Antonio Guterres ought to get out more. He is the secretary general of the United Nations, which counts 193 member states. Theoretically, Guterres’s mandate far eclipses the Roman Empire at its peak. But Guterres only has eyes for one state. You can probably guess what it is.

Like The Truman Show’s titular character demanding to see Fiji and only Fiji, Guterres doesn’t seem to grasp that there’s a whole wide world out there.

“We are witnessing a killing of civilians that is unparalleled and unprecedented in any conflict since I have been Secretary General,” Guterres says in a video on Israel’s operation in Gaza that has been pinned to the top of one of the UN’s Twitter pages. The tweet has gotten what we call “community noted,” a citizen fact-checking process that has been surprisingly effective, in which readers add clearly sourced context to tweets: “Secretary Guterres took office in 2017, considered to be deadliest year for civilians in Syria, with over 10,000 killed. Although the Yemen War began before Guterres took office, its death toll reached 377,000 in both direct and indirect deaths during his tenure.”

Rep. Brad Sherman helpfully informed the Secretary of the Whole World that “unfortunately, the violence in Israel and Gaza is not unparalleled. Not even close. Secretary General Guterres must have a short memory — over 500,000 have died in the conflict in #Tigray and Northern Ethiopia since 2020, the vast majority of which have been civilians.”

In the video, Guterres attempts to further inflame global fury against the Jewish state by painting it as uniquely effective at child killing, and he says something interesting: “Now, without entering into discussing the accuracy of the numbers that were published by the de facto authorities in Gaza, what is clear is…”

Let me stop you right there. What he means by “de facto authorities in Gaza” is Hamas. When he says he refuses to interrogate the accuracy of the numbers being fed to him by Hamas, he is admitting that he is not a spokesman for the global community of nations but rather a witting propagandist for a terrorist organization.

With that out of the way, we can ask: Why? Why is the UN secretary general using numbers he knows aren’t accurate? After all, the truth will come out eventually and even the UN itself is likely to publish more accurate reports.

That is, in fact, part of the answer. If the UN were to investigate this matter itself, it would almost certainly come up with findings that broadly and meaningfully contradict Hamas. We’ve seen this before, the most infamous example being the modern blood libel of the supposed “Jenin massacre” in 2002. Israel restricted press access during a particularly dangerous raid on a terrorist enclave after a suicide bomber killed nearly thirty Israelis on Passover that year. This was during the Second Intifada, a prolonged terror campaign that forced Israeli troops into the West Bank to root out those responsible. When faced with this lack of access, reporters (mostly British reporters; U.S. media handled the Jenin operation with caution) simply invented stories. “A monstrous war crime that Israel has tried to cover up for a fortnight has finally been exposed,” intoned a particularly psychotic piece in The Independent. The report went on: “The sweet and ghastly reek of rotting human bodies is everywhere, evidence that it is a human tomb. The people, who spent days hiding in basements crowded into single rooms as the rockets pounded in, say there are hundreds of corpses, entombed beneath the dust, under a field of debris, criss-crossed with tank and bulldozer treadmarks.”

Amnesty International sent Derrick Pounder with a team of analysts to Jenin, and Pounder endorsed the rumor mill: “I must say that the evidence before us at the moment doesn’t lead us to believe that the allegations are anything other than truthful and that therefore there are large numbers of civilian dead underneath these bulldozed and bombed ruins that we see.”

Yet as Tufts scholar Kelly M. Greenhill wrote in a book on the messiness of counting wartime casualties, the UN itself eventually put out a report stating that there were 52 Palestinian deaths in Jenin, the majority of which were combatants. Journalists relied on faulty Palestinian sources and republished rumors as fact. They saw rubble and decided everyone was dead.

But the damage was done, according to Greenhill: “The negative image of Israel, particularly in the European press, ‘contributed to a sense of unease about doing business [t]here. There [was] a noticeable fall in business visitors—investors, analysts, and buyers. There [we]re questions about the ability of Israeli companies to supply goods to overseas customers, and concerns about fulfilling contracts for goods already sold.’ There were also calls and moves by some organizations and individuals to boycott Israeli goods… The Israel Citrus Grower’s Association reported that the export of oranges to Europe dropped 25 percent, following the operation in Jenin. The image hit was believed to have further contributed to the ongoing rise in anti-Semitism in Europe; in France, for instance, 56 synagogues and Jewish institutions were attacked within the month after Defensive Shield, a significantly greater number than in the period leading up to it.”

What Guterres is doing is adding the UN’s imprimatur to terrorist propaganda, and he doesn’t care if it’ll age poorly. It has always been the practice to issue wild accusations against Israel for the purposes of ginning up concrete economic and security consequences for Israel and for Jews around the world. And as long as everyone keeps falling for it, the game plan won’t change.

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