Rights and the Holocaust
Human rights have become a weapon. A potent force for denunciation and defeat
not in the hands of the abused, but in the hands of the abusers. Those powerful few
who know little - and want even less - of freedom or equality.
In little over half a century since the horrors that nearly vanquished an entire
people, humankind has come almost full circle. The victims of the Nazis – and the
Jewish homeland which is their refuge and their strength – are cast as the neo-Nazis of
the 21st century. Human rights are now human wrongs.
The saga of the hijacking and corruption of universal rights and freedoms is one
of profound betrayal. It is a betrayal of the victims of the Holocaust, the United Nations
the promised international beacon that rose from their ashes, and the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights envisioned by Eleanor Roosevelt and René Cassin as the
gold standard for never again.
This plight is not a result of a sole cataclysmic event but the consequence of
individual abominations, gone unnoticed or unchallenged. Ironically, the setting for this
treachery has been the UN itself. An individual resolution of the UN General Assembly,
a report of a UN special investigator, a decision of the UN Human Rights Commission –
year after year after year. International norms are said to be nurtured through a
constructive process in which the accumulation of state practice crystallizes beliefs that
mirror the collective wisdom of nations. What has emerged instead – powered by a
global, 20 billion-a-year megaphone – is the collective depravity of an immoral majority.
This story begins with discrimination against the Jewish state. Discrimination is the building block of hate and the UN has already erected a fortress.
Since the late 1940’s until it was abolished in 2006, the lead UN human rights
body was the Human Rights Commission. Over its lifetime it passed more resolutions
condemning Israel than any other country on earth. It adopted nothing, ever, on serial
abusers such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, or Zimbabwe.
In 2006 the Commission was replaced by the Human Rights Council. In its short
life the Council has directed almost 60% of its decisions condemning specific states at
Israel alone. And nothing at all on 187 of the UN’s other 191 members.
The Council has had eight regular sessions which cover human rights in all
countries – and four special sessions devoted only to human rights violations by Israel.
The Council – as the Commission before it – has a limited agenda of less than a
dozen subjects. One is reserved only for condemning Israel. And one is called “human
rights issues of concern” for all other countries.
The Commission and the Council have created only one UN human rights
investigator with a job description which has no term limit – the investigator on Israel.
The few other country investigators must be renewed frequently – or not. In the past 15
months, the Council has refused to renew or continue investigations on four states with
some of the worst records on the planet – Belarus, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the
Congo, Iran and Uzbekistan.
The mandate of the Council investigator on Israel denies any possibility of finding
human rights violations by any actor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but Israel. Its only
purpose is “to investigate Israel’s violations of the principles and bases of international
The UN has only one standing human rights committee which has no generic
theme, like civil and political rights or children’s rights. The UN Special Committee to
Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting Human Rights is now in its 40th year of operation.
In 1975 the UN created a committee to implement its notorious Zionism is racism
resolution. The resolution was rescinded in 1991. But the Committee on the Inalienable
Rights of the Palestinian People continues to sponsor events worldwide and year round.
There is only one whole UN secretariat Division devoted to a single group of
people – the UN Division for Palestinian Rights. Created in 1977 it has a full-time staff
of 16, while the number of UN staff for the entire Asia and Pacific Division is 22. There is one refugee agency for Palestinian refugees. And one refugee agency assisting 26 million in the rest of the world.
The UN General Assembly has six subsidiary bodies which focus only on Palestinians. And none focusing on any other people anywhere. There is only one UN online service dedicated to the claims of a single people – the enormous United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine. It transmits reports, resolutions, speeches, publications and press releases on a daily basis around the world.
Member states of the UN are divided into five regional groups – key vehicles for
negotiating resolutions, obtaining important positions, and sharing information. Only one
UN member is not permitted to become a full member of any regional group – Israel.
There have been ten emergency sessions of the UN General Assembly in its
history – six have been about Israel – and the last and tenth one is effectively in
permanent session having been “reconvened” fifteen times since 1987. A million dead
in Rwanda and two million dead over two decades in Sudan never prompted one emergency session.
In 2007 the UN General Assembly – as is routine – adopted 20 resolutions
condemning Israel for human rights violations, while adopting just a single resolution
each on only six other countries. And nothing, for instance, on the egregious violation of
the most basic civil and political rights of more than a billion Chinese.
The only condemnation of a country-specific violation of women’s rights anywhere made by the Commission on the Status of Women is its annual resolution on Palestinian women. Nothing, for example, directed at Iran despite its practice of burying women naked to the waist and stoning them to death for alleged adultery.
