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The lengths to which the UN will to go to avoid any condemnation of Jew-hatred would be comical if they weren't so contemptible. Is that finally changing?
A seminar on anti-Semitism was held at the United Nations this week. Secretary General Kofi Annan opened the program by rebuking "those who . . . continue to spread lies and vile stereotypes about Jews and Judaism." Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and Nobel peace laureate, delivered a moving keynote address. Three panels of witnesses spoke about the menace of anti-Semitism and how to combat it. The event was presided over by Shashi Tharoor, the undersecretary general for communications, who also delivered the closing remarks.
All in all, you might think, a typical UN program — one of scores of gatherings the world body hosts each year on a wide array of human rights issues. The anti-Semitic hatred and violence seething in so much of the world are a grave international problem, so it stands to reason that the UN would make it the focus of regular and serious attention.
Except that it doesn't. Monday's conference on anti-Semitism was the first in UN history.
The United Nations was born nearly 60 years ago in the wake of the Nazi genocide against the Jews. Awareness of the Holocaust informs the UN's seminal documents, above all the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet not once in its six decades — not until this week — had the UN ever convened a meeting to discuss the hatred or persecution of Jews. Not once has it adopted a resolution dealing specifically with anti-Semitism. Not once has it published a report on anti-Jewish racism or incitement.
"Even when judged against the hypocrisy with which the UN has frequently treated its own founding principles," wrote legal scholar Anne Bayefsky, a professor at Columbia University Law School, in an important article in Commentary earlier this year, "the international body's abiding hostility to the just claims of Israel and the Jewish people remains a special, and especially egregious, case."
Bayefsky's essay, along with an earlier piece in The Wall Street Journal, were devastating. From the UN's earliest years, she showed, anti-Semitism was the great evil it refused to notice. The first time a resolution dealing even partly with bigotry against Jews came up for a vote was 1959, a year "when some 2,000 anti-Jewish incidents . . . were reported in almost 40 countries." The original title of the resolution was "Manifestations of Anti-Semitism and Other Forms of Racial Prejudice and Religious Intolerance of a Similar Nature." But by the time it reached the General Assembly floor, the words "anti-Semitism" had been cut.
The lengths to which the UN will to go to avoid any condemnation of Jew-hatred would be comical if they weren't so contemptible. When it adopted an international convention against racial discrimination, it refused to include a reference to anti-Semitism. "The Soviet Union, its satellites, and its Arab allies," noted Bayefsky, "insisted that anti-Semitism was a question not of race but of religion." Yet when the UN later adopted a resolution on religious intolerance, the lead sponsor insisted that anti-Semitism should be omitted because that was a matter not of religion but of race.
The UN's 1975 resolution equating Zionism — the national liberation movement of the Jewish people — to racism was only the most notorious illustration of its anti-Jewish bias. The measure was repealed in 1991, but the UN continues to anathematize the world's only Jewish state.
The UN's 2001 Durban conference on racism and xenophobia, for example, turned into an anti-Semitic bacchanal. At times, the venom has sunk to medieval lows. "In presentations to the UN Commission on Human Rights," Bayefsky wrote, Arab delegates have trafficked in blood libels, "accusing the Israelis of . . . needing to kill Arabs for the proper observance of Yom Kippur and of injecting Palestinian children with HIV-positive blood."
The professor's indictment got Kofi Annan's attention. Not only did he accept her challenge to convene a UN conference on anti-Semitism, he invited her to speak. She accepted the invitation, and delivered a speech last Monday the likes of which had not been heard at the UN since Daniel Patrick Moynihan blasted the Zionism resolution in 1975. She described the UN as "the leading global purveyor of anti-Semitism" — a place where "the language of human rights is hijacked not only to discriminate but to demonize."
So has the UN arrived at a turning point? Or was Monday's conference merely a fig leaf — a PR response to some bad press?
That depends entirely on the secretary general. It is up to Annan to take on the anti-Semitism within the UN's ranks — to insist that Israel's pariah status end — to denounce Jew-hatred as a dangerous scourge. In short, to show moral leadership and courage.
Frankly, I doubt that Annan has it in him. But then I doubted that Annan would pay any attention to Bayefsky's powerful writings. I was wrong about that. Here's hoping I'm wrong again.
