According to announcements, the Palestinians will put off the legislative elections originally planned to take place on May 22, followed by presidential elections on July 31. These would have been the first national elections to take place in the Palestinian territories since 2006. The 2006 elections led to an unstable unity government. In 2007, civil war broke out between Hamas and Fatah. After a bloody struggle that left hundreds dead, Hamas expelled Fatah from Gaza to the West Bank.
When the widely unpopular Abbas issued a formal decree ordering the elections in mid-January this year, many observers believed he was just trying to find some path to strengthen his legitimacy and stay in power.
Close Abbas advisers such as Hussein al-Sheikh, Majid Faraj and the wealthy businessman Nabil Shaath were said to oppose the move from the beginning because they fear that there are many inside Fatah and, of course, from Hamas that would take the opportunity to take all the Abbas team and proxies down.
Now that the elections will most likely be postponed, who is being blamed? Of course, Israel. The real problem is that Abbas firmly believed he could control the vote in May and July, but when a short time ago the convicted murderer Marwan Barghouti said that he would participate, “whatever it takes,” even from his cell, Abbas and his team started thinking that they could have a civil war rather than an election.
Abbas’s justification for delaying the election is based on the symbolic status of East Jerusalem. The Palestinians insist that an election cannot happen if Jerusalem is not included. The Oslo Accords stipulate that a symbolic number of Palestinians can vote at designated post offices. The other 150,000 would vote at ballot boxes in the West Bank.
Let's see what may happen if there are elections, and what the reaction in the international community will be.
Abbas is corrupt and his administration has no popularity in the West Bank. But he has managed to stay in power and tries to use doublespeak to move forward. On one hand he says he wants peace, on the other hand he does not sit at the negotiating table and endorses terrorism, paying great amounts of money to those terrorists who kill Israeli civilians.
Marwan Barghouti wants to take power. He believes he can get out of jail and become the new Palestinian President. But who is Barghouti? He planned and executed several massacres of Israeli civilians. He organized the killing of Georgios Tsibouktzakis, a Greek priest in Ma'ale Adumim, and killed Israeli civilians; he directed a massacre in the Seafood Market in Tel Aviv, killing Israeli civilians; he sent suicide bombers to the Malha Mall; he planned and executed 33 attacks which murdered 21 people. This is Barghouti. This is the murderer who challenges Abbas and wants to lead the PA.
Researchers from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy have noted in a special report that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) have nominated candidates with criminal records, and Hamas has nominated other criminals who should be in prison for life instead of candidates in an election. Two examples are:
Jamal Muhammad Farah al-Tawil, a Hamas commander in the West Bank who planned multiple suicide bombings, including a 2001 car bombing in a Jerusalem pedestrian mall that killed 12 Israelis and wounded nearly 200.
Jamal Abd al-Shamal Abu Hija, who was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to nine life sentences for involvement in at least six bombings, including the 2002 Meron Junction attack in north Israel that killed nine and the 2001 Sbarro pizzeria bombing in Jerusalem that killed 15. He is also on the Hamas electoral list.
If relations between the Palestinians and the international community are based on the Palestinian commitment to nonviolence, the recognition of Israel and the acceptance of agreements, it is time to ask if the international silence is because they endorse criminals as possible leaders of the PA or if they will decide once and forever to repudiate the electoral participation of these convicted terrorists.
In this context, Abbas feels comfortable to claim there is no possibility of elections due to the restrictions in Jerusalem. It is false, but the international community sometimes has a tendency to accept these kinds of statements from Abbas. We can watch it in every U.N. agency meeting all the time. Less than a month ago, in the United Nations Union Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Israel was vandalized by a resolution saying that Israel is guilty of “war crimes.” European and Latin American countries did not hesitate to vote such atrocity.
When are they going to face the reality of corruption in the PA, whose leaders stole vaccines two months ago, which were sent for medical doctors but were used to vaccinate the ruling officers during the tragedy caused by the pandemic?
