Durban IV, held this year on Sept. 22 and marking the 20th anniversary of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, turned out to be a debacle. This was expected.
But the lies that it propagated, like those of its predecessors, did not begin in 2001, with the first such gathering in South Africa. The world should have seen what was coming back in 1975 when the “Zionism is racism” mantra was introduced with the passage of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 3379.
Indeed, Durban was and remains a most regrettable creation of the United Nations.
It is high time for the United Nations to reject useless distractions from its mission of promoting humanity and peace. It must simply prohibit this hateful commemorative event from happening again.
If member countries want to hold a festival of hate, they should do so without the blessing or the name of the United Nations. To go through this dishonest exercise of announcing something in the name of fighting racism, which prompts at least 20 Western countries correctly to boycott it, while others attend under political pressure, is ridiculous.
The United Nations should just save itself the embarrassment of having its name attached to this fiasco. The countries firmly committed to Durban are those that have called for Israel’s destruction. Many of them commiserate with Iran.
“Zionism is racism” is just a catchy slogan. Of course, there’s no truth in it. Zionism is not racism. The ancestral Jewish homeland, like Judaism itself, is built and based on a code of humanitarian behavior that is reflected today in Israel’s richly diverse population, one conceived in freedom, free will and mutual respect. The rest, let’s be honest, is politics and opinion. As in any democracy, Israel feasts on political debate. Its history reflects such energy.
For millennia, expanding civilizations made the Holy Land the prize of conquests. Jewish settlement there in an industrial world increased in the 1800s, even before Theodor Herzl launched the Zionist movement.
For 73 years, the modern State of Israel has blossomed as a legal, sovereign nation and is the foundation of thousands of years of the history and practice of Judaism.
In addition to Zionism not being racism, Israel is not an “apartheid” state. The mere utterance of words doesn’t make it so.
The construction of a security wall or other security provisions does not make it so. The BDS movement, another demeaning, delegitimizing campaign, is mostly harmful economically to Palestinians and enemies who perpetuate destructive “from the river to the sea” rhetoric. Israel does not exist on illegally occupied land. Research the Six-Day War (1967) and the Yom Kippur War (1973).
These propagandistic themes are bogus. They persist without any basis in fact. Neither do such messaging efforts help the ambition, vision or hope for a Palestinian state. Any effort to guide or assist Palestinians toward statehood is getting a sneak preview in Gaza and parts of the West Bank (Areas A and B). They are not managing well, but not because of Israel. They are failing because of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, which maintain the failed ambitions since the U.N.’s Partition Plan.
Durban will forever be known as a failure, the utter antithesis of the United Nations. So embarrassingly flawed is its heinous mission that it raises one question: Why allow these commemorations to occur at all? What is the purpose of the United Nations convening “hate fests” against a country that, in fact, delivers so many positive contributions to repairing the world? Consider the following:
The answer is as simple as it is obvious. There is no purpose in convening any Durban commemorative event. None. It is a waste of time and resources.
Surely, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, a man of peace, understands how such events linked to Durban are counterproductive. In the same way that UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) removed the Carnival of Aalst in Belgium from its World Heritage list in 2019, the General Assembly and its agencies should disengage from anti-Zionist festivals.
Such events are poisoning minds. As Durban IV is now part of the past, perhaps the U.N. can exercise its power to halt Durban V.
Read President Kaufman's analysis in JNS.
Charles O. Kaufman is president of B'nai B'rith International.
Lebanon’s new prime minister, Najib Mikati, made it clear in a press conference last week that he would do everything in his power to reverse his country’s descent into economic chaos. He said he’d cooperate with anyone and everyone to transform Lebanon’s current crisis, “with the exception of Israel, of course.”
Notwithstanding Israel’s offer of humanitarian assistance made weeks ago, Mikati’s throwaway dismissal of contact with his neighbor to the south is the stuff from which decades of Arab rejectionism of peace with Israel was made. It is a remnant of the Arab League’s “Three No’s” declared in Khartoum in 1967 in the aftermath of the Six-Day War: “No peace, no recognition, no negotiations” with Israel. Full stop.
Major breaches in that Arab League wall began with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s historic peace agreement in 1979, and then the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty signed by Jordan’s King Hussein and Israel’s Yitzhak Rabin in 1994. But early optimism that set in after these two agreements dissipated with the intifadas from 1987-1991 and 2000-2005.
