"Some supporters of Israel," wrote Marlise Simons in yesterday's Times, "have called her an idiot." The "her" is Louise Arbour, the U.N. high commissioner for human right, who is leaving her post after four years. But, as far as I recall, I have never called Arbour an idiot -- though I've been tempted. She succeeded to the high commissioner's position after it had been held by the former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson, who got an honorary degree from Harvard for her labors which, alas, did not bring much relief to victims of tyranny, brutality and tribal and sectarian war.
The article appraises Ms. Arbour's achievements by the fact that she succeeded in doubling her office's budget to "nearly $100 million." This is a weird index of success in the fight for basic human rights. Although Arbour preens that "on my travels, I can see presidents and prime ministers and foreign ministers," neither she nor Simons seem to be able to chalk up one accomplishment in the fight for basic freedoms, like the right of women not to be forced into clitoral circumcision or the rights of children not to be enslaved. And, for that matter, that anyone not be forced to obey a religious doctrine from which they dissent or to which they may be utterly indifferent.
The big player in the human rights field, as it happens, is not the lonely U.N. High Commissioner but the U.N. Human Rights Council whose membership has decided that Israel is, quite literally, the only subject in which they have any interest. Arbour is a chatter box. The Council is far worse. Yes, anybody who wastes their time on its work is, in fact, an idiot.