When are they going to understand that candidates to lead a Palestinian State can be criminals like Barghouti or al-Tawil?
When will the international community, those who believe in real peace, stop harassing Israel in the U.N. agencies and push both Israelis and Palestinians to discuss face to face through a negotiating table?
When is the international community going to understand that corruption and criminals are not the solution for the Palestinian future? The Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan, Egypt and Jordan have business and diplomatic relations with Israel. The Palestinian narrative boasting that no Arab country can have peace with Israel without a solution between them and the Israelis is obsolete.
The European and Latin American countries which insulted Israel in the UNHRC last month should react. And the great democracies too.
The decision to resume American aid to the Palestinians is a classic example of cart-before-the-horse thinking that has existed in one form or another for the past seven decades. Upwards of $235 million dollars in aid has been proposed by the White House, $150 million of which would be earmarked for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
In exchange for this gesture, it appears there will be no quid pro quo.
Since 1993, the year of the signing of the Oslo Accords — the agreement that was to set in motion an end-of-conflict between Israel and the Palestinian — the conventional wisdom has been that providing financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) would incentivize it to reach a settlement with the Jewish State.
Actually, American assistance to the Palestinians goes back long before that. Since its establishment in 1949, UNRWA — set up to provide aid to Palestinians who fled during Israel’s War of Independence — has received over $6 billion from the United States, by far the largest single international contributor.
UNRWA was originally intended to be a temporary assistance program — until the Palestinians it served were absorbed into the Arab countries to which they fled. It became instead a bloated (it has more than 30,000 employees) and corrupt operation, adding generations of Palestinians to its refugee rolls (now numbering more than 5 million “registered refugees”), politicizing education to the point of teaching hatred of Jews and Israel, and holding out the promise to its beneficiaries that one day they will all return to what is now Israel.
While wealthier Arab countries contributed little to UNRWA, the international community became comfortably accustomed to the organization’s wayward ways, without raising a call for reform. And US financial support continued unabated.
Fade to the signing of the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn in September of 1993. I was there to witness what for many of us was a very hopeful day. We sensed that while this would not necessarily portend a warm peace, it could establish an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a renunciation of claims and the prospect of normalcy for Israel and its people that had eluded it for decades.
It was not to be.
Still, American administrations and Congress provided generous assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA), now totaling more than $5 billion since 1994. The general assumption is that this financial aid, combined with that contributed by European countries, Japan, and others would not only help meet humanitarian needs, but would also fund infrastructure projects and civil service salaries. The idea being, with that aid, and an economic stake in their future, the Palestinians would be incentivized to conclude a deal with Israel.
In fact, the opposite has taken root. The litany of missed opportunities at the negotiating table is well known: Camp David, the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, the Annapolis Conference, the Kerry initiative, all came and went like late winter squalls. It became evident that the Palestinian side wished to pursue a zero-sum approach to peacemaking, a my-way-or-the-highway attitude, that somehow received a pass from many in the US and Europe.
Years ago, I was present at a meeting of Jewish leaders with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who was asked if he recognized Israel as a Jewish state. His response, with a self-assured, cavalier shrug was, “Israel can call itself anything it wants to.” He still refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and demands a “right of return” for over 5 million Palestinians to Israel.
At the United Nations, the Palestinians have gamed the system, with their narrative promoted daily in the organization’s major agencies. At the United Nations Human Rights Council, UNESCO, and its World Heritage Committee affiliate, resolutions that demonize and delegitimize Israel, and which seek to erase Jewish history in ancient Israel, are adopted year-in and year-out. The UN General Assembly each year funds specialized committees established for the expressed purpose of advancing the Palestinian cause through conferences, photo exhibitions, publications, and other means.
And then there is the issue of “pay-for-slay,” a long-term arrangement whereby the Palestinian Authority pays salaries and money to convicted terrorists or the families of terrorists who’ve been killed, in honor of their “martyrdom.”
