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Apr 4, 2011

WTF is the international community?

Written on 24 August 2006 ! Good as new !

If it only means the west, the great majority of the world is being ignored.

You have heard it a thousand times. Our prime minister uses it, so do cabinet ministers and opposition spokespersons. It slips off the tongue of BBC correspondents and newsreaders as if it is just good old plain common sense. Newspapers constantly use it. We all know what is meant by the term "international community", don't we? It's the west, of course, nothing more, nothing less. Using the term "international community" is a way of dignifying the west, of globalizing it, of making it sound more respectable, more neutral and high-faulting. "The international society thinks this ... believes that ... is concerned about ..." You know the stuff. But just remember: when you next hear the term, what is being referred to is not the international community at all - understood as all the nation-states that make up the world - but just a small sliver of it, our bit.

The great majority of the world, indeed - the west constitutes less than one-fifth of the world's population - is, in fact, being tacitly ignored: unless, of course, it happens to agree with the west, in which case it is implicitly tagged on the end as a good old western fellow-traveler. Usually, though, a large majority of nations don't agree with the west. That is why, for example, the west finds it almost impossible to win votes on many issues in the UN general assembly.

This kind of political thinking is also an excuse for the most extraordinary lazy - and arrogant - journalism. The media don't need to find out what the rest of the world thinks because they treat the west as synonymous with it. Take Lebanon, for example. What did the beloved "international community" think: China, for example, or India, or Latin America, or Africa, or South East Asia? We are never told. Nobody bothered to find out. Virtually all, in fact, were in favor of an immediate ceasefire: so the US and the UK and their hangers-on were in a tiny minority and the real international society - as opposed to the west's mythical one - was overwhelmingly in favor of an immediate ceasefire and was opposed to Israel's behavior. Who says that imperial attitudes died with the European empires? They are alive and well and suffuse everyday attitudes and news coverage in our own dear country.

But now these ideas are suddenly being put to the test in the most unexpected way. The European countries that were expected to make up the backbone of the UN peace-keeping force in southern Lebanon have dragged their feet: Italy has volunteered a couple of thousand, while France, which was expected to "lead" the effort, has offered a mere two hundred: otherwise, nothing. Desperate efforts are now being made to drum up support. We have become accustomed to the spine of such peacekeeping operations coming mainly from the west: indeed, peacekeeping is something of a western modern-day specialty, a kind of imperial post-colonial role. Australia - not western in geography, of course, but in every other respect for sure (it certainly doesn't want to be regarded as Asian, god forbid) - loves nothing more than to throw its weight around in south-east Asia by playing peacekeeper, carrying out its role as the United States' regional policeman.

Israel was no doubt fully expecting the peacekeeping troops in southern Lebanon to be drawn from the said "international community", that is, to be composed of its normal western sympathizers. Instead the core of the force so far comes from Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Turkey, all of which have volunteered significant numbers of troops and all of which are Muslim countries. The fact that these countries have been so proactive is a most welcome development. The involvement of Muslim countries - and from contrasting traditions to those of the Arab world - would be most valuable. It would also represent a most welcome redefinition of the "international community". Israel should not be allowed to veto the participation of these countries, which between them represent slightly more than the combined population of the European Union.

Members of the " International Community "

Afghanistan Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bhutan Bolivia Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Brazil Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Central African Republic Chad Chile China Colombia Comoros Congo Costa Rica Cote deIvoire Croatia Cuba Cyprus Czech Republic Democratic People's Republic of Korea Democratic Republic of the Congo Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Fiji Finland France Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Greece Grenada Guatemala Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran Iraq Ireland
Italy Jamaica Japan Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People;s
Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Marshall Islands Mauritania Mauritius Mexico Micronesia Monaco Mongolia Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Norway Oman Pakistan Palau Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Poland Portugal Qatar Republic of Korea Republic of Moldova Romania Russian Federation10 Rwanda Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Swaziland Sweden Syria Tajikistan Thailand Macedonia Togo Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United of Republic of Tanzania United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela Viet Nam Yemen Yugoslavia Zambia Zimbabwe

Muslim state------ Arab League member ------Western Country -----Perfect State

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