As a little boy is murdered by rockets on his way to nursery school; and as soldiers are killed and wounded when bombs, burrowed deep beneath their outposts are detonated by terrorists using video cameras and increasingly sophisticated digging machines; and as 17 would-be suicide bombers are intercepted en route to Israeli population centers in one month, all eyes are now turning to The Hague.
Next Friday, the International Court of Justice will render its opinion on the security fence. That would be the fence Israel is building to protect its citizens from guided bombs in blue jeans.
The ICJ's decision last December to take up the request by the UN General Assembly and Secretary General Kofi Annan to provide an opinion on Israel's right to construct the security barrier must be seen as a hostile act by the ICJ against the Jewish state and not as a simple response to a simple request. This is so not only because two ICJ justices have gone on record in the past stating overtly hostile positions against Israel. The ICJ's decision to allow the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference–two explicitly anti-Semitic organizations–to make oral arguments before the bench is also a clear indication of the court's lack of objectivity towards the Jewish state. That the ICJ agreed to produce an opinion, in spite of the fact that the General Assembly's request for one was stated in terms that presupposed what such an opinion would say, is also an unambiguous sign that the ICJ understood its role in this game was fixed from the start.
Israel did have some slight hope of curbing the court's reach. The hope was based on the briefs submitted by the US and some European states in which the court was told that it had no legal authority to voice an opinion on Israel's security policies when the issue of the final adjudication of territory was subject to political negotiation. If Western powers were convincing in their view that a court decision was insignificant, then, so the thinking in Jerusalem went, chances would be better than zero that the court would say that it cannot address the issue.
There is precedent for such a view. In 1996, the ICJ was asked by the General Assembly to issue an opinion on the legality of the use of nuclear weapons. Understanding that an opinion that their use is illegal would be laughed at, or worse, ignored, the court stated that in the absence of a clear context it could not give a studied opinion on the legality of nuclear warfare. In the case of the security fence, since the route of the fence was still largely unknown and the fence itself was only in the beginning stages of construction last December, the court could easily have stated that it doesn't have sufficient contextual information on which to render an authoritative opinion.
This hope, fragile from the start, was rendered even weaker on Wednesday morning by Israel's Supreme Court. Court President Aharon Barak and his fellow justices Eliahu Mazza and Mishael Cheshin made it clear that for its part, the Israeli Court would take the ICJ opinion seriously. The justices, who found Israel guilty of breaching the Geneva Conventions by causing "disproportionate" harm to Palestinian farmers in constructing the security fence, laid the legal and rhetorical groundwork for all future legalistic warfare against the Jewish state.
The Supreme Court made it clear that it places higher value on the convenience of Palestinians and on the wellbeing of their olive trees than it does on Jewish lives. As it stated in its judgment, "the state must find an alternative [route for the fence] that may give less security but would harm the local population less." Such views arise from two sources: the first, Soviet-inspired, is that Arab hostility to Israel is a reaction to Israeli "crimes." Second is the historical ambivalence of Jews to the notion that we have a right to protect ourselves and assert our rights as a nation.
It is this view, the "blame Israel first view," that turns a blind eye to the bias against Israel that is becoming more and more prevalent and acceptable throughout the world. The same day that the Supreme Court issued its judgment, Ralph Nader, a candidate for the presidency of the United States, made one of the most overtly anti-Semitic statements ever uttered by an American politician. Nader said, "The Israeli puppeteer travels to Washington. The Israeli puppeteer meets with puppets at the White House, and then moves down Pennsylvania Avenue, and meets with puppets at the Congress. And then takes billions in taxpayer dollars." Also on Wednesday, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier, visiting Ramallah, claimed that Arafat "is the legitimate and elected president of the Palestinian people. The situation [of keeping Arafat limited to his headquarters in Ramallah] should not continue like this and this is the reason for my visit." These statements, from an American and a Frenchman, make clear the biased atmosphere in which Israel operates in the world.