In response to this outrage, the US Congress adopted the Taylor Force Act in 2018, named in memory of an American citizen and army veteran who was stabbed to death on a study trip in Israel by a Palestinian from the West Bank. The killer’s family, as do so many others, receives a stipend from the PA. Despite entreaties from the US and others to end this practice of glorifying terrorism, Abbas and his circle of PA lieutenants have steadfastly refused to end the practice. Until then, by law at least, there can be no direct aid to the PA.
Another constant over the nearly three decades since Oslo, has been the Palestinian media and education systems, which on a daily basis promote hatred of Israelis and Jews, using tropes and canards, along with cartoons of Jews and Israelis which evoke Holocaust themes, and stereotypical features, such as hooked noses and dollar signs festooned on overweight figures, right out of Der Sturmer. Teaching hate — and glorifying and inciting the murder of Jews — has been a staple in Palestinian textbooks and children’s TV programs and online postings, and continues unabated.
In response to the PA’s pay-for-slay program, its utilization of the UN system to demonize and delegitimize Israel, and its clear-as-day aversion to a real negotiation with Israel, the Trump administration began a cutoff of aid to the Palestinians. It also cut off aid to UNRWA, citing its innate corruption and politicization.
Earlier this month, the White House announced a resumption of aid to both UNRWA and to the PA, embarking on yet another effort by a series of American administrations to pull or push the Palestinians back into something resembling a peace process. The bulk will go to UNRWA, with the remainder going for a range of other programs. To get around the Taylor Force Act restrictions, it appears that aid to the PA will be directed to non-governmental organizations working in the West Bank.
In announcing the resumption of aid, a State Department spokesperson said, “By resuming this assistance today … we have a seat at the table. We can help drive UNRWA in the ways that we think is in our interest … Obviously, there are areas we would like to reform … We will continue to be in a better position, an even greater position to drive and steer UNRWA in a direction that we think is productive and useful…”
With this restoration of aid, a tremendous opportunity to condition assistance on serious changes both in the PA and UNRWA has been lost. Our previous $6 billion to UNRWA clearly was never used to end the organization’s excess and its promotion of hatred. Why should we assume UNRWA’s way of doing business will change, now that it knows American assistance is back?
And as for the PA, why not have conditionality there as well? Close down pay-for-slay, end the campaign against Israel in multilateral forums like the UN and the International Criminal Court, stop promising a right of return that simply will not happen, end the backing of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, cease antisemitic incitement against Israel and the Jewish people. And, for goodness sake, stop educating your young people to hate. Without education for peace, any process that seeks to end this conflict will never succeed.
In a normal world, the Abraham Accords would serve as a roadmap for the Palestinians — a way out that promises economic success, and a stake in a brighter future for all. The Palestinians are mired in a cycle of victimization, promoted and manipulated by leaders who have a bigger stake in the status quo, than in ending this seven-decades-plus conflict. More than willing to take the aid funding, they see no reason to compromise. And that, finally, needs to be called out.
Throwing good money after bad, as we’ve seen over these past decades, has produced high expectations and low returns. A resumption of aid to the Palestinian leadership based on hope, trust, and luck, will likely be dashed.
A more certain path might have been taken: we’ll consider the help, but not until this checklist of hatred, corruption, glorification of terror, and constant attempts to delegitimize Israel ends. For what is being offered now, this is surely not too much to ask.
Read CEO Mariaschin's expert analysis in the Algemeiner.
Daniel S. Mariaschin is CEO of B'nai B'rith International.
By the time I was six years old, some 10 years after the Holocaust, any discussion my parents would have about it invariably ended with them lamenting the failure of the Roosevelt Administration to save the Jews of Europe.
I never heard a single word at the dinner table against any of FDR’s domestic policies, nor, of course, his stewardship of the allied campaign to defeat the Nazis. But on the question of not speaking out forcefully on Hitler’s drive to annihilate the Jews, or doing anything to impede it, or to save them, my parents were not forgiving. My mother’s family in Lithuania, with one single exception, was wiped out like so many Jews there and in the rest of occupied Europe. So, 10 years on, this was very much on her mind.