Taken together, the country subject to more human rights criticism across the UN
system every year is Israel. Last year, it was condemned twice as often as Sudan – where
millions are displaced, hundreds of thousands are dead in Darfur, and unfettered genocide
and rape are the daily norm.
The meetings are webcast – the documents are translated into six languages – and
the reports are accessible globally via the internet for free.
In UN circles, it is called protecting human rights. In reality, it is discrimination –
antisemitism – in which the Jewish state is subjected to different treatment and held to
different standards than all other nations. Given its reach and impact, the UN is therefore
the largest global purveyor of antisemitism in the world today.
Israel emerges from this so-called human rights campaign demonized – a country
engaged in heinous acts with the worst of intentions.
June 20th, 2008 at UN Headquarters in New York. The occasion is a day-long
event entitled “Special meeting to mark sixty years of dispossession of Palestine
refugees.” A film – shown also at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris a few weeks earlier –
is screened before a public audience in the main Economic and Social Council Chamber.
Produced by a Palestinian, the film was designed to draw parallels between the Nazis
final solution and the Zionists design for Palestinians. It is commonly billed with these
words: “…the late-19th century Zionists…drew up plans, put them into practice, then…used… force, often brutal.”
Here is some of the script:
“Christians and Muslims alike…unite in their hatred of Zionism…I preferred to die as a martyr rather than be governed by the Jews …We were against the Jews…The number of Jews increased constantly…The children cried …The Hagana had no mercy, no pity. Zionists! They were Zionists!… The Jews were shooting at us, they were facing us…The Jews yelled “turn around you bastards, you dogs.” They machine gunned us…They started killing people who were asleep…[We]…found a poor woman…pregnant. They had killed her and the baby came out of the womb. They started slaughtering them until morning.”
This is how the UN marked the 60th anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel. This is antisemitism as human rights.
Perhaps the most virulent “human rights” theme which emerges repeatedly is the
allegation of Jewish racism. In a February 2007 report UN special investigator on Israel
John Dugard wrote:
“The IDF inflicts serious bodily and mental harm on Palestinians…Palestinians throughout the OPT are denied freedom of movement. Can it seriously be denied that the purpose of such action is to establish and maintain domination by one 7 racial group (Jews) over another racial group (Palestinians) and systematically oppressing them?”
UN reports analogize Israel to apartheid South Africa. The UN’s 2001 Durban Racism
Conference produced a Declaration claiming Palestinians are victims of Israeli racism.
Durban II – the next so-called “anti-racism” conference scheduled for 2009 is devoted to
implementing that Declaration, and is therefore certain to include Israeli racism on its
Nobody cares that one-fifth of Israel’s population is Arab with more democratic
rights than in any Arab state. No one wants to hear that Arab states have essentially been rendered Judenrein following the creation of Israel, 850,000 Jews having been forced to flee. Though UN resolutions denounce Jews living in Arab-claimed territory as “Judaization,” nowhere do people denounce “apartheid Palestine.”
The Legitimization of Violence
What follows discrimination and demonization is all too familiar. A demonized
adversary is a much easier target. In the name of resistance and struggle, Israeli civilians
have become fair game.
On June 16, 2008 the UN Human Rights Council discussed the latest human
rights report from Dugard on Israeli practices. He said: “a distinction must be drawn
between acts of mindless terror…and acts committed in the course of a war of national
liberation.” The acts perpetrated upon Israeli civilians by Palestinians acting “against
occupation” is the second kind of terror, the “inevitable consequence of occupation” and
analogous to “the German occupation resisted by European countries in the Second
World War.” According to this major UN human rights authority figure, therefore, terrorizing Israelis is understandable and inevitable and their murderers are comparable to the liberators of Nazi Germany.
The European Union has a word for “drawing comparisons of contemporary
Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” – antisemitism. Antisemitism as human rights
This is not academic exegesis. During the Human Rights Council discussions,
Pakistan responded to Dugard’s hate-mongering on behalf of the 57 members of the
Organization of the Islamic Conference or OIC: “We must note the wise counsel of the
special [investigator] to make distinction between mindless terror and acts committed in
the course of war of national liberation against colonialism, apartheid or military
occupation.” As recently as four years ago, resolutions of the Human Rights
Commission declared “the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples against foreign
occupation and for self-determination” – (and incorporated by reference to an earlier
General Assembly resolution) “by all available means, including armed struggle.”