Do our court justices need to be reminded what the Arabs say about us? Do they need to be reminded of what Palestinian society feels for us? Only last month two polls released by Palestinian institutions showed that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians sees no chance of peace with Israel and supports continuing the war against Israel. A poll by the PLO's Jerusalem Media Communications Center showed that 70 percent of Palestinians support continuing the war, with 62% voicing support for suicide bombings, and 46% saying that the goal of the war is to replace Israel with Palestine. A poll by Bir Zeit University showed that 84% of Palestinians see no chance for peace without the so-called right of return and 54% claim that there will be no peace even if Israel allows itself to be overrun by foreign-born Arabs.
Throughout the Arab world, children are taught in schools that Jews are subhuman and that their goal in life should be to annihilate us. Mosque preachers and television stars alike analyze the intricacies of Jewish cunning and evil and our monkey-like and piggish characters and evolutionary history. Even as Iranian UN mission personnel are expelled from the US for having photographed potential bombing sites in Manhattan, the Arab and Islamic world, not to mention swathes of European opinion, are captivated by fables of Mossad responsibility for carrying out the September 11 attacks, of Jews found photographing the Twin Towers in the weeks before they were bombed, and of 4,000 Jewish workers who mysteriously stayed home from the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Yet Justice Barak will see none of this. Military necessity be damned. The absolute priority of safety for Israelis be damned. We cannot make Palestinian shepherds go through an inspection before they tend their flocks (even though Israelis need to undergo inspections every time we go grocery shopping, out for a cup a coffee, park our cars in public lots, board a public bus, and enter our schools, universities and office buildings). In both cases, the need for inspection is not to punish Israelis or Palestinians but rather to ensure that Palestinian bombers are thwarted in their attempt to murder innocent civilians.
Our elected leadership has consoled itself over Barak's usurpation of his legal authority to determine national policy by saying that his judgment is evidence that Israel doesn't need the ICJ to judge it. Our independent judiciary, so the thinking goes, is capable of ensuring that we follow the law. Yet this buys into the Barakian delusion of lack of international bias. Barak did not protect Israel from international condemnation by condemning Israel himself. He paved the way for more groundless opprobrium. Barak did not take the wind out of the sails of the anti-Israel justices at the ICJ. He gave them a tailwind in showing that the Israeli High Court of Justice shares their negative view of the Israeli government and armed forces.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Tuesday set out to convince Israelis that the deadly Kassam rocket barrage a day earlier would never be repeated, even after he had implemented his Gaza retreat plan.
“…We are determined to ensure that what happened won't repeat itself, not now and not after the evacuation of Gaza,” the prime minister said during a brief tour of Sderot.
But not everyone is buying it, and with good reason.
Israelis have been sold this line before. The late Yitzhak Rabin and his Oslo sidekick, Shimon Peres, once told the nation that the weapons they were handing over to Yasser Arafat and his PLO terrorists would never be turned against Israeli Jews.
The Palestinian Arabs "know very well," Rabin said in 1993, "that if they use these guns against us once, at that moment the Oslo Accord will be annulled and the IDF will return to all the places that have been given to them."
Eleven years on, that is clearly a promise no one ever intended on keeping.
Why, then, should any Israeli, especially those within rocket range of Gaza, believe that they would be safe from the threat of attack?
It is a certainty that after Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the terrorists entrenched there will rebuild their capabilities and launch wave after wave of Kassam rockets at nearby Israeli towns. To believe otherwise is delusional.
The question is, how would Israel respond to such an escalation?
It is easy for Sharon and Defense Minister Sha’ul Mofaz to talk tough now and say such provocation would lead to major IDF incursions and possibly a reversal of the pullout. But everyone knows Israel does nothing on the security or diplomatic front without looking over its shoulder at Washington.
What will happen when America informs Israel its plans to invade the sovereign “Palestinian” territory of Gaza in order to curb rocket attacks is unacceptable?
Israel will inevitably back down from fully eradicating the threat, and will instead send a “message” to the terrorists by launching a minimal helicopter strike. The same kind of “message” that has had little or no affect on the “Palestinians” thus far.
And so everyone will forget Sharon’s stern words, and the Israeli towns on Gaza’s periphery will become sitting ducks for Arab rocket crews operating out of an area the international community will never allow Israel to enter again.
Civilian casualties in Kassam barrages will become more and more common, until the shock has worn off and everyone is as callous to them as they have become to the victims of the guns Rabin put into the PLO’s hands.
By fleeing Gaza, Sharon is not providing Israel with greater security, but rather he is allowing terrorism to evolve and leaving the Jewish state with far less control over how it defends its citizens.