Recounting these tragic episodes of official indifference to the fate of European Jewry is worth noting today in how the international community has reacted not only to the Iranian regime’s nuclear program and its malign behavior, but also to its now 42-year campaign of genocidal threats against the State of Israel and its incessant, daily spewing of anti-Semitic invective.
I was reminded of the dangers of indifference again when U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered remarks last week on the occasion of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. The stepson of a Holocaust survivor who authored a moving personal account of his years as a victim of Nazi barbarity, Blinken went beyond the usual expressions on the need to remember.
The secretary zeroed in on the failure of the State Department to save Jews during World War II when an open-door policy could have allowed in untold numbers of European Jews facing certain death at the hands of our enemy.
Referencing then-Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long, Blinken said that “He had immense power to help those being persecuted. Yet, as the Nazis began to systematically round up and execute Jews, Long made it harder and harder for Jews to be granted refuge in the United States.” Long served as a special assistant secretary of state for war issues, before being named assistant secretary in 1940.
Actually, this indifference began before the outbreak of World War II in 1939. In July 1938, at the initiative of the United States, 32 countries and 24 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) convened in Evian, France to discuss the growing issue of Jews seeking to flee persecution in Nazi Germany and in Austria. Despite the ruffles and flourishes of this international gathering, only the Dominican Republic, among all the countries present (including the United States) offered a specific proposal to admit Jewish refugees.
The message was not lost on Nazi Germany.
Nor was the case of the SS St. Louis, less than a year later, in May 1939. The Hamburg-America line vessel, sailing from Germany to Cuba with over 900 Jews aboard, was ultimately denied entry at Havana, despite strenuous efforts by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) to negotiate with the Cuban government to allow them in.
The ship then made its way to the Florida coast, within view of Miami, hoping for a positive decision to allow the passengers to disembark. Denial to dock in the U.S. was the answer at the State Department, which said the refugees “must await their turns on the waiting list and qualify for, and obtain immigrations visas before they may be admissible to the United States.”
Ultimately, the ship returned to Europe. Though some passengers found refuge thanks to efforts of the JDC, less than half survived the Holocaust. Hitler’s “test” to prove that Jews would not find a haven, even in the Western Hemisphere, succeeded.
For sure, 2021 is not 1938. But the vehemence and the nature of Iran’s rhetoric leveled at the only Jewish state bears striking resemblance to that in Europe over 85 years ago. Israel is described by Iranian leaders as a “cancer which must be excised.” The Nazis used the word “vermin,” but the message is the same. Every week, one Iranian official or another – from the top down – threatens to level Israel’s second-largest and third-largest cities, Tel Aviv and Haifa. The Holocaust is not only denied in Tehran, it is used as a club against Israel, claiming the “Zionists” hide behind it as a rationale for their illegal existence.
The current rushed effort to engage Iran in a resumption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) talks on Iran’s nuclear program raises many questions, the first of which is do we really believe, after nearly 30 years of developing a program focused on producing nuclear weapons, the Iranian regime intends to trash it, in order to be considered a member in good standing of the international community?
Beyond that though, is the businesslike way this is all being carried out. Tehran, since the U.S. elections in November, knowing that a more favorable approach toward it by the U.S. and its P-5+1 (U.S., United Kingdom, France, Russia and China, plus Germany) partners was in the offing, has done everything to stick a finger in our collective eye, by raising the level of enrichment of nuclear fuel, introducing advanced centrifuges, testing ballistic missiles, and denying snap inspections of military sites. Do we really think this is just brinkmanship?
There is an infinitesimal chance that any of the P5+1 players will ever be the target of a campaign that calls for its annihilation as a “cancer” that must be removed. Or, that a multi- stage inter-continental ballistic missile will ever be fired from Iran into the heart of any of its capital cities.
