It’s easy to fall for the extreme polarization here. They hate the UN so you suddenly defend it. They say everyone is an anti-Semite so you want to say no one is. It’s a natural emotional response to this kind of elevated rhetoric, but in the end, it’s not helpful.
In fact, Israel does have some very legitimate claims when they talk about being singled out in the United Nations. For example, in January, the UN Human Rights Council called for an investigation into Israeli human rights violations during the attack on Gaza. But they neglected to call for an investigation into Hamas and other armed groups.
Or there is the Durban I 61-page outcome document- Israel and Palestine are the only countries/territories that are mentioned. Everything in it that is said about Israel and Palestine is both fair and mild. The hullaballoo about the Durban II document, which makes no mention of Israel and Palestine, is simply that it endorses the Durban I document. Of course, Durban I also singles out the Holocaust for acknowledgment. That kind of singling out would be greeted warmly.
There are numerous examples of a range of human rights concerns that get, relatively speaking, little attention, while the Israeli occupation gets a lot of attention-almost all of it, I might add, apparently useless, given that we are in the 41st year of occupation. Obviously many Muslim countries in particular use this issue so they need not address their own. I have found myself rolling my eyes when forced to listen to Iran lecture Israel on human rights, even if I agreed with many elements of their critique.
But none of that makes what Israel is doing OK or even remotely acceptable.
The right wing Israel advocates use this evidence of singling out in the UN to repeat the mantra, “this is anti-Semitism, pure and simple,” as a way to delegitimize absolutely any kind of international criticism or rebuke.
And those of us from the United States are tempted to snarkily respond, “now you know what the Palestinians feel like when it comes to the US Congress,” whose defining quality when it comes to Israel-Palestine is that it is more unanimous in its unconditional support for anything Israel does than the Knesset.
Israel often gets singled out in terms of world opinion because it considers itself a kind of European nation plopped down in the Middle East. It’s a Western style democracy, and as such it is judged that way. And in recent years, both the United States and Israel have been equally singled out because we have failed miserably by Western standards and international law. That can’t be blamed on anti-Semitism.
But it shouldn’t be used to suggest that those in non Western countries are going to suffer anyway, so why summon the moral outrage. And that’s why those of us committed to a genuinely universal human rights should respond to this targeting in the UN not by letting Israel off the hook, but by demanding that other countries be held accountable. That’s entirely reasonable.
And as I have said before, I think the fear of Iran destroying Israel is very real. Israel is in a precarious place both politically and geographically. As one friend says, “Not even the most sophisticated army in the world can keep them safe from a nuclear bomb.” While I categorically reject the campaign of demonization of Iran, and the threats of bombing rather than diplomacy, I do understand there is real fear behind it.
Me, I am scared for Israel. For so many reasons. Sometimes I’m terrified- which is why I think the only way to be pro-Israel (and yes, we work with so many phenomenal Israeli justice activists who love their country and work against every last shred of discrimination, repression or inequality both in and outside of its boundaries)…the only way to be pro-Israel is to be anti-occupation. Israel simply must end this occupation now. That of course is the terrible heartbreak about what I’m seeing here today: The American Jewish Congress, Eye on the UN and other groups are not just fueling anti-Semitism by overplaying their hand, they are helping push Israel down a path from which it may never return.
Right now, that concerns me much more than the singling out of Israel in the UN. If Anne Bayefsky, UN Watch et al want to stop the phenomenon, they might try using their resources to pressure Israel to end their occupation.
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