Anne Frank has been quoted as saying, “Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.” That is precisely what happened for one rare day this week at the United Nations, the international body that was once instrumental in creating the state of Israel but is now being used by Israel’s enemies as an instrument to destroy the Jewish state. A ray of light shone through the darkness of anti-Semitism that too often descends on the UN’s chambers.
Over 2,000 representatives from organizations, pro-Israel activists, diplomats and students filled the United Nations General Assembly hall on March 29th to speak out against the unrelenting campaign of hatred launched against Israel at the United Nations and on college campuses around the world. The event was sponsored by Israel’s Mission to the UN, the World Jewish Congress and various pro-Israel organizations. The event focused in particular on the evils of the so-called boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) movement against Israel. The BDS movement perpetuates the lies promulgated by Palestinian rejectionists and their supporters, defaming Israel as a so-called “apartheid state” that is allegedly committing “genocide” on the Palestinian people. The BDS campaign seeks the liquidation of the Jewish state of Israel, not a genuine two-state solution of two states for two peoples living side by side in peace and security.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon opened the anti-BDS event by declaring, “The halls of the UN are now being infiltrated by the boycott movement. The UN’s Human Rights Council is creating a blacklist of companies and corporations operating in parts of Israel. This is pure antisemitism and together with the US, our greatest ally, we will keep fighting until BDS is eliminated.”
The US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said, “The effort to delegitimize the state of Israel being waged on college campuses and the anti-Israel obsession at the UN are one in the same. They are both extensions of an ancient hatred. And how tragic is it that, of all the countries in the world to condemn for human rights violations, these voices choose to single out Israel. Iran, Syria, North Korea and other barbaric regimes are excused by the BDS movement. It makes no sense. And it has no connection to any reasonable definition of justice.”
The UN General Assembly hall, where the anti-BDS movement was being held, has often been the scene of vile expressions of anti-Israel sentiment that seek to delegitimize the very idea of a Jewish state. “From 2012 through 2015,” for instance, according to UN Watch, “the United Nations General Assembly has adopted a total of 97 resolutions criticizing countries; 83 out of those 97 have been against Israel (86%).”
The UN Security Council gave the Palestinians last December everything they have asked for when it adopted the notorious Resolution 2334, which the Obama administration shamefully refused to veto. It ratified the Palestinians’ demand for boundaries of a Palestinian state along pre-June 1967 lines to include the holiest Jewish sites within the future Palestinian capital of “East Jerusalem,” and declared all Jewish “settlements” (i.e., residences) in the West Bank and “East Jerusalem” established there since June 1967 “a flagrant violation under international law.” The Security Council resolution also implicitly laid the basis for BDS. It called for all member states “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.”
Demonstrating even more explicit support for the BDS movement, the grossly misnamed UN Human Rights Council later this year plans to follow up on its previous request for a database of businesses involved with Israeli settlements, for the purpose of instituting a boycott blacklist.
After attending the anti-BDS event, which did such a good job in both defying and defining the darkness of anti-Semitism too often found at the United Nations, I attended the daily press briefing by the office of the spokesperson for the UN Secretary General. I asked what the Secretary General thought of the BDS movement. The deputy spokesperson punted, replying that it was “a question on which different Member States have different views.”
I persisted by asking whether the Secretary General saw any validity in the criticism by some that, in singling out the Jewish state of Israel, the BDS movement was engaging in discrimination on the basis of both national origin and religion. “No, I’m sure that, even in this room, you’ll find different views on this particular topic,” the deputy spokesperson responded. “And, certainly, among the Member States as a whole, there’s different views about the effectiveness of boycotts, of divestment, of sanctions as… in particular, as it applies to Israel and to the question of the Palestinians.”
Finally, when I asked the deputy spokesperson, in another way, if the Secretary General was “neutral on whether BDS targeted against one Member State in the UN, the only democracy in the Middle East, has validity or not,” the deputy spokesperson refused to even accept as fact the premise that Israel is a democracy. “No, there are things that are facts and there are things that are opinions,” he declared.
For the record, I referred the deputy spokesperson to freedom rankings and objective criteria in determining whether a country has a free democratic form of government.
In fact, Freedom House described Israel’s status as “free.” While it has its imperfections, Israel scored well on various criteria:
“Israeli elections are free and fair,” Freedom House concluded. “Israel hosts a diverse and competitive multiparty system.” Some Palestinian citizens of Israel vote or run as candidates.
“The Israeli media are vibrant and free to criticize government policy.”
“While Israel defines itself as a Jewish state, freedom of religion is largely respected.”
“Israel has an active civil society, and demonstrations are widely permitted and typically peaceful, though groups committed to the destruction of Israel are banned from demonstrating.”
“The judiciary is independent and regularly rules against the government.”
No other country in the Middle East comes anywhere close to Israel’s record as a free democratic state. Yet the United Nations office of the spokesperson for the Secretary General cannot abide this truth or take a stand against a modern form of anti-Semitism, the BDS movement. To the contrary, various parts of the UN are encouraging the forces behind BDS. It will take a long time, if ever, for the light to truly shine through such darkness.