Denial of the Right of Self-Defense
The human right universe denies the Jewish state the existential entitlement to
self-preservation. After all, why should the abuser have a right of self-defense against his
Denying Israel an effective right of self-defense has become a centerpiece of international human rights and humanitarian law. Almost nothing that Israel does against
its enemies is legitimate in the eyes of the human rights world. In UN and human rights
NGO circles, the carefully targeted killing of combatants is extrajudicial execution.
The building of a security fence on disputed territory, with a significant numbers of lives
saved, violates international law. Checkpoints and barriers limiting movement among a
population infiltrated by enemy combatants in a war zone are humiliating racist insults.
Targeting civilian infrastructure in response to thousands of rockets (which forced one
million Israelis into bomb shelters for over three weeks and displaced 300,000) was not a
legitimate action with a military objective in the middle of a war, but collective
Incidental civilian casualties caused by Israel, of any number, in any
context, whatever the target, are always disproportionate. Incidentally destroying crops
in southern Lebanon in the course of responding to Hezbollah rockets violated
international humanitarian law. In effect, despite a continuing state of war and the
genocidal intent of the enemy combatants, Israel can’t hit people, can’t hit inanimate
objects, can’t even hit the ground.
Consider the case of Hamas leaders Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantissi.
The governing instrument of the elected representatives of the Palestinian people – the 1988 Hamas Covenant – states: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist
until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”
“There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad.” With genocide as a frame of reference, Yassin and Rantissi exhorted their followers to violence, instigated suicide bombings, and in Rantissi’s words “freed the hand of the brigades to do whatever they want against the brothers of monkeys and pigs.” By the time Israel killed each of them with a missile attack upon their vehicles, there had been at least 425 Hamas attacks killing 377 Israelis and wounding 2,076 in less than three and a half years. Four civilians were killed with Yassin, none with Rantissi.
The UN response? UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan condemned Israel’s
actions as “assassinations” and illegal “extrajudicial killings” – a charge which is potent –
and totally false. Yassin and Rantissi were combatants in a war and not entitled to judicial process before being targeted. They were also unlawful combatants, seeking to make themselves indistinguishable from the civilian population. International Committee of the Red Cross manuals state that civilians who take a direct part in hostilities forfeit their immunity from attack. In addition to the fact that Yassin and Rantisi were not entitled to judicial process, such a process was not an option for Israel without risking many more Israeli and Palestinian lives.
The real legal limit in targeting combatants, according to the Geneva Conventions, is the rule of proportionality – the “incidental loss of civilian life” must not be “excessive.” This test was satisfied in the case of Israel’s actions, civilian casualties having been kept to a minimum. And yet in today’s world of human rights, killing antisemitic leaders at the apex of their genocidal campaign, which had successfully terrorized 5.5 million people, was a violation of the human rights of the homicidal antisemites.
There is another sense in which the Geneva Conventions are misread only when
applied to Israel. The freedom of movement and associated rights of Palestinians are
limited, but the question is: by whom? If an armed robber takes a hostage and in the
course of the crime the hostage is killed by police, the law states that the death of the
hostage has been caused by the robber, not the police. For if there had been no armed
robbery, the hostage would not have been harmed. If there were no terrorism, there
would be no need for barriers and checkpoints. The Palestinian civilian population is
hostage to the terrorists and killers among them. Israel’s actions, like those of the police
officer, are taken in fulfillment of its legal responsibilities to protect its citizens from
violent and illegal behavior. And the Geneva Conventions specifically refuses to grant
immunity to terrorists or military targets using civilians as human shields.
This is the law of self-defense – except in the case of Israel.
In 2004 the UN’s International Court of Justice decided that Israel’s security fence violated international law by a series of contortions written for a party of one. They held that there is no right of self-defense under the U.N. Charter when terrorists are not state actors, when they operate across disputed borders, and when the measures are not forcible such as the building of a wall. The Egyptian judge even affirmed a “right of resistance” on the grounds that “violence breeds violence.” In short, the Court emasculated Israel’s right of self-defense, notwithstanding that the U.N. Charter was not intended to be a suicide pact.
The Absence of Human Rights
The bottom line is that for all practical purposes Israelis don’t have human rights.
