AJC CEO David Harris Oped featured in the Times of Israel
|High Time to Stop Treating Israel Differently
The Times of Israel
By David Harris
December 28, 2020
The recent spate of annual anti-Israel resolutions at the UN is a telling reminder that Israel is treated according to a totally different standard than all other countries in the international system.
Of course, Israel deserves attention and scrutiny, as does every other nation. But it also merits equal treatment – nothing more, nothing less.
First, Israel is the only state whose capital city, Jerusalem, with which the Jewish people have been umbilically linked for more than 3,000 years, is not recognized by almost all other countries, with the notable exception of the United States and a handful of others.
Imagine the absurdity of this. Foreign diplomats live in Tel Aviv while conducting virtually all their business in Jerusalem, an hour’s drive away, where the prime minister’s office, the Knesset (Parliament), the Supreme Court, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are all located.
In fact, look at listings of world cities, including places of birth in passports (with the exception again of the U.S., thanks to the current administration), and you’ll see something striking – Paris, France; Tokyo, Japan; Pretoria, South Africa; Lima, Peru; and Jerusalem, sans country – orphaned, if you will.
Second, Israel is the only UN member state whose very right to exist is under constant challenge.
Notwithstanding the fact that Israel embodies an age-old connection with the Jewish people, as repeatedly cited in the most widely read book in the world, the Bible; that it was reborn based on the recommendations of both the League of Nations and UN; and that it has been a UN member since 1949, there’s a relentless chorus denying Israel’s very political legitimacy.
No one would dare assail the right to exist of many other countries whose basis for statehood is infinitely more questionable than Israel’s, such as those that were created by brute force, occupation, or imperialist mapmakers. Just look around at how many nations fit those categories – including, by the way, quite a few Arab countries. Why, then, is it open hunting season only on Israel? Could it possibly have anything to do with the fact that it’s the one Jewish-majority country in the world?
Third, Israel is the only UN member state that’s been targeted for annihilation by another UN member state.
Think about it. The leadership of Iran, together with Iran-funded proxies in Lebanon and Gaza, has repeatedly called for wiping Israel off the map. Is there any other country facing such a stated goal of genocidal destruction? Meanwhile, a majority of UN member states continue to conduct business as usual with Tehran, as if this threat to another nation was either welcome or somehow irrelevant.
Fourth, the UN has two agencies dealing with refugees.
One, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), focuses on all the world’s refugee populations, except for the Palestinians. The other, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA), handles only the Palestinians.
But the difference goes beyond the anomaly of two structures, two bureaucracies, and two budgets. In fact, they have two strikingly different mandates.
UNHCR seeks to resettle refugees; UNRWA does not. When, in 1951, John Blanford, UNRWA’s then-director, proposed resettling up to 250,000 refugees in nearby Arab countries, those countries reacted with rage and refused, leading to his departure. The message got through. No UN official since has pushed for resettlement.
Moreover, the UNRWA and UNHCR definitions of a refugee differ markedly. Whereas the UNHCR services only those who’ve actually fled their homelands, the UNRWA definition covers “the descendants of persons who became refugees in 1948,” without any generational limitations.
Fifth, Israel is the only country that has won all its major wars for survival and self-defense, yet is confronted by some defeated adversaries who have insisted on dictating the terms of peace.
In doing so, ironically, they’ve found support from a number of countries which, victorious in war themselves, demanded – and, yes, got – border adjustments. A quick glance at, say, earlier maps of Europe and today’s amply illustrates the point.
Sixth, Israel is the only country in the world with a separate – and permanent – agenda item, #7, at the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.
No other member state, including serial human-rights violators like Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela, gets its own agenda item. Only the sole liberal democracy in the Middle East is treated in this blatantly biased manner because that’s the way it works – the bad guys circle the wagons to protect one another, and, at the same time, gang up on Israel, creating an automatic majority against it.
Seventh, Israel is the only country condemned by name at the World Health Organization as a “violator” of health rights.
This canard happens despite the fact that Israel has achieved one of the world’s highest life expectancy rates for all its citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish alike; is among the very first medical responders to humanitarian crises wherever they may occur; and is daily advancing the frontiers of medicine for everyone, including in response to COVID-19, something that can’t be said for too many other nations.
Eighth, Israel is the only country that’s the continuous target of three standing UN bodies established, staffed, and funded solely for the purpose of advancing the Palestinian cause and bashing Israel – the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People; and the Division for Palestinian Rights in the UN’s Department of Political Affairs.
Ninth, Israel is the only country annually targeted by double-digit UN General Assembly resolutions and countless measures in other UN bodies, such as the Human Rights Council.
Indeed, astonishingly, every year Israel is pretty much on the receiving end of more such efforts than the other 192 UN member states combined. No one can seriously argue that this is remotely warranted, but it’s a reality because in every UN body except the Security Council, where each of the five permanent members has a veto, it’s all about majority voting.
When close to two-thirds of the world’s nations belong to the Non-Aligned Movement, and when member states in recent years elected chairs from Iran and Venezuela, that just about says it all.
And tenth, Israel is the only state targeted by the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement.
Has anyone seen any significant campus activity that targets true human rights offenders, including some in Israel’s neighborhood, who have dropped chemically-laced barrel bombs on civilians; taken aims at Christians; denied Palestinians full rights; persecuted LGBT communities; and used capital punishment, even for minors, with abandon?
Would a student government official be forced to resign over her support for the existence of any country other than Israel, as happened at the University of Southern California? Would any campus tolerate a student senate president who likens any other country’s government to Nazi Germany, as happened with Israel at Florida State?
Have the Democratic Socialists of America tried to prevent New York City Council members from traveling to any country other than Israel?
Has anyone seen any flotillas or flytillas organized by European far-left groups that don’t involve an anti-Israel angle?
Has anyone seen movements demanding entertainers pull out from scheduled performances in any country except Israel?
Turkey, to take just one example, has brazenly and illegally occupied more than one-third of the island nation of Cyprus for 46 years, deployed an estimated 40,000 Turkish troops there, and transferred countless settlers from Anatolia, yet not a peep about Ankara from those who purport to act in the name of “justice” and against “occupation.”
Given political realities, tackling any of these instances of egregious double standards and blatant hypocrisy can be a daunting challenge. And, still worse, this list is not complete.
The old advertisement proclaimed that you don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s Jewish rye bread.
Well, surely, you don’t have to be a pro-Israel activist to be troubled by the grotesquely unjust treatment of Israel. All it takes is a capacity for moral outrage that things like this are happening in today’s world.
David Harris is the CEO of American Jewish Committee (AJC). Please join 77,800 others and follow him on Twitter @DavidHarrisAJC.
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