With two anniversaries in the history of Middle East peacemaking upon us this week, it’s important to praise those who have taken steps to break with nihilism and rejection, and to call out those who have made a business of perpetuating violence and hatred.
I was among those present on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993, for the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
There was a sense of incredulity and of “did we ever think we’d see this day” in the air as the principals, led by US President Bill Clinton, and observed by Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, signed the appropriate documents.
I did not have a front row seat, but I was close enough to see the pained look on Rabin’s face as Clinton encouraged the Israeli prime minister and PLO leader Yasser Arafat to shake hands. Not pained because of the historic moment, but most likely because Arafat’s hands were soiled by 30 years of terrorism, and responsible for the deaths of so many Israelis in some of the most heinous acts imaginable.
It had to have been one of the most difficult moments of Rabin’s life — and it showed. I’m sure many in the crowd were asking themselves if Arafat could be trusted.
The other anniversary, on September 15, will mark one year since the signing of the Abraham Accords, on the same White House lawn. Many of those in the assembled crowd had been there in 1993, as well, though this time, they were wearing masks because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There was also the same feeling of expectation and optimism, as President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain appeared on the White House South Lawn balcony, then descended the staircase to sign the Abraham Accords normalization agreement.
From my seat, I saw not pained looks on the faces of the principals, but a sense of breakthrough and accomplishment. In a way, the signing ceremony lingered, as if in slow motion, to allow all those present to savor the moment.
In the weeks that followed, Sudan, and Morocco — with its iconic Jewish history and ties to Israel’s hundreds of thousands of Jews born in that country and their descendants — joined in, pledging to normalize relations with Israel.
If there was anything discordant at all about the events of a year ago, it is because for the previous nearly three decades, the Palestinian issue was cast as being the indispensable icebreaker in Middle East diplomacy. It was seen as the Gordian Knot preventing Israel’s acceptance in the region. Policy maker after policy maker, in the US, in Europe, and at the United Nations, perpetuated this conventional wisdom. It became a mantra that guided any number of failed initiatives to push an Israeli-Palestinian agreement — by hook or by crook.
But, like the carefully executed back-channel Israeli-Egyptian contacts that produced the treaty between those two countries, forward-looking diplomats in the Gulf and in Israel saw solid reasons to find common cause to bring them together: a hegemonistic Iran and any number of economic and other joint ventures that just made plain good diplomatic sense.
The Oslo Accords held the same promise, but that was not to be.
Arafat and then Mahmoud Abbas continuously played a double game, at times paying lip service to the idea of negotiations, but all the while making it abundantly clear that they were unwilling to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, keeping their hand in the business of demonizing and delegitimizing Israel at the United Nations, and either signing off on terrorist acts against Israel, or rewarding those (and their families) who carry them out.
The words “good will” were never part of either leader’s lexicon. Since Oslo, an entire generation of Palestinians has been raised on a succession of false hopes and expectations; on hatred of Israel and of Jews; and on zero-sum demands by leaders who themselves have become enriched by their titled positions and political clout.
In the past year alone, trade between Israel and the UAE and between Israel and Bahrain has grown exponentially. Banking, cyber security, and environmental quality agreements have been signed, and academic institutions are partnering with each other. An important agreement to advance the quality of healthcare, including pandemic research, has also been signed by Israel and the UAE.
But perhaps the most important developments of all have been in the people-to-people and getting-to-know-you realm. Exchange students are studying at universities in the Abraham Accords countries. Memoranda of Understanding on combating antisemitism and on Holocaust education have been signed with the UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco. Air links have been established between Israel and these new partners; hundreds of thousands of Israelis have already traveled to all three destinations, and the prospect of thousands of visitors in the other direction — to Israel — shows promise as well, the pandemic notwithstanding.
It is currently impossible to write a paragraph about the Palestinian issue with any of the same upbeat sense of the future. The leaders in Ramallah have seen this parade passing by and it seemingly hasn’t opened any eyes about their own condition. They are mired in hate and rejection. Try as they did to push back against the Abraham Accords, wagging fingers and issuing empty threats at its participants, they have shown themselves to be angry and hateful, living in the past, and cultivating a profile of victimhood that they appear to want to very much perpetuate.