On June 16, 2008 the Human Rights Council discussed whether the mandate of
the special investigator on Israel should be expanded to permit him to consider violations
of the human rights of Israelis. The Jordanian Ambassador objected. He explained:
“there is a false impression here of a kind of symmetry that we are dealing with
human rights….but we …[ought] not to fall into this symmetry… of… equating
the victim and the victimizer or the oppressed and the oppressors…[or] the root
causes and … the symptoms. The violation of human rights by Palestinian
groups…is used as a pretext… or to confuse the issue…”
The newly appointed UN investigator Richard Falk is a man who has accused Israel of
“genocidal tendencies,” “associate[s] the treatment of Palestinians with
th[e]…criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity” and is unconvinced that the events
of 9/11 were not a Bush Administration plot. Falk therefore reassured the Jordanian
Ambassador: “…we are dealing with the suffering of the Palestinian people and secondarily of the victimizing of…Israelis...”
The absence of symmetry (the notion that Israelis have human rights too) is found
across the human rights world.
Through suicide-bombing, kidnapping, rocket attacks, murder, and butchery of
all kinds, Palestinian and other terrorists touch the lives of Israelis while praying,
studying, working, shopping, eating, driving, sleeping – living. If the human rights of
Israeli Jews were part of the equation, the list of rights violated by terrorism and war
would be a long one:
ƒnthe right to life,
ƒnthe right not to be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment,
ƒnthe right to equality and freedom from persecution,
ƒnsecurity of the person,
ƒnthe right to health and well-being,
ƒnthe right to safe working conditions,
ƒnthe right to work,
ƒnfreedom from incitement to violence or war,
ƒnfreedom of religion,
ƒnthe right to the protection of the family,
ƒnthe right to the protection of the child,
ƒnthe right to education,
ƒnfreedom of movement,
ƒnfreedom of association,
ƒnthe right to an adequate standard of living, and „Fƒnthe right to self-determination.
Add to this list: genocide – the commission of “acts committed with intent to
destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group,” ethnic
cleansing – the effort to “render…an area ethnically homogeneous by using force or
intimidation to remove persons of given groups from the area” and the suicide-bomber’s
crime against humanity.
And yet, in judging the legality of Israel’s security fence the World Court never
attempted to balance these individual rights of Israelis against the list produced of
Palestinian rights. Their trick – no doubt a common one – was to place a lengthy list of
Palestinian rights on one side and Israeli “military exigencies,” “national security” and
“public order” – all faceless beneficiaries – on the other. Having weighted one half of the
scale, the human rights weapon of the 21st century becomes a monstrous swindle.
Over and over again, the human rights of Israeli Jews seem to vanish.
UN headquarters hosted an exhibit last November with a contribution depicting Israel’s
security barrier adorned with flowers and accompanied by the words “the flowers climb
and hide its ugliness.” The aesthetics of Jewish men, women and children blown apart in
the absence of a barrier was nowhere to be found.
The Human Rights Council recently commissioned a report on the limitations
placed on Palestinian access to religious sites in the territories, but refused to permit
consideration of Israeli access to Jewish holy sites in the same places.
On every November 29th, the anniversary of the day on which the General
Assembly voted to adopt the partition of the British Palestine Mandate and celebrated in
1947 by Holocaust survivors everywhere, the UN holds an Annual Day of Solidarity with
the Palestinian People. Secretary-General Annan called it “a day of mourning and a day
of grief.” Just two flags are flown inside UN headquarters in commemoration – the flag
of the United Nations and the Palestinian flag.
Rights which do not exist cannot be violated. So it is, that in its entire history the
United Nations General Assembly has never adopted a resolution dedicated to condemning antisemitism or called for the production of a report dedicated to
antisemitism in contrast to special reports on discrimination against “Muslim and Arab
peoples” and “Islamophobia.”
On the contrary, in human rights circles the definition of antisemitism is hotly disputed.
The reasons are not subtle. Jew-haters have a vested interest in denying Jewhatred.
On April 22, 2008 the Algerian ambassador told the Durban II preparatory
committee: “antisemitism…targets…Arabs who are also Semites, and by extension, the
whole Muslim community.” Pakistan said “Islamophobia is also a crude form of
antisemitism.” After all, if the phenomenon can be appropriated, Jewish victimhood will
But Muslim states are not the only ones feigning confusion about antisemitism.
Human rights authorities are nervous about addressing antisemitism primarily because
they want to avoid any connection with Zionism and those troublesome human rights of
Driving a wedge between Jews and Israel is now a prime activity for antisemites
and their human rights cohorts. ‘Some of my best friends are Jews. It’s just Jewish selfdetermination I have a problem with.’
