebanon. She also points out
that all UNDOF personnel
who are concerned with
peacekeeping in the Golan
Heights, as well as UNTSO
concerned primarily with the
Sinai, do not carry guns.
UNTSO was established in
1949 to supervise Israel's
armistice agreements with her
neighbors. Today, UNTSO ob-
serves peaceful borders with
Egypt and Jordan, maintains
contact with UNDOF on the
Golan Heights where there has
barely been an incident since
the Yom Kippur in 1973 and
deals with UNIFIL on
Lebanese matters.
Despite the United Nations'
bad public relations image in
Israel, due to the anti-Zionist
stance of the General Assem-
bly, Buttenheim insists that
relationships between UN
staff and Israelis are healthy.
She regrets that the UN role in
nurturing the delicate balance

j

/—

c

of trust and suspicion between
Israel and her Arab neighbors
is rarely appreciated by the Is-
raeli public. She blames the Is-
raeli media, which, like the
media throughout the western
world, is interested only in
sensation and scandal but not
in the quiet success of a
peacekeeping operation like
UNTSO. Buttenheim praises
the cooperative nature of the
IDF and Israel's Foreign
Ministry. She says that she
enjoys "a healthy discussion
and exchange of views", which
is her answer to whether Is-
raelis are hostile when they
discover that she represents
the UN.
The 300 UNTSO observers
are led by General Emmanuel
Erskine from Ghana and each
observer has at least the rank
of major in his army of origin.
The largest group of UNTSO
observers come from the
American and Swedish armies
with 36 each. France supplies
26 officers, Finland 22 and
there are major contingents
from Chile, Argentina and Ire-
land. Israel has requested that
no Soviet personnel be
stationed within its borders.
The soldiers are loaned to
the United Nations from their
country's armies for periods of
one to four years. Depending
on their length of stay and the
conventions in their country of
origin, the soldiers decide
whether or not to bring their
families to Israel. Buttenheim
estimates that about half the
UN soldiers in Israel bring
their families.
Due to the open lifestyle in
Israel, the UN leaves its per-
sonnel to find their own living
accommodation and pursue
their own social life. Children
of UN families are usually sent
to American and British-run
high schools, though some pre-
fer regular Israeli schools. "In
Damascus where there is a less
open society," says But-
tenheim, "we do much more for
our staff, providing clubs and
social facilities."
In some towns, like
Nahariya and Tiberias in the
north, the United Nations per-
sonnel are very popular be-
cause they bring so much busi-
ness to the region. "Israelis are
usually interested in the UN
soldiers," adds Buttenheim,
"not so much because they are
UN soldiers but because they
come from other parts of the
world. They are interested in
different nationalities and how
those nations might view Is-
rael."
Buttenheim herself hails
from Stockbridge, Massachu-
setts and has been in
Jerusalem for two years. She
joined the UN after studying
Politics on the graduate level
in Washington, D.C. at the
John Hopkins School for Inter-
national Studies. Her office in
Jerusalem is in Government
House where 220 UNTSO ad-
ministrative personnel are
stationed. •

World Zionist Press Service

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