But Israel has sound reasons to be worried. The current JCPOA agreement is replete with holes and sunset clauses that would allow the Iranians, patient and not worried about calendars or clocks, to eventually find a path to a nuclear weapon. Its missile program already has produced weapons that can reach the heart of Israel and its friends in the Gulf.
And the rhetoric out of Tehran about destroying the “Zionist entity” continues unabated.
Even with statements noting the JCPOA needs to be strengthened (begging the question as to why the 2015 agreement was so porous to begin with) there is a nagging sense that Israel’s justified mistrust of Tehran is seen as an annoyance, or that it is simply spoiling the party, with reconciliation within reach. Israel of course, is in Tehran’s crosshairs, and by extension, the Jewish people must not have to sit by and watch another outlaw regime, this time in the 21st century, threatening to annihilate Jews.
In the 1930s, all of the signals relating to Nazi Germany’s designs on European Jewry were as obvious as a neon sign on a clear night. Words do count, but few were listening, and even fewer did anything about it.
Secretary Blinken’s candid remarks about indifference to such threats which were carried out on European soil over 75 years ago have implications for the present. All policymakers now making their way to the table with Iran should heed that message.
Read CEO Mariaschin's expert analysis in the Times of Israel.
Daniel S. Mariaschin is CEO of B'nai B'rith International.
Dir. of Legislative Affairs Op-ed in the Algemeiner: Cultural Trends and Jewish Academics Give New Lifeline to Antisemitism
The recent struggle to remove antisemitic and anti-Israel content from a California ethnic studies curriculum demonstrated the formidable challenge posed by the academic doctrines of Critical Race Theory and “intersectionality.”
To the extent that Israel is depicted as a white colonial occupation project and the pro-Palestinian cause as a proxy for racial equity in the United States, the Jewish state will be stigmatized and Jewish individuals and institutions will suffer.
The fight to overhaul earlier drafts of the California curriculum opened a window into the difficulty of the Jewish predicament.
Jews are frequently portrayed as part of the privileged dominant class, while their status as targeted victims is often ignored Israel is seen as a European, colonial outpost, while the fact that most of its Jewish population is descended from communities that lived for centuries in the Arab and Muslim world before their expulsion from those countries, is hopelessly obscured.
In other words, Jews are losing further control of the public narrative about them. This point is underscored by the incursion of antisemitic violence into racial justice protests in the US and Europe. The death of George Floyd was followed by attacks on synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses in a number of cities, most recently three Israeli restaurants in Portland, Oregon, in January. The frequent appearance of the slogan “Free Palestine” in graffiti on Jewish targets showed the popular tendency to register discontent with the Jewish state by harming Jews in the Diaspora. An anti-racism rally in Place de la Republique, in Paris, featured signs with directives such as “Stop collaboration with Israeli State terrorism” as the crowd chanted “dirty Jews.”
Enter into this demoralizing picture two new proposed definitions of antisemitism, one offered by Jewish academics on behalf of the Nexus Task Force; the second, titled the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism, presented by a group of progressive Jews under the aegis of the Van Leer Institute. Both documents profess to serve the cause of confronting antisemitism by identifying its contemporary manifestations — unless, of course, those manifestations take the form of anti-Israel demagoguery.
Why would Jewish critics of Israel feel the need to offer these re-imagined definitions of antisemitism?
B’nai B’rith has long advocated for broad usage of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, which is steadily gaining acceptance around the globe. The IHRA definition illustrates how criticism of Israel can (and all too frequently does) cross the line from legitimate policy debate into antisemitic hatred.
Demonizing Israel by calling it a racist or Nazi-like state, or simply denying Israel’s right to exist, would be examples of antisemitism under the IHRA definition, because such language is intended to undermine Jewish self-determination and relegate the Jewish state to pariah status, thereby gravely threatening its national security.
Such limitations, however, cause Israel’s most vociferous critics to bristle.