Ironically, the current method of avoiding a connection between demonizing
Israelis and antisemitism, is to focus on the Holocaust. The general idea is to manifest
concern – half a century too late – for Jews that died 60 years ago and then to deny the
antisemitism of murdering Jews in a Jewish state today.
When the European Union refused to support a General Assembly resolution on
antisemitism (on the alleged grounds that it wouldn’t garner consensus), Israel pushed for
a Holocaust resolution. It was adopted in November 2005, minus the word
“antisemitism,” though it did mention the Jewish people along with “countless members
of other minorities.” Since January 2006 there has been a Holocaust Remembrance Day
at the UN on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Setting aside the constant
struggle to ensure that the Day and related activities commemorate the uniqueness of the
war against the Jews – the real battleground is over disassociating Israel from the lessons
of the Holocaust.
Today, there is a permanent display on the Holocaust at UN Headquarters which contains a timeline from 1933, and Hitler’s ascendancy to power, to May 2007 and the appointment of a UN Special Representative for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities. Nowhere is the creation of the state of Israel mentioned in either the timeline or the exhibit – as if the birth and well-being of Israel is not the central remedial lesson of the Holocaust.
The Destruction of the Jewish State
Rendering asunder Jews and Israel brings this human rights playbook to its
inexorable conclusion – the call for the destruction of the Jewish state in the name of
The argument for demolition is twofold. First, the Jewish state is corrupt. In the
words of an invited expert to a public meeting at the UN in New York just two weeks
ago: “Israel demands that the international community recognize Israel as a Jewish state…The implications are…that Palestinian citizens of Israel will never enjoy equal rights because they’re not Jews…The imperative of Zionism…is to create a land without a people and replace it with the Jewish people…[We must] recognize[e] the untenable nature of the system of dispossession and discrimination that Zionism has introduced…The days of a Zionist Israel are numbered.”
This wasn’t just the “expert’s” view. The Chairman of the UN Committee hosting the
event, the Ambassador of Senegal, thanked the speaker for her “captivating statement”
and “valuable knowledge.” The end of Israel is allegedly a corrective necessity of the
state’s inherently corrupt raison d’être.
Second, Israel has a corrupting influence on others. The 2008 annual report of Amnesty International, states:
“The international human rights system has been slow to develop in the Middle
East and North Africa…[where] the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’
references to non-discrimination…jar…with legal and customary systems…Such
concerns, however, might have been overcome were it not for…the creation of the
state of Israel and the resulting dispossession of the Palestinian population. The building of a Jewish state in the midst of the Arab Muslim world had a cataclysmic effect, setting off effectively a continuing state of war between Israel and its Arab neighbours.”
In other words, the presence of a comparatively tiny number of Jews with control over
their own destiny is responsible for the failure of the vast Middle East and North African
nations to end their egregious treatments of their own peoples.
This game is obviously impossible for Israelis to win. The mere existence of a
Jewish state is the real problem. This is antisemitism masquerading as human rights.
What follows this alleged corruption is a cacophony of players who are provided
a UN platform to clamor for the political and economic strangulation of Israel through
boycotts, divestment, and sanctions.
Never mind that the real corruption is that of the UN Charter itself – whose very
essence is defiled by mounting the destruction of a member state under UN auspices.
Changing the Status Quo
At every step in this story, from discrimination to the clamor for the destruction of
the state of Israel, it would have been possible for decent people, non-governmental
organizations and democratic states to refuse to turn the page. Instead, a series of
fallacies have stood in the way of the necessary confrontation with the human rights
Fallacy #1: Israel deserves the attention and the criticism, even if other states are wrongly ignored. The discrimination and double-standards are unfortunate but not fatal.
The Response: At the end of March 2007 British soldier and kidnap victim Faye Turney was in Iran - stripped to her underwear, caged in a tiny, freezing cell and led to
believe her death was imminent. At exactly the same time, the UN’s lead human rights
agency – the Human Rights Council – made two moves. It adopted yet another
resolution calling for “the dispatching of…urgent fact-finding missions” to Israel. And
its President made the following statement: “the Human Rights Council has in closed
meetings examined the human rights situation in…Iran…[and] decided to discontinue the
consideration of the human rights situation in…Iran…Members of the…Council should
make no reference in the public debate to the confidential decisions and material concerning” Iran.
The inequality of Jews cannot be quarantined. It perverts priorities and purposes.
