Antisemitism at the United Nations Cannot Be Ignored
JNS.org – It was just another day at the office for UN officials. As it has done innumerable times in the last 50 years, on June 12 the General Assembly devoted an entire day of debate, procedural wrangling, and voting to an effort to condemn Israel. As was the case with almost every previous effort of this kind, it succeeded.
The resolution in this case was one that condemned Israel for the violence in recent weeks along the border with Gaza. It placed the sole blame on Israel, which, it said, used “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force” against Palestinians who were attempting to destroy the border fence and cross into Israel. For good measure, among a laundry list of anti-Israel talking points, the Jewish state was blamed for the plight of the people of Gaza. Additionally, the resolution called for the end of the blockade of the Gaza Strip by both Israel and Egypt.
While it claimed to be motivated by sympathy for the Palestinians who died, nowhere in its text was any mention of the fact that the demonstrations have not been peaceful, but were led by armed militants throwing rocks, fire bombs, and grenades, as well as launching incendiary kites aimed at burning Israeli fields and forests. Nor did it mention the role of the Hamas terrorist group in organizing an attempt to breach what is, as far as the international community is concerned, an international border. Also left out was the fact that the purpose of this so-called “March of Return” — which has been happening on a weekly basis for months — is to eradicate the Jewish state.
America’s Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley valiantly strove to add a paragraph to the resolution condemning Hamas, but although dozens of countries were ready to support it, a coalition of 100 nations either voted against or abstained on her amendment, causing its defeat. In the end, the unbalanced anti-Israel measure passed with an astonishing 120 votes in favor, 45 abstentions, and only eight opposed. The eight who voted no were the United States, Israel, Australia, and the four Pacific nations of the Marshall Islands — Micronesia, Nauru, Togo, and the Solomon Islands.
But while Haley was applauded for her eloquent denunciation of the resolution, the reaction from most friends of Israel was exasperated indifference.
The General Assembly is just a talking shop with no power to enforce its anti-Israel screeds. The same goes for various UN agencies, such as the Human Rights Council, which are similarly biased and spend a disproportionate amount of their time scheming against Israel rather than dealing with genuine human-rights crises like, for example, the utter catastrophe in Syria, with 500,000 of its citizens killed in the last seven years.
This is deplorable, and it isn’t vitiated by the humanitarian work done by the United Nations on other issues. But it’s difficult to sustain much anger about it. We’re so used to such bias in every new UN resolution — whether this one about Gaza or even more dangerous ones like the condemnation of Israel by the Security Council that President Barack Obama orchestrated — that it’s hard to separate them from the general din of anti-Zionist prejudice emanating from Turtle Bay or the UN’s headquarters in Geneva.
Every now and then, the United States sends an ambassador to New York to stand up against this tide of prejudice. Figures like Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, John Bolton, and now Haley earned a place of honor in the hearts of friends of Israel with their courage and refusal to treat antisemitism as normal. But they’ve been the exceptions.
Yet even most of us who care about these issues tend to treat the UN’s actions as mere rhetoric. While this is true, we’re wrong to treat days like June 12 as deplorable but not worth getting all that upset about. While what goes on in the United Nations is, in a sense, just talk, it’s far more dangerous than that.
What we forget about these exercises in hypocrisy is that they give official imprimatur to antisemitism. As Obama’s State Department certified, a “rising tide of anti-Semitism” is sweeping across Europe and Southeast Asia. Arab and Islamic hatred for Israel, as well as some Western elites’ belief that the Jews are the one people on the planet who aren’t entitled to a homeland, drive this trend.
If other countries are willing to give Hamas a pass for terror and bash Israel for defending its border in a way no different (if not far more humane) than almost all of the nations condemning it, then this is an act of prejudice against the one Jewish state on the planet.
To note this fact is not to assert that Israel is perfect or above criticism. But when a world body attacks Israel alone and vilifies it for doing what any other nation would do, that is called hate.
The Obama administration treated the United Nations like a sacred multilateral cow. But it’s time for the Trump administration to put even more pressure on the United Nations that it already has done, cutting the US allocations that keep it going.
By regarding everyday hate as ordinary, we are, even if only because of exhaustion and a sense of futility, enabling it. That has to stop. We must never allow ourselves to get used to UN-certified Jew-hatred. The United Nations must be made to understand that decent persons won’t tolerate this practice indefinitely without consequences.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS — The Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at @jonathans_tobin.