UN Palestinian Forum Promotes BDS, Claims Israel ‘Worse Than Apartheid South Africa’
A UN forum on the Palestinian issue on Friday provided a platform for anti-Zionist activists to promote the BDS campaign, claim that Israel practices “apartheid worse than South Africa,” and even – in the case of one Israeli Jewish speaker – proffer a formal apology for having taken up Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return.
The second day of the two-day forum marking “Fifty Years of Occupation” was designed to showcase the perspectives of Palestinian NGOs and their international supporters. Hosted by the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP), the forum was earlier this week strongly condemned by Israeli diplomats at the UN, who stated that some of the speakers were connected to terrorist groups including Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres – who declared in April that the denial of Israel’s right to exist is a “modern form of antisemitism” – earlier distanced himself from the meeting. Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for Guterres, told reporters on Thursday that the forum “is not something that is being sponsored by the Secretariat. I think any questions as to the invitees and the way the meeting is organized should be directed to the members of the committee.”
Friday’s speakers did not hold back from recycling the favored themes of anti-Zionist activists, such as the analogy between Israel and the white supremacist regime in South Africa, and the familiar accusation that expressing concern about antisemitism is designed to mute criticism of Israeli policy. Allusions as well as explicit references to the supposedly overwhelming power of pro-Israel groups in the US were frequently made, with the moderator of the final panel – Helena Cobban, a veteran pro-Palestinian activist – telling the audience that “the name of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People needs to be restated again and again. And that needs restating in this city (New York) and this country.”
Serviced by the member states-funded Division for Palestinian Rights, the committee’s history goes back to November 1975, when it was created as part of a series of Soviet-inspired UN General Assembly resolutions condemning Israel — including the notorious resolution 3379, which declared Zionism to be a form of “racism and racial discrimination.”
Cobban’s panel featured the Palestinian parliamentarian Mustafa Barghouthi, who began by claiming that Israel had assembled “a much worse form of apartheid than what prevailed in South Africa.” Emphasizing the “legitimacy” of “all forms of popular resistance,” and without explicitly condemning Palestinian violence against Israelis, Barghouthi stated that the final goal was “the end of occupation and apartheid.”
“Whether its two states or one state, that doesn’t matter,” Barghouti said.
Barghouti then asserted, “The Zionist plan has failed. There are more Palestinians than Jewish Israelis. They could not get us out of Palestine.” He then accused Israel of waging “psychological terror” against international supporters of the Palestinian cause.
Jessica Nevo, a representative of Zochrot, an Israeli anti-Zionist NGO, praised Cobban for mentioning the word “Naqba” – Arabic for “catastrophe,” and the term used by many Palestinians to describe the circumstances through which Israel was created in 1948 – in her introductory remarks. Criticizing the forum’s focus on “50 years of occupation,” Nevo described herself as one of the “1948 people” – a term for those who believe that the solution to the conflict is the “return” of the descendants of the Arab refugees, and the replacement of Israel with a single Palestinian state.
Nevo then informed the audience that she had arrived in Israel in 1976, when she and her family had fled the military dictatorship in their native Argentina. Arguing that this was achieved at the expense of native Palestinians, she declared, “I want to apologize for making use of the Law of Return.”
Other speakers included Rebecca Vilkomerson, head of “Jewish Voice for Peace” – a pro-BDS group that receives the bulk of its financing from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Vilkomerson enthusiastically promoted BDS, describing it as a “set of tactics” that aim to “tip the balance of power.”
At a previous panel, several speakers reinforced the claim that expressions of concern about antisemitism in the context of the Palestinian conflict with Israel are in reality a device to shut down criticism of Israel. Wesam Ahmed of Al Haq – a Palestinian legal NGO with alleged ties to the PFLP – asserted, “We must not be silenced by those who say criticism of Israeli policy is antisemitic.”
Arguing that the term “antisemitism” was only applicable in the case of animosity towards the “Jewish faith,” Ahmed called for a distinction to be made between “Judaism” and the “Zionist ideology that led to the creation of Israel.”
Hagai El Ad of the Israeli NGO B’Tselem accused the Israeli government of equating “antisemitism with opposing the occupation,” going on to assert that the Israeli leaders were “sufficiently cynical” to “undermine the struggle against genuine antisemitism in order to sustain the occupation.”
This week’s forum is part of a much larger infrastructure at the United Nations that promotes Palestinian propaganda against Israel. In testimony to Congress on Wednesday, the US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, again highlighted the institutionalized bias at the UN Human Rights Council which devotes a separate permanent agenda item to alleged Israeli violations.
“You don’t have it on North Korea, you don’t have it on Syria, you don’t have it on Venezuela,” Haley said. “It really is nothing more than abusive to have it on Israel.”