Fairness, equality and human dignity cannot be built on the inequality of the few.
According to the UN Charter, international peace and security are premised on the
equality of all nations large and small, while human dignity is inseparable from the
equality of all men and women. Equality is an end in itself. The discrimination and
demonization of the Jewish state and the Jewish people is not just an extraneous flaw. It
subverts the very foundation of the human rights movement.
Fallacy #2. Israel does not deserve the discrimination and the nature and extent of the condemnation, but poor treatment of Israel is a price worth paying for progress on other fronts.
The Response: The Global Advocacy Director for the NGO Human Rights Watch,
Peggy Hicks, and I had an online debate sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations
after the first two sessions of the Human Rights Council. Hicks wrote (in July 2006 and
the middle of the Lebanon war): “There are legitimate concerns at the Council’s handling
of the situation in Gaza, and its decision to focus on that crisis to the exclusion of other
pressing situations. It would be a mistake, however, to judge the Council on the basis of
its actions on the occupied Palestinian territories…” In other words, treating the Jewish
state differently than all other countries is a problem only for a small proportion of the
For Jews to denounce the whole just because they are given the short end of the stick would be narrow-minded, callous and parochial.
Human Rights Watch’s behavior at the Durban I racism conference took this argument to its logical conclusion. As the representative of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists at Durban, I personally beseeched the representative of Human Rights Watch – to support a vote against the NGO Zionism is Racism declaration.
They refused – for the alleged greater good then too.
The same approach was never suggested by human rights organizations to South
African blacks and the anti-apartheid movement – for good reason.
The road to hell is paved with the cries of the insignificant, the marginal and irrelevant.
Fallacy #3: Jewish complaints are an attempt to protect Israel from any criticism. Jews shout antisemitism to avoid legitimate scrutiny.
The Response: Ken Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch told the
Jerusalem Post: “there is a cottage industry of people out there who try to accuse of bias
those who criticize Israel’s human-rights record not because the criticisms are
unwarranted but as a way of simply defending Israel from any criticism.”
Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has said: “…some regard
any criticism of Israel as anti-semitic.” But “Israel’s supporters” should not “use the
charge of antisemitism to stifle legitimate discussion.” And the Deputy Director of the
Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Craig Mokhiber recently wrote
about my criticism of his racist Israel allegations: “I assume that the picque…comes
from her ideological conviction that any discussion of Israel’s human rights record is
Such gibberish is the proverbial straw man. That Israel can do no wrong and deserves no criticism is a fiction never uttered by anyone, anywhere. There is a difference between legitimate criticism and the application of standards applied nowhere else.
Fallacy #4: Anti-Zionism is not antisemitism. There is a constant effort to urge
the Jewish diaspora to forsake their brethren in favor of the global brotherhood of man.
The Response: The anti-Zionism in human rights circles is not enigmatic. As we
have heard: Judaization is a crime; the Jewishness of a Jewish state is wrong; Zionists
stole the land by gratuitously slaughtering pregnant women; murderous Israeli soldiers
seek to oppress; Jews want racial domination over Palestinians; Israel is engaged in
apartheid; and the ultimate slander, Israelis are analogous to Nazis.
Martin Luther King recognized hate when he heard it, and stated in a now famous 1968 appearance at Harvard: “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You are talking anti-Semitism.”
Zionism, or Jewish statehood, is the realization of the self-determination of the
Jewish people. In their historical homeland. Continually inhabited, in fewer and greater
numbers due to circumstances beyond their control. For thousands of years. In today’s
human rights universe, however, Jewish statehood and self-determination is an inherent
evil destined to oppress and harm the well-being of those amongst them, and debilitating
to the advancement of the people of other nations. That Jews are a people incapable of
self-government compatible with democratic rights and freedoms – the only people on
earth suffering from this inescapable affliction – is a lie. It is also antisemitism.
Fallacy #5: The outcomes of UN human rights mechanisms may not be to our
liking, but that is international democracy at work. It is not for the West to dictate right
answers to the rest of the globe.
The Response: In the course of his failed reform efforts, Secretary-General Kofi
Annan complained: “we all have to admit that the [security] council can be more
democratic and more representative…There is a democracy deficit in the UN governance
that has to be corrected.” What he didn’t advocate by way of reform was that Council
members actually be democratic. On the contrary, what democracy means at the UN is
idealizing the General Assembly, where less than half of the 192 members are fully free
democracies. The Chinese explained such bogus global democracy in a 2005 paper this
way: “the General Assembly is an important body of democratic decision-making” and
the “UN [must] observe the following principles…non-interference in internal affairs.”