Those who see a basis for comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa no longer wish to feel inhibited about drawing those analogies by a definition originally adopted in 2016 by the IHRA — an international organization comprised of 34 member countries — and since then, by many individual governments around the world. Instead, they would prefer to say, as the Jerusalem Declaration does, that nearly any criticism of Israel is fair game, and is not per se a form of antisemitism.
Both the Nexus Task Force definition and the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA) open the door for abuse toward Israel, but the latter does this with a disturbing level of specificity.
What’s acceptable under the expansive JDA definition? “Criticizing or opposing Zionism as a form of nationalism.” In other words, Jews are the only people, one could argue without being accused of antisemitism, who are not entitled to a homeland or national movement of their own.
The JDA further tells us that “it is not anti-Semitic, in and of itself, to compare Israel with other historical cases, including settler-colonialism or apartheid.” Meaning, hurling the most insidious possible allegations against Israel, as its critics frequently do in an attempt to challenge the Jewish state’s basis for existing, is not antisemitic. And so on.
According to the JDA, anti-Israel boycotts “are not, in and of themselves, anti-Semitic,” even though the stated intention of the BDS movement’s founders is to eliminate the Jewish state. Nor is imposing a double standard on Israel an act of antisemitism: “In general, the line between anti-Semitic and non-anti-Semitic speech is different from the line between unreasonable and reasonable speech.” Thus, Israel’s critics need not be “reasonable” to wave their free pass when charges of antisemitism surface.
The timing of these two alternative definitions of antisemitism is highly lamentable. With Jews already losing the rhetorical war around social hatreds, the authors are handing out newly minted permission slips to Israel’s harshest critics, as though anyone whose goal is the demonization or outright elimination of the Jewish state would ever strive to be reasonable.
Grotesque distortion of Israel in school curricula is, by the new logic, not antisemitic. Nor is BDS, or incendiary anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations and other international fora.
Anti-Israel hatred that finds expression in the public square or on university campuses, whether such venom explicitly holds Jews accountable for Israel’s actions or not, too often is simply hatred of Jews in another guise. This sinister strategy of using Israel or Zionism as a proxy for Jews has just been infused with new vitality by two new antisemitism definitions that may purport to identify and combat antisemitism, but in truth help facilitate it.
Read Fusfield's expert analysis in the Algemeiner.
Eric Fusfield, Esq. has been B’nai B’rith International’s director of legislative affairs since 2003 and deputy director of the B’nai B’rith International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy since 2007. He holds a B.A. from Columbia University in history; an M.St. in modern Jewish studies from Oxford University; and a J.D./M.A. from American University in law and international affairs. Click here to read more from Eric Fusfield.
The Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (often referred to as “the Special Committee” or SCIIHRP) is one of the most anachronistic and absurd anti-Israel entities that still exists at the United Nations, spreading unsubstantiated charges against Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East, and wasting valuable U.N. resources.
The U.N. General Assembly established this Committee in 1968, in the aftermath of the 1967 war (a war of self-defense in which Israel had to fight against the armies of three Arab states sworn to its destruction: Egypt, Jordan and Syria). After miraculously winning the war, the anti-Israel forces at the U.N. sought to “punish” the Jewish state by establishing this committee, with the mandate to investigate alleged human rights violations by Israel in the territories occupied as a result of the war.
The Committee is formed by the representatives of three member states, who have themselves very poor human rights records: Malaysia, Senegal and Sri Lanka. From its inception, it was not an impartial body but a highly tendentious one, tasked with finding Israel guilty first and looking for the evidence later, while ignoring gross human rights violations, not committed by Israel, on that same territory. And so, with good reason, Israel has refused to participate in its inquiries.
The Special Committee is one of the entities that comprise the powerful anti-Israel propaganda apparatus that operates out of the United Nations building in New York. The other two entities are the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) and the Division for Palestinian Rights of the U.N. Secretariat (DPR). In addition to treating Israel as an illegitimate entity and a “racist” state, the three entities advocate for the “right of return” of the millions of descendants of the original refugees from Israel’s 1948 war of independence to what is now the state of Israel. The implementation of the right of return would destroy Israel as a majority-Jewish state, creating yet another Arab state — “from the river to the sea”— and effectively killing the two-state solution that the U.N. claims to support.
The report that the Special Committee issues every year is so biased against Israel that it could not pass any serious scrutiny. The 2020 report, for example, which was submitted to the General Assembly last August, includes the claim that Israel is “legally responsible” for ensuring the right to health for all Palestinians in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is, of course, not true, as the Oslo Accords, which governs Israeli-Palestinian relations, clearly establishes that all responsibilities in the sphere of health in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip belong to the Palestinian Authority. Furthermore, the Palestinians, who preferred to make their own arrangements, repeatedly rejected Israel’s overtures for cooperation. Despite this, Israeli hospitals were always available to Palestinian COVID-19 victims and Israel quietly provided vaccines to the Palestinian Authority in the months after this report was issued, even as reports came out about the corruption in the handling of the COVID-19 crisis by the Palestinian Authority, and despite the continuous practice of the Palestinian Authority to pay millions to the families of terrorists who killed Israelis.
The Special Committee 2020 report goes as far as to blame Israel for the increase in “domestic violence against women” in the West Bank and Gaza, suggesting an absurd linkage between the “prolonged occupation” and the violence committed by local Palestinians against Palestinian women.
None of the egregious human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank or by Hamas in Gaza (which, according to the State Department’s 2020 Human Rights Report, include arbitrary killings, torture, arbitrary detentions, forced child labor, etc.) are mentioned. And Israel is repeatedly condemned for its “occupation” of the Golan Heights, without any mention of the atrocities that the Syrian regime is still perpetrating against its own people or the fact that, at the height of the Syrian civil war, Israel provided invaluable humanitarian aid to thousands of Syrians in need, including unaccompanied children.
The resolution that renews the mandate and the funding authorization for this committee is put to a vote every year at the U.N. General Assembly. The U.S. State Department has for years included this resolution on its short list of important resolutions, particularly because of its very detrimental impact. And, when explaining its vote against this committee last year, the U.S. representative stated the following:
“…The resolution on “The Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories,” (SCIIHRP) for instance, makes no mention of human rights violations by Hamas. There is no reference to a Gaza court that convicted three Palestinian peace activists on the charge “weakening revolutionary spirit” for the simple act of Skyping with Israeli peace activists. None of these resolutions address what human rights organizations identify as Hamas’ persecution of journalists, opponents and activists who do not toe the Hamas party line.
These anti-Israel resolutions recycle the tired, habitual rhetoric that only lock both sides into the same intractable conflict. They presuppose the outcome of final status issues that can be resolved only through negotiations between the parties. They also damage U.N. credibility, casting into doubt the impartiality of the U.N. These resolutions also waste limited U.N. resources better devoted to international priorities. This one-sided approach only undermines trust between the parties and fails to create the kind of positive international environment critical to achieving peace. It also rewards the obstructionism that continues to impede real progress toward peace. As the United States has repeatedly made clear, this dynamic is unacceptable…”
Even though an increasing number of states are realizing the detrimental nature of the Special Committee, the resolution authorizing its continuous operation still gets approved. This is so because of the large number of abstentions, which are, unfortunately, not counted at the General Assembly. Last year, only 76 countries voted in favor — far less than half of the total membership of the General Assembly (which has 193 states). This is why it is so important for responsible, peace-loving nations to start voting against this anachronistic and highly counterproductive body.
Adriana Camisar is B’nai B’rith International's Special Advisor on Latin American and U.N. Affairs, and Deputy Director of AJIRI-BBI (the American Jewish International Relations Institute, an affiliate of B’nai B’rith). A native of Argentina, Camisar is an attorney by training and holds a Master’s degree in international affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.
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