National Religious Party chairman Effi Eitam correctly assessed this week that “whoever runs away from terror, terror will chase after him; and whoever fights terror wins.”
National Union MK Benny Elon took the issue one step further, accusing Israel of betraying “biblical values” by fleeing Gaza with its “tail between [its] legs.”
Behaving in such a manner, Israel should “not be surprised when the enemy aids” the Jewish state in its “own humility ritual.”
I am a Jew; I live in a Jewish house and am raising a Jewish family on Jewish land in the Jewish community of Gush Katif, about a mile from the Mediterranean Sea in what many call the Gaza Strip. I have been living with the same wife in the same house for the past twenty-one years.
I really love my house. When we moved in, there was nothing around it but barren sand dunes. I pretty much designed my house by myself with oversized windows to afford a beautiful view of my not-yet planted garden. I put a lot of time and effort into my garden.
It is not just because it's the Israeli thing to do - making the desert bloom and all that - it's much more personal; it's me. My garden is really special to me. I've been collecting rocks and stones, erecting them and laying them out like a mosaic each time to get it 'just right'. It's been a twenty-year labor of love, stopping at roadsides, hauling these rocks into the back of my station wagon, and sometimes getting strange looks from passers-by - but such is love.
I have some trees in my garden. A couple of them I planted back in 1985. Nineteen years later, I immodestly admit that I planned well and that these trees give shade exactly where they're supposed to. During an Israeli summer you really appreciate something like that. My sons grew up in those trees, sometimes having fun and sometimes hiding from angry parents.
I've got another tree that is only eight years old. While the older trees may be sentimental, this tree is hard to describe. If I tell you about it, maybe you can help me out with the right word. When my sister's son was killed in a car accident eight years ago, she wanted me to plant a tree in Israel. What better place could there be than in her brother's own backyard? I'm our only family member who lives in Israel and, therefore, the only one with a backyard here. My sister and I speak every so often and she sometimes asks me about 'her' tree. I guess I'm the tree's guardian as well as its planter, but that's okay, I kind of like special tasks.
By the way, the tree is doing fine. Well, as far as I can tell, it is.
I once read that plants (and I presume also trees) have feelings. It hurts them when they're cut or abused and that they even respond to music. I wonder if my trees have heard the news. No, no, no. No one is planning to do them any harm. The problem, you see, is that the prime minister of my country wants to evict me from my house (it's because I'm a Jew); it is on the news day and night. The radio is in the kitchen and the tree is just outside the kitchen window.
My sister has already bought her ticket to come to my son's bar mitzvah in the fall. Of course, she'll want to see her son's tree. What do I tell her? What do I tell her tree? To tell you the truth, I've never spoken with a tree. I love gardening, but I'm not eccentric.
I've never come across any information about plants or trees communicating with one another. I really hope this is true, because I have yet another tree that I don't know how to describe, let alone deal with. If it has gotten wind of our prime minister's plan, I'll really be at a loss.
You see, when my friend and next-door neighbor was murdered by Arabs (he had his throat slit back in the days before another prime minister handed out guns to the Arabs, but that's another story), I planted a tree in his memory.
Like I said, I'm not an eccentric, but I love my house, I love my garden and, mostly, I love my trees. And I won't leave them.
“We find the Foreign Press Association in Israel's condemnation of the State of Israel puzzling, hypocritical and pretentious. Puzzling, since if there were no persons present in the building attacked, in what way does the FPA consider this ‘callous disregard for the life and security of journalists.’? Hypocritical, because the FPA has repeatedly demanded that the State of Israel not prevent the entry of journalists into Gaza, despite it being an area of conflict and regardless of the obvious dangers to the journalists themselves. Pretentious, since if members of the press are going to involve themselves in business relations with elements known to have connections with--and in service of--terrorist organizations, one would expect them to also assess the risks involved with such a venture.”—Israeli Government response to the Foreign Press Association in Israel’s criticisms of an IDF helicopter attack on an office building in Gaza which houses several media organizations. Israeli officials were targeting the third-floor office of the Al-Saada weekly, which has close links to the Palestinian terrorist movement Hamas.(Israeli Government Press Office; IMRA, June 29)
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