Thursday, February 17, 2005

UN Anti-Semitism

The Wall Street Journal reprinted a speech by Columbia Law Professor Anne Bayefsky on the United Nations' history of anti-Semitism. She delivered it at the very first conference the UN has had on anti-Semitism (60 years after its formation, no less). It's an old column, but an important one.
What does discrimination against the Jewish state mean? It means refusing to admit only Israel to the vital negotiating sessions of regional groups held daily during U.N. Commission on Human Rights meetings. It means devoting six of the 10 emergency sessions ever held by the General Assembly to Israel. It means transforming the 10th emergency session into a permanent tribunal--which has now been reconvened 12 times since 1997. By contrast, no emergency session was ever held on the Rwandan genocide, estimated to have killed a million people, or the ethnic cleansing of tens of thousands in the former Yugoslavia, or the death of millions over the past two decades of atrocities in Sudan. That's discrimination.

The record of the Secretariat is more of the same. In November 2003, Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a report on Israel's security fence, detailing the purported harm to Palestinians without describing one terrorist act against Israelis which preceded the fence's construction. Recently, the secretary-general strongly condemned Israel for destroying homes in southern Gaza without mentioning the arms-smuggling tunnels operating beneath them. When Israel successfully targeted Hamas terrorist Abdel Aziz Rantissi with no civilian casualties, the secretary-general denounced Israel for an "extrajudicial" killing. But when faced with the 2004 report of the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions detailing the murder of more than 3,000 Brazilian civilians shot at close range by police, Mr. Annan chose silence. That's discrimination.

At the U.N., the language of human rights is hijacked not only to discriminate but to demonize the Jewish target. More than one quarter of the resolutions condemning a state's human rights violations adopted by the commission over 40 years have been directed at Israel. But there has never been a single resolution about the decades-long repression of the civil and political rights of 1.3 billion people in China, or the million female migrant workers in Saudi Arabia kept as virtual slaves, or the virulent racism which has brought 600,000 people to the brink of starvation in Zimbabwe. Every year, U.N. bodies are required to produce at least 25 reports on alleged human rights violations by Israel, but not one on an Iranian criminal justice system which mandates punishments like crucifixion, stoning and cross-amputation of right hand and left foot. This is not legitimate critique of states with equal or worse human rights records. It is demonization of the Jewish state.

As Israelis are demonized at the U.N., so Palestinians and their cause are deified. Every year the U.N. marks Nov. 29 as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People--the day the U.N. partitioned the British Palestine mandate and which Arabs often style as the onset of al nakba or the "catastrophe" of the creation of the state of Israel. In 2002, the anniversary of the vote that survivors of the concentration camps celebrated, was described by Secretary-General Annan as "a day of mourning and a day of grief."

In 2003 the representatives of over 100 member states stood along with the secretary-general, before a map predating the state of Israel, for a moment of silence "for all those who had given their lives for the Palestinian people"--which would include suicide bombers. Similarly, U.N. rapporteur John Dugard has described Palestinian terrorists as "tough" and their efforts as characterized by "determination, daring, and success." A commission resolution for the past three years has legitimized the Palestinian use of "all available means including armed struggle"--an absolution for terrorist methods which would never be applied to the self-determination claims of Chechens or Basques.
But I challenge the secretary-general and his organization to go further--if they are serious about eradicating anti-Semitism:

-Start putting a name to the terrorists that kill Jews because they are Jews.

-Start condemning human-rights violators wherever they dwell--even if they live in Riyadh or Damascus.

-Stop condemning the Jewish people for fighting back against their killers.

And the next time someone asks you or your colleagues to stand for a moment of silence to honor those who would destroy the state of Israel, say no.
Only then will the message be heard from these chambers that the U.N. will not tolerate anti-Semitism or its consequences against Jews and the Jewish people, whether its victims live in Tehran, Paris or Jerusalem.

For an organization formed, at least in part, in response to moral depravity of the Holocaust, the UN has been shockingly acquiescent to the murder and destruction of the Jewish people. Certainly, there are valid claims to be made for Palestinian statehood. But before claims of legitimacy can be discussed, the UN has to at least recognize who the real monsters are first.

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