In other words, tyranny is as likely to emerge from the UN majority as right answers.
What has in fact surfaced, from the majority of countries who have in common a
desire to avoid external scrutiny, is an aversion to universal rights. Self-styled global
“democrats” flaunt instead, moral, cultural and religious particularities. The practical
implications of such priorities are exemplified by Saudi Arabia, a current member of the
UN Human Rights Council. The Saudi Vice-Minister for Human Rights told the Council
in March “…human rights principles ensured the respect for peoples identities, peoples
who refused to be dictated and who held on to their special cultures.” Saudi human rights
reports therefore say: “Lawmaking in an Islamic state proceeds from the Islamic
Shariah...Islam holds that full likeness between men and women is contrary to the reality
of their being...” Accordingly, last year a Saudi court sentenced a 19-year old woman to
prison and 200 lashes after she had been gang-raped, for the crime of having been found
by the rapists in a car with a male friend who was not her relative. This is “cultural particularities” at work.
On June 16th at the Human Rights Council an NGO pointed to practices in Islamic
states, such as honor killings, marriage of very young girls, and the stoning of women,
and urged Islamic religious authorities to play a leadership role in ending these practices.
Representatives of Islamic states – Egypt, Iran, Pakistan – immediately objected to the
statement as an “attempt to link bad practices” to Islam. The President then ruled that
henceforth any “evaluation of a religious creed, law or document” would never be permitted at the Council.
Global democracy in action is the tyranny of non-democracies.
Fallacy #6: Western democracies – including Israel – are the real enemies of human rights.
The Response: The foes of human rights know that the best defense is a good
offence – so rather than addressing those who violate human rights in the name of Islam,
they allege the real problem is the bigotry of non-Muslims. They are not talking about
isolated and certainly wrong incidents of xenophobia – they speak of a deliberate global
Western-inspired plot against the whole of Islam. They call it Islamophobia. As Egypt
told the Human Rights Council last September, with regards to the Danish cartoons
“…the offensive publication of portraits of the Prophet Mohamed…lead to, not only hurting the religious feelings of more than a billion people, but also their freedom of religion and their right to respect of their religion.”
The freedom of religion of a billion people has been gravely harmed by a few cartoons in
a remote newspaper? These kinds of remarks – now daily fodder in the human rights
world – are nothing short of lethal demagoguery.
The human rights offensive reaches a high-water mark when it comes to Israel.
Pakistan articulated the mindset before the Human Rights Council on June 16th: “Israel’s
forcible occupation is the root cause of all human rights issues in the Palestinian territories.”
Not the terrorists who deliberately operate in the midst of a civilian population,
using their family and friends as human shields. Not the bigots who feed their children –
in schools, on television, in textbooks – the daily bread of intolerance and hate for their
neighbors. Not the Arab nations that have cynically kept Palestinians as refugees for
three generations instead of offering them citizenship and its benefits. Not the war
launched by Arab states that rejected the UN partition plan and the creation of Israel in
1948. And not all the wars and attempts at annihilation that rejectionist forces have
launched ever since.
But then one might expect the killers to blame their victims for their own demise.
Fallacy #7: The glass is half full and not half empty. There is progress in the
human rights world. Look how far we’ve come since the Nuremberg Tribunals and the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights was first adopted. The Response: How far indeed. Genocide in Rwanda and Sudan without intervention. Millions of women suffering genital mutilation. Billions without elementary democratic freedoms. And Jews without human rights.
The Nuremberg Tribunals taught us crimes are not committed by abstract entities,
but today just naming and shaming abusers is widely criticized as uncooperative and
The stranglehold of cultural relativism ensures that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights could never be adopted today.
Fallacy #8: The UN is a harmless talking shop. At worst it is a place to blow off steam. Dialogue is always good.
The Response: Iranian President Ahmadinejad would agree. In the late 1990’s
Iran initiated the idea of a “Dialogue among Civilizations.” Naturally, Iranian authorities
consider their own regime – in which stoning, public hanging, and cross-amputation of
feet and hands are legally-sanctioned punishments – as one of those civilizations.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour experienced the idea
of a cost-free dialogue with Iran first-hand. Last September she visited Tehran to attend a “Human Rights and Cultural Diversity” conference. She sat in the front row for
Ahmadinejad’s speech, during which he said:
“…it is a right for the most righteous to be considered as the best humans….[S]ome powers…think of nothing but destroying the traditions and customs of different nations in the world in order to keep them under their illegal sway…The…story of Palestinians has been going on for the last 60 years. The usurper Zionist regime has continued to exist through murder…[B]y the grace of God Almighty…the nuclear issue is closed…[T]he Non-Aligned Movement’s struggle against…racism, Zionism…has to be praised and lauded.”