This being the Middle East, anything can happen on any given day that can change the immediate course of history. But these two anniversaries present a stark picture of what happens when one party makes intransigence a policy, and when others see the benefits not only in burying the hatchet, but in working to make the neighborhood a safer, more prosperous place for everyone.
For those who have chosen the second path, happy anniversary.
Read CEO Mariaschin's expert analysis in the Algemeiner.
Daniel S. Mariaschin is CEO of B'nai B'rith International.
CEO Op-ed in JNS: U.N. Human Rights Council: When It Comes to Israel, Still Driving on Biased Retreads
(July 27, 2021 / JNS) That “history repeats itself” is not only a shopworn axiom, it is, like other clichés, oftentimes true.
The appointment last week of Navi Pillay, the former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to head up an investigation of the “root causes” and “systemic abuses” emanating from the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in May comes as no surprise.
The mandate of the investigation is to look at “all underlying root causes or recurrent tensions, instability and protraction of conflict, including systemic discrimination and repression based on national, ethnic, racial or religious identity.”
In other words, using kangaroo-court vernacular for singling out Israel for defending itself in the face of daily barrages of indiscriminate fire emanating from Hamas rocket-launchers in Gaza. Furthermore, this newly named commission has no specified shelf life and can continue to investigate Israel indefinitely.
We’ve seen this call to criticize before, especially on Pillay’s watch at the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC). During her six-year tenure at the UNHRC in Geneva, she more than once held her thumb on the scale when opining on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In 2010, Pillay oversaw the work of the special commission headed by South African jurist Richard Goldstone, tasked by the UNHRC with investigating the fighting between Israel and Hamas in 2008 and 2009. That report, which was biased against Israel and distorted the facts surrounding that three-week war, concluded that Israel may have been guilty of war crimes.
In 2014, Pillay convened another investigation into fighting between Israel and Hamas, again showing her biased hand in evaluating the causes and the outcome of that war. “There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated,” she said, “in a manner that could amount to war crimes.”
She criticized Israel for use of disproportionate force and for its disregard for civilian lives. The UNHRC, in what has become the usual feverish diplomatic hysteria that surrounds fighting between Israel and Hamas, created “an independent commission of inquiry” that would look into “all violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip.”
Once again, the Human Rights Council demonstrated its bias and callous disregard for the facts. It should be recalled that Israel had actually withdrawn from Gaza in 2005, nine years before the 2014 resolution, citing “the occupied Gaza Strip,” was adopted. More important to note, though, is the broad band of responsibility that the resolution arrogated to the investigative committee: indeed, what did “East Jerusalem” have to do with Israel defending itself against Hamas rockets?
In both 2010 and again in 2014, Pillay did mention Hamas rocket fire into Israel. But given the heavy-handed focus on Israeli military actions, the reports’ references to Hamas had the look and feel of throwaways, as an afterthought placed in the texts of these resolutions to cover the UNHRC’s tracks.
Indeed, in 2014, Pillay accused Hamas of not practicing “the principle of distinction and precaution.” In other words, “disproportionate response” was being tossed around liberally by her and others with regard to Israel, while Hamas’s indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israeli population centers was lightly let off the hook with diplomatic language that required three readings to understand exactly what was “distinction and precaution.”
And if there is still any doubt as to where Pillay stands on the issue, consider this: In 2014, she pointedly criticized the United States for not sharing Iron Dome technology (that has allowed Israel to shoot down most incoming rockets targeting its populated areas) with Hamas. At the time, Pillay said, “No such protection has been provided to the Gazans against the shelling.” In other words, why isn’t the United States arming terrorists?
In May, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile and an incessant critic of Israel in her own right, said that Israeli attacks on Gaza might constitute war crimes. That led to the appointment of one of her predecessors, Pillay, to begin the process of publicly flaying Israel for the third time in 15 years. Even though the naming of Pillay to the post was done in the name of the current UNHRC president, there is little doubt that Bachelet’s influence was in play.
The United Nations is now in its 76th year, but it has been apparent for decades that many of its agencies and committees, like the Human Rights Council, stocked as they are with countries that participate in bloc voting and who engage in oftentimes mindless herd mentality, can be counted on to pounce on Israel whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Investigations into Israel’s justified responses to rocket attacks from Hamas, or its earlier and current responses to innumerable terrorist attacks, only serve to politicize and marginalize the organization. The United Nations, whose original mission was to promote peace in the international community, now often appears as a mouthpiece for the Palestinian narrative—predictable and yet dangerous because such activity only serves to reward terrorism, and raises expectations of both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority that they have the international community at their backs.
