Um-Shmum (Hebrew: או"ם שמום, where um is the Hebrew acronymic pronunciation for "U.N.", and the "shm"-prefix signifies dismissal, contempt or irony) is a phrase coined by the Israeli Minister of Defense (and former Prime Minister) David Ben-Gurion on 29 March 1955 during a debate within the Israeli cabinet regarding his plan to take the Gaza Strip from Egypt in response to the increasing fedayeen terror attacks. This utterance towards the United Nations is an expression that reflects, even as to date, the way many Israelis feel about the institution.
The original expression was uttered as a response to Prime Minister Moshe Sharett, who had stated in the previous cabinet session that if it hadn't been for the UN resolution of 1947, the State of Israel would not have been founded. According to Sharett's account in his diary, Ben-Gurion shouted: "Not at all! Only the daring of the Jews founded this country, and not some Um-Shmum resolution."
A month later, on 27 April 1955, Israel's 7th Independence Day, Ben-Gurion gave a speech in Ramat Gan Stadium during the main event of the Israel Defense Forces parade. The speech was primarily a response to the anti-Israeli declarations made in the Bandung Conference (the founding conference of the Non-Aligned Movement), which took place a few days earlier. In the concluding sentence, he stated: "Our future does not depend on what the goyim [i.e., the international community] will say, but rather on what the Jews [i.e., the Israelis] will do." This sentence also became a winged word (often in a different translation: "It does not matter what the Gentiles will say, but rather what the Jews will do").
Ben-Gurion viewed the UN as heavily biased against Israel, as have many other Israeli politicians over the decades, including current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who referred to the UN as a "theater of absurd" and "a place of darkness for my country" in his 2011 UN speech.
In 1998, Kofi Annan quoted this phrase while visiting the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), and made a rebutting pun himself by saying that in the world that we live in today, "without the UM we will all have klum." (Klum is part of expressions that mean "nothing" in Hebrew.)
- או"ם pronounced "oom", acronym for אומות (pr. "oomot") "nations, peoples", and מאוחדות (pr. "m'ookhadot") "united"; "the U.N." is האומות המאוחדות (pronounced "ha-oomot ha-m'ookhadot")
- Moshe Sharett, Yoman ishi [=Personal Diary], vol. 3, Tel-Aviv: Sifriyat Ma'ariv, 1978, p. 874 (Hebrew).
- David Ben-Gurion, Hazon ve-derekh [=Vision and Way], vol. 5, Tel-Aviv: Ayanot, 1956, p. 166 (Hebrew).
- Israel savages UN, Dispatch Online website
- כלום (pronounced kloom)
- Full Transcript: Netanyahu's 2011 UN Speech, MWC News Website