The day after she listened attentively and held dialogues with his officials, the regime
executed 21 people, stringing up the bodies on cranes in public places. Arbour had lent
an enemy of human rights credibility and thereby encouraged his pathological behavior,
rather than inhibited it. In other words, talk isn’t cheap at all.
Moreover, many international actors evidently cannot talk and walk at the same
time. It has been over five years since the International Atomic Energy Agency first
reported that Tehran had failed to comply with its obligations under the Nuclear Non-
Proliferation Treaty. Since that time there have been a few baby steps by the Security
Council, while the jawing continues between European Union representatives and Iran.
In the meantime, the genocidal plans of Ahmadinejad loom ever larger.
A civilized dialogue with an anti-civilization regime has brought us closer to a military
confrontation, not farther away – as the military option fast becomes the only means to
stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Fallacy #9: And last, but not least: The corruption of the human rights world may leave Israel the worse off, but the rest of us have been spared.
The Response: The lessons of the Holocaust have in fact never been learnt. The fate of Israel does, and will, affect all freedom-loving people.
When the World Court found the UN Charter’s self-defense provisions did not apply to non-state actors, the ability of every democratic society to combat terrorism was diminished.
In 2007 the UN human rights regime put Israel at the top of its list of offenders,
but the United States was fourth – tied with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and
Australia was 20th, criticized more frequently for human rights violations than Syria at 21
and Libya and Zimbabwe at 22.
Because the 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference believe
blowing up Israelis and Americans in the name of self-determination is not terrorism,
they have successfully blocked the adoption of a comprehensive convention against
terrorism and prevented the UN’s lead counter terrorism agency – the Counter-Terrorism
Committee – to this day from naming a single terrorist, terrorist organization, or state
sponsor of terrorism.
When the centerpiece of the UN’s anti-racism agenda – the Durban conference –
was hijacked to promote a Zionism-is-racism campaign, the credibility of all anti-racism
efforts at the UN suffered. Durban II will not only be bad for Jews; it will be an attack
on freedom of expression, period.
Pakistan declared this past April at the Durban preparatory conference: “the most
serious manifestation of racism is the democratic legitimization of racism and
xenophobia.” The inversion of human rights has come full circle, having manufactured
not only the Israeli Nazi but also the democratic fascist. UN investigator Dugard made the Orwellian nature of the human rights world particularly plain when he said in a 2007 report:
“For years the occupation of Palestine and apartheid in South Africa vied for
attention…In 1994 apartheid came to an end…the OPT has become a test for the
West, a test by which its commitment to human rights is to be judged. If the West fails this test, it can hardly expect the developing world to address human rights violations seriously in its own countries…” In other words, why should Sudan stop genocide? Why should Zimbabwe stop murdering its own people? Why should China grant anybody freedom of speech?
According to the human rights intelligensia, unless and until the Jewish state is rendered
defenseless or defeated, the protection of the human rights of the 6 billion people in the
developing world is on hold.
Israel – as Jewish scapegoats have been over the centuries – is the ultimate diversionary tactic.
Antisemitism has become the bread and butter of the human rights movement – as
much to the detriment of the movement as to Jews. The enemies of human rights have
taken control of the global mechanisms created to oppose them. The global institution
intended to lead and inspire has been morally neutered. And solutions for vast numbers
of victims of human rights abuse are in abeyance until a Jewish state disappears.
Jews, however, cannot change the ending of this saga alone. Democracies must
be convinced to reject moral relativism; name, shame, and sanction the real villains; deny
global platforms to the opponents of equality and dignity; use the label antisemitism
every time it fits; and stand with Israel against the antisemitism that masquerades as
Human rights are the most powerful ideological currency of our time. Unless the
free people of this earth take back the nomenclature, the institutions and the
implementation tools of human rights, I fear we will witness the destruction of Israel, if
not by lethal force, then by lethal politics.
Delivered as the Gandel Oration,
B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission,
Melbourne & Sydney, Australia,
Director, Touro Center for Human / Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute / Professor, York University.