We should not be surprised by the outcome of the upcoming UNHRC “investigation” into the recent fighting in Gaza. Indeed, this commission of inquiry will no doubt pull from the shelf reports filed by the Goldstone Commission and that which the UNHRC inquiry produced in 2014. Which is to say: The Pillay Commission’s findings are likely already written.
The good news, I suppose, is that the Abraham Accords, which brought four Arab countries into the peace fold with Israel, will soon observe its first anniversary. The spirit of those agreements represents the future; they are a promising pathway to cooperation and co-existence.
Rather than convene yet another commission to castigate Israel, the UNHRC would have done far better to establish a commission to investigate why the Palestinians—now approaching 28 years after the Oslo Accords—refuse to engage in serious negotiations with Israel. Or, perhaps, a report focusing on Hamas’s obsession with bringing about Israel’s demise.
Now that would be a real contribution to advancing human rights.
Read Mariaschin's expert analysis in JNS.
Daniel S. Mariaschin is CEO of B'nai B'rith International.
The effects of the May 2021 continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been felt around the world. With the rise of criticism against the Jewish state, a predictable wave of anti-Semitism has followed. Beyond the anonymous fringe population that spouts anti-Semitism unabashedly on the internet, a new population has emerged; it is made up of individuals who have a face—my friends, my classmates and even my teachers—and who are hiding behind Israeli politics to marginalize the Jewish community.
I had already left campus when the new wave of anti-Israel “activism” hit social media. I opened my profiles on Instagram and Twitter, and overwhelmingly found my peers reposting one-sided infographics about the conflict on their stories. Then came a very popular addition to posts: “From the river to the sea,” the Hamas terrorist group’s motto which strives for not only the eradication of Israel, but also of all Jewish people. The virality of the subject quickly turned from Pro-Palestinian to anti-Jewish, from rewriting the history of the state’s establishment to comparing Israel’s discrimination of Palestinian citizens to the Nazi regime committing the atrocities of the Holocaust.
I asked some Jewish college students for their own perspective on the issue, as well as their experience of online anti-Semitism translating to its presence at their schools. Jake Egelberg, a sophomore at Northeastern University, responded “Why should Israel be wiped off the map for discriminatory policies, while countries like Yemen, Iraq, Myanmar, China and Sudan are actively committing genocides?” and shared his own experience after publicly supporting the Jewish state.
Jake writes for his school newspaper and published an op-ed in March 2021 titled “The anti-Semitism of the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement” for the Huntington News. The article was an elaboration of the criticism that the BDS movement singles out Israel’s political record as the world’s only Jewish state, and thus promotes anti-Semitic messaging. Jake faced a strong backlash on his posts sharing the story, including personal attacks. Huntington News elected to take down its promotions of the article on twitter, a first for the paper despite controversies surrounding other pieces going against mainstream opinions at the university.
“I worry which of the strangers around me thinks I support genocide. I fear that one day, one of these people will act on their belief,” he wrote in response to his situation. I share his worry. With the exponential rise of anti-Semitic attacks worldwide, these fears are not unfounded. Just a few weeks ago, a rabbi was stabbed outside a Jewish school by a college student in Brighton, a neighborhood west of the Northeastern campus in Boston.
It is still difficult for me to understand why all these people—people I know—continue to support a biased narrative that encourages anti-Semitic hate crimes while excusing the violent actions and violations of the other parties to the conflict. I’ve come to question whether I should be worried about going back to campus in the fall as a Jewish student. Can I mention to an acquaintance that a large part of my family was born, raised and lives in Israel? Should I hide the fact that I am hoping to do a Birthright trip to the country with my Hillel Chapter in the spring?
With the rise in tensions and violence toward Israel and Jewish people in the past months, it is unclear what the return to campus means for Jewish students like me. With universities like Pomona College beginning to refuse funding to mainstream Jewish organizations like Hillel and Chabad, safe spaces for our community on college campuses are actively threatened. Whether or not individual Jewish students support Israel, the criticisms against the state affect all of our safety and security at schools across the country. And the extent of student activism for minority groups seems to end at the Jewish community, right when it’s needed most.
Dianne Strauss works as a summer intern with B’nai B’rith International. She attends Johns Hopkins University as a rising Sophomore.
With the one-year delay of the 2020 Olympics due to COVID-19, the Tokyo Games of 2021 are one year closer to the 50th anniversary of the Munich Massacre by the Palestinian terror group Black September. In 1972, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) promised to remember, even declaring, "We will never forget." But that message, too commonly repeated since the Holocaust, never seems to sink in.
Days before the opening of the Tokyo Olympics, the IOC maintains its history of rejecting any "moment of silence" for the Munich 11, which arguably introduced the free world to international terrorism. The lobbying effort by victims' families, at least in the past decade, has been rejected or ignored by the IOC. In contrast, the IOC allowed American athletes in 2002 to enter the stadium with a flag from the recently torpedoed and collapsed World Trade Center. The IOC maintains that, under Avery Brundage's leadership, it memorialized the 11 murdered Israelis with a service a day after the September 5, 1972 murders.
In place of a moment of silence every four years, host countries today spend fortunes—600 million pounds at the 2012 Games in London and $895 million at the Rio Games of 2016—to ensure the safety of more than 200 national athletic delegations. The Olympic Games, founded in the spirit of international harmony, were once considered bulletproof from a hostage-taking episode.
War was reserved for military battlefields—not the well-kept apartments of an Olympic village. American distance runner Kenny Moore, then 28, recalled in 2012: "I had believed the Olympics immune somehow to the threats of the larger world. It was an illusion, but it had been a hell of a strong illusion and it rocked me personally to have that shattered."
The 1972 games were supposed to be the games of peace—an example of German redemption from the 1936 Games in Berlin, which coincided with the heinous Nazi era that led to the systemic extermination of 11 million innocents, including at least 6 million Jews. In Munich, Germany wanted to show the world that it had reformed its image; that these Olympics could be peacefully policed without the menacing muscle of German force. They were unprepared and were barely armed.
Today, following 9/11, all major sporting events—not just the Olympics—prepare for the possibility of terrorism.
Just as the Nazis introduced the world to gas chambers and the reduction of atrophied bodies to dust through crematoria, so too did the Palestinians introduce the world to international terrorism at the Munich Games.
Almost 50 years later, many still remember the image of a white ski-masked gunman standing on a balcony of the Olympic Village, brandishing a machine gun. In what today is just part of a history of hostage-taking and hijacking for the purposes of trading Israeli Jews for hundreds, if not thousands, of Palestinian captives, the Munich mission sought 200 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for 11 Israeli Olympians.
Two Jews were shot initially to underline the threat. Negotiations led to an attempt to facilitate the release of the hostages, but the Palestinians took advantage of a bungled rescue attempt by German police, allowing one fleeting moment for a terrorist leader to toss a grenade into a helicopter, killing the remaining nine Israelis. Five of the terrorists were killed during a failed attempt to rescue the hostages, as was a West German police officer. The three Palestinian survivors were arrested and released by West German officials less than two months later.
Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan directed Mossad to lead a retaliation effort. With the assistance of European intelligence agencies, 10 Palestine Liberation Organization bases in Syria and Lebanon were bombed. This was part of a broader Israeli assassination campaign, dubbed Operation Wrath of God, that eliminated all perpetrators and planners of the Munich raid by 1979.
Forty-five years after the massacre, a memorial at Munich's Olympic Park was unveiled with families of the victims in attendance. Reuven Rivlin, then-president of Israel, proclaimed the Munich Games as "the blood Olympics." Then-German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said, "It should never have happened."
The IOC insists that Olympics opening ceremonies are inappropriate moments for remembering the Munich victims. But, if not every four years, when?
The IOC executive board agreed in 2015 that the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016 would offer "a mourning place" to remember "all those who have lost their lives at the Olympic Games." The monument included two stones from ancient Olympia and a memorial for Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died in a luge track crash the day before the 2010 Vancouver Games began. The IOC acknowledged that the moment of reflection could include the murdered Israelis in Munich. An engraved base with the interlocking Olympic rings reads: "We will always remember you forever in our hearts."
Remember who, for what, and why?
The IOC must put forward a gold-medal effort after almost 50 years to remind the world of the Munich Massacre.
Read President Kaufman's analysis in Newsweek.
Charles O. Kaufman is president of B'nai B'rith International.
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