The United Nations and Me

Oddly, the trail of media adulation that has marked the UN’s Francesca Albanese visit to Australia this past week or so inspired not revulsion at a handmaiden of Hamas — not at first, at least — but, rather, a nostalgic gratitude to the United Nations for inadvertently dropping in my lap one of the greatest real estate bargains ever snatched.

The $225,000 asking price for the large apartment in Midtown Manhattan seemed cheap, but why not have a look, my then-wife insisted? If it was a scam, well both of us had lived in the Big Apple long enough to catch and know the scent of grifters, so we could simply walk away if the deal wasn’t kosher. The agent was called, an appointment to inspect arranged, and the next day we met in the lobby of a handsome Fifties red-brick building in an enclave known as Tudor City, located between First and Second avenues in Midtown. The neighbourhood was a peach, boasting two private parks, no through traffic, antique street lights, a short walk to Grand Central and, directly across the street, the UN’s imposing HQ.

“So what’s wrong with the joint,” was the first question I put to the agent, “why so cheap?”

“Well,” she began, “there has been a little trouble with the FBI…”

As we rode the elevator to the tenth floor, she mentioned a series of recent raids that had made front-page news. A number of Muslims of the fulminating variety had been arrested for planning to blow up the Lincoln Tunnel, World Trade Center (that would have to wait a few more years), George Washington Bridge, the Jewish Museum and sundry other landmarks at which Allah had taken grave offence, according to his terrestrial mouthpieces.  Key to the scheme was the diplomatic licence plates with which the bomb-laden vans were to be equipped – plates allowing the drivers to park anywhere they liked, without fear of fines or City Hall’s fleets of predatory tow trucks.  These plates were obtained via sympathetic co-religionists attached to the Sudanese UN Mission.

“Well this is the Sudanese Mission,” explained the agent as we paused before an apartment door that still bore the impact marks of an FBI SWAT team’s battering ram. It further emerged that the apartment building’s body corporate – the co-op board, in New Yorkese – wanted the alleged diplomats living somewhere else and soon. Just before we were admitted by a large, middle-aged African gentleman with a disconcertingly squeaky voice, the agent urged us — her exact words — “to look through the smell, see the potential”. It seemed several previous apartment hunters had managed to penetrate no more than a few metres before being driven back by the premises’ stink, which was eye-wateringly foul.

The ceilings were smoke stained, which residents of neighbouring apartments subsequently explained as a consequence of the diplomats’ taste for indoor barbecues, gatherings which had drawn the Fire Brigade on a number of occasions. The tub in the second bathroom, epicentre of that cloying, sweet and sickly stench, was splattered with a mysterious brownish gunk. This turned out to be the blood of chickens and goats put to the knife. It also helped to explain the legions of cockroaches which, like the then-owners, enjoyed a diplomatic immunity from eviction.

To cut a long story short, we swallowed hard, did some rough calculations about what it would cost to clean and renovate, and a couple of days later wrote a cheque for the full amount. Even allowing for the fluctuations in Manhattan property values, the apartment is today worth around $1 million-plus, so we made out like bandits in the long term*.

And we also gained quite an education, starting on the day we closed the deal and were made privy to the ethical standards that prevail among some of those who work at the UN. By hint and broad suggestion, one of the diplomats let it be known that we could get the apartment at an even better price if his palm were to be greased with a little brown-bagged baksheesh. We played the transaction with a straight bat and, on our first day of residence, a hallway neighbour all but threw his arms around us by way of welcome. “Just promise me you won’t be killing chickens and throwing feathers out the window,” he said.

Over the years that followed, proximity to the UN broadened our education in corruption. We learned, for example, that the co-op board would not permit any further diplomats to move into the building. Diplomatic immunity meant they could do pretty much as they pleased without risk of prosecution. Nor did the Big Apple’s newspapers encourage a sanguine view of the local UN community. Every few months there would be another story of a diplomat or family member arrested for offences that ranged from fraud to rape and assault.

Then there was the day a procession of international envoys, their relatives and brothers-in-law (family connections play a vital role in landing lucrative tax-free, permanent residency gigs at the UN) were observed streaming across First Avenue, some laden with oil paintings, others carrying furniture, kitchen equipment and boxes of booze. The union representing kitchen workers had called a strike, leaving the members lounge unguarded and unlocked.  The diplomats made like locusts, descended en masse and stole everything that was not nailed down. Why break with the habits of a lifetime?

On-street parking? Finding a spot was no easy chore for most, but no problem for the diplomats, who left their vehicles anywhere they damn well pleased. This must have come in very handy when representatives of the world’s oppressed joined the regular throngs outside the nearby Israeli Consulate, on Second Avenue and 43rd Street, to denounce the Zionist Entity and urge that the world give those wicked Jews a dose of what was good for them. The favoured prescriptions always seemed to be mushroom clouds and, in a nod to history, more efficient crematoria.

There were lessons to be learned further afield as well, most notably when the Oil for Food scandal came to light in the months leading up to the Second Gulf War. The UN bureaucrat responsible for administering the program was on a salary of no more than $100,000, which in blue-chip Manhattan is enough to lead a modest middle-class life, but nothing more flash than that. Somehow, he had acquired the cash for a very plush weekend home in the ritzy Hamptons, on Long Island. It seemed a foreman’s job in the Peace Factory came with certain discrete advantages.

Given that the UN is a spigot of innovative ideas for emptying the pockets of, well, everyone, not just the rich, and the paucity of proof that it has ever achieved anything worthwhile, one can only wonder at the immense respect accorded the visiting Ms Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian territories, who has been feted this past week by the National Press Club, placed on a pedestal by the ABC, lionised by SBS and treated to bended-knee respect by the Nine rags and Guardian.

All in all, the best commentary on the media’s drooling eagerness to lap and regurgitate what many will see as Ms Albenese’s apparent indifference to dead Jews is to be found in the long-ago words of Humbert Wolfe:

You cannot hope to bribe or twist,
thank God! the British Australian journalist.
But, seeing what the man will do
unbribed, there’s no occasion to.

While little good can be said of the UN and its functionaries, it has to be admitted  they are far smarter than the hacks who report their utterances. At the UN they grasp that, if you are going to lie and lobby for partisan causes, payment in perks, salary and brown paper bags is expected.

Roger Franklin lived and worked in New York City and Washington from 1980 to 2006. He is the editor of Quadrant Online

12 thoughts on “The United Nations and Me

  • pgang says:

    But Roger, she’s an international foreign dignitary… in Austraya!
    If we don’t grovel me might not see another one for years!

  • Citizen Kane says:

    Of course the irony of the UN’s current position on Israel as being a ‘Colonial Occupier’ is that they were instrumental in putting modern day Israel on the map in broad recognition of the ancient ties Jews and Israelis have to the area dating back to the Bronze age.

    • Katzenjammer says:

      The League of Nations with their eye on the past appreciated that heritage. As I’ve thought more about the UN partition resolution, it may have been simply an expedient consideration of the future after the Holocaust to not have Jews return to their homes in Europe. Dump them in the Levant where Arabs will complete the job.

      • ianl says:

        It has always puzzled me that modern Germany is full of “mea maxima culpa” for the Holocaust (my wife and I observed 2009 a nice middle-class German lady tell her 8 year old son matter-of-factly that “We Germans did very bad things and now we have to pay”), yet Merkel pushed and pushed to allow uncontrolled immigration of those exact populations that, with with implacable resolution, hate the Jews and Israel.
        A very strange twist to guilt …

        • Another Richard Harrison says:

          Ian, I would suggest that they are two sides of the same coin, and at their base is not guilt so much as self-hatred (resulting from that guilt).

          Greater hate hath no man than this, a man to lay down his country for its civilisational enemies.

        • David Isaac says:

          In Germany, and much of the rest of Europe, it is illegal to question the official narrative of the treatment of Jews during the war. Lawyers of defendants have also been imprisoned for making factual statements in court which are deemed to contradict this narrative. Propagandised against themselves from the cradle, Germans are accustomed to a level of self-abasement which we are only just beginning to experience with our own Aborigine worship. As the religious rituals – welcomes, acknowdgements, flag replacements -associated with such worship become more established and misinformation laws are allowed to pass it may soon be illegal to question the idea that Aborigines remain sovereign on this continent, or that the ‘stolen generation’ represents unimpeachable truth.

          Merkel ( nee Kasner formerly Kaźmierczak) grew up in the DDR. Her father was half-Polish. She would have grown up with plenty of masochistic messages regarding Germans both from the state and likely her parents. Not surprising then that she had no compunction about liquidating the exclusive tenancy of two thousand years or more of the Germans in Germany.

  • padraic says:

    And the latest delight is having juvenile celebrities (i.e famous for being famous) telling us how neglectful we are or cavorting around in the main hall. Very serious stuff, indeed, and bound to make a big impression on us mere mortals as to how to improve the state of the world.

  • Another Richard Harrison says:

    After this latest stomach-churning performance, one wonders: Just how many more dangerous fools and poisonous bigots (in Bolt’s formulation) are the Albanese family going to inflict on our nation?

  • joemiller252 says:

    Great article Roger. I shall remember forever “Muslims of the fulminating variety”.

  • Rob H says:

    There is no even slight reason why the US should continue to allow the UN to remain in the USA. An even less reason why countries that, ostensibly, believe in the sovereign individual and their inalienable freedom would remain a member of the UN.
    A serious move to withdraw funding and membership in this unfortunately failed experiment in needed.

  • Rob H says:

    There are no other Muslims other than those of the fulminating